Three Things: Lines

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.


Let’s get to the bottom line!

Lines can really clarify the ‘what’s and where’s’ of your instructions on a score and in the parts.

Let’s look at some tips that show you how to create your custom lines and how to get all those lines exactly where you want them!


One: Custom lines are fun!

Creating custom lines is not difficult, it only takes a few steps and you will be off and running.

It’s important to know that, like text, lines can be either staff attached or system attached. Go Notations Tab > Lines and click the edit box.

The lines on the left are “Staff Lines” and only appear on the staff you attached them to. The lines on the right are “System Lines” and will appear on the staves of every instrument in your score. So when you are creating your own custom lines it’s important that you start with a line that is the same type as the one you are creating.  If you are creating a line that says “fill” for a drum part, start with a line on the left.  If you creating a line that says “Accel. until conductor throws his hands in the air like he just don’t care!” you would want to start with a line on the right.

To create the fill line you may be tempted to start with the 8va line as it is dashed and has hook at the end. But don’t, it’s important to note that whatever playback parameters your original line has, your new line will have as well. To start let’s scroll down to the ‘Dashed line,’ click on it once to select it and click the New button and then Yes to answer the ‘Are you sure…’ prompt.

You will see the window below, it’s important to give your line a name, I’ll show you why later. For this line I want the line to start to the right of text, so I’ll check that. For ‘Start’ click on Text and Edit. In the edit window type in ‘fill’ for the text and for the text style I have selected Technique because I want it to match the other technique text in my score. For the end, I want a downward hook. So I clicked on Hook and entered a value of -1 for spaces up (which gives me one space down).

When you are done click Ok to close the window and finish up. You now see the fill line in the column on the left. Back in the lines window of the Notations Tab, you will find your new line in the ‘Lines’ section because you started with the Dashed line. If you had started with the accelerando line in the right column, and made the “Accel. until the conductor…” line, it would appear in the Rit. and Accel. section.

Two: Position

When you select a region on your score and apply a line is appears at the position as defined in Design and Position settings. Here is a tip to get the line’s length exactly where you want it.

If you click anywhere in the measure, as in the example below, Sibelius will select the whole bar right up to and including the next barline. If you then apply your new fill line, you will see it extends into the next bar.

However, if you constrain the selection by clicking once on the first slash and then shift clicking the fourth slash in the bar, you will now be selecting everything before the next barline. Now when you apply the bar line it neatly ends before the next barline.

To adjust the default placement of any line, go to the Appearance Tab > Design & Position and click on the edit box in the lower right corner. Click on the lines button, scroll down and you will see that it’s a good thing you named your fill line because there it is!

I’ve adjusted the Vertical position relative to staff to 4. Also if you’d like that line to pull back just a bit further from the end of your selection, type a negative number into Creating Lines Horizontal position of right hand end. Here you can see the differences in the line’s vertical placement and end point.

Three: Between notes

If you’ve ever tried to place a line between two notes heads, you know that exact placement can be a bit tricky. Thanks to a great plug-in called ‘Line Between Notes’ (by plug-in guru Bob Zawalich), you can now make quick work of this. You can install this plug-in by going to File Tab > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Show All Plug-ins > Lines.

It works very simply. Select the two notes you would like to connect and run the plug-in.

Choose your line type and click OK. You can explore all the options but the defaults work well for me. You now have a perfectly placed line. I use this one so often I have it on a keyboard shortcut.

So go have some fun making lines in Sibelius!

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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