Three Things: Fixing Broken Multirests

By in John Hinchey's Three Things, Music Creation, Notation

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


What is breaking my multirests?

You have probably run into a situation like this. You are formatting parts and you see that multirests that should be continuous are broken into smaller sections, as they are in this trumpet part.

Let’s look at a few of the common culprits and how to root them out quickly.


One: System text

In the case of bars 6 through 12 the multirest is broken by an instance of tempo text which is a type of System Text. In this case highlighting the bars with a system selection (purple) will show you the culprit.

This can happen when you accidentally add a System Text box and don’t fully clear or delete the text box. If you follow the attachment line, you can see that text box can end up anywhere on the page. Delete the text box and then go to Layout Tab > Breaks and turn off Show Multirests and then turn it back on. You will see the multirest is now consolidated. To do this even faster, learn the keyboard shortcut for Show Multirests.


Two: Formatting

In the case of bars 20 through 28 the multirest is broken by a system break in the layout. In this case, the problem can clearly be seen by turning on layout marks at View Tab > Invisible and checking Layout Marks.

So how did this happen? In this case I used Copy part layout in the Parts Tab, to copy the layout of Trumpet 1 to Trumpet 2. As you can see in this excerpt from the Trumpet 1 part there is a solo in those bars. And Sibelius did as it was told and faithfully copied the layout over.

To consolidate the rests in Trumpet 2, select bars 20 through 28 with a passage selection (blue) and go to Layout Tab > Format > Make Into System. Now you will have a 9 bar multirest on one system.


Three: Special barlines

In the case of bars 29 through 35, there is not an easy way to see what is breaking the multirest. The barline between bars 32 and 33 is a normal barline which is actually a special barline. Any special barline will cause a multirest to break. This may be a bit confusing. Why would a normal barline be a special barline? If you look at the list of Special barlines you’ll see that Normal is an option.

Here is the mistake some users make to cause this situation. You put in a double bar (or other special barline). Then you decide you want a normal barline instead. You select the double barline and go to the Notations Tab > Common > Barlines and select the Normal barline. Now visually you have a normal barline but you really have a ‘Special’ normal barline and this will break the mulitrest. So how do you avoid this? Instead of replacing the double barline by inserting a normal barline, click on the double barline in your score to select it. Then tap the delete key on your keyboard. Sibelius will delete the double barline and the barline will revert to a default normal barline which will not break your multirest.


How to find the answers quickly

As is often the case in Sibelius, there is a plug-in to speed up this process and highlight other causes for broken multirests. It’s called the “Multirests and Empty Bars” plug-in. You can install it by going to the File Tab > Plug-ins >Install plug-ins > All plug-ins > Composing Tools. This plug-in works very simply. Select a passage or the whole part using system selection (purple). Run the plug-in and this window opens. You can read the instructions, but this setting usually works for me.

A report is generated and automatically opens, showing all the details of multirests and empty bars. As you can see, when I run it on this trumpet part, all three situations are clearly defined.

So don’t put up with those pesky broken multirest anymore. You now have the knowledge to fix them or avoid them all together.

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I am a producer, arranger, composer and trombonist based in Nashville Tennessee, with over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry. For more information, please visit my website,, and for more Sibelius tips, visit “Notes On Notes” blog at