Take Advantage of a Modern “Swindle” : Dynamic Parts In Sibelius

It baffles me that there are still a number of commercial Music Copying Houses in LA, New York and elsewhere that are still not taking advantage of the benefits of integrated Dynamic Parts in Sibelius. These copyists are still using an old method from the mid 1990’s, where a master parts template file is created, and each part is pasted into the template one at a time, then saved off as individual, separate files.


Back before computer notation programs, hand copyists working in commercial genres such as musical theater, film, television and live performance would create a Master Layout for each instrument section by figuring page turns in advance; drawing bar lines, clefs, key and time signatures, then filling in all of the common rests and unison notes into the first stage of the Layout for that group of players.

The copyist would then shoot photocopies of these master pages for each musician in the section, and then fill in any remaining harmony, counterpoint bars or other unique notation for each of the individual parts. This technique was called “Advancing the Layout”. Copyists are historically paid by the page, so this technique which saved a great deal of time for what in essence amounted to much better hourly pay was popularly referred to as a “Swindle”.

When hand copyists started making the transition to computer notation programs, it was natural for them to approach their workflow in a similar way: paste the first instrument into a copy of the template file, do a layout, and then save off a copy. Pasting the second instrument in the section into the same layout is, in effect, a “digital swindle”. Of course, with a computer notation program like Sibelius, you aren’t *required*  to do the layout first, and creating layouts is even faster and more efficient now than when separate parts files were required.

From a housekeeping standpoint alone, the difference between managing one master parts file or thirty individual .sib files is a no brainer. Printing is much slower with individual files, as each part must be individually opened before it can be printed. Factor in any sort of edits, particularly changes to the form or transposition / key of the piece, or sections where notes from one staff are to be copied into another, and it quickly becomes obvious that a few minutes to learn a technique which integrates all the parts into a single file would be invaluable.

The following technique for working with Dynamics Parts in Sibelius is especially fast and efficient in situations where the master score and parts do not need to reside in the same file. The technique will also work if the score and parts are in the same file, although you will need to make a few additional adjustments to the score and parts settings for this.

Let’s take a look…


Chances are, if you have been pasting parts into a “parts template” old school style, you already have created a Sibelius template with the settings you like for parts; page size, margins, title and header fonts, etc. This is great, because it means that much of the work has already been done for this new, more efficient process.

However, rather than copying and pasting the note data and text etc. from the original score to a separate part file, and doing repeated “Save As” operations for each part, this method allows you to easily manage all the parts within one master file.

However, if you’ve been pasting data from one file to another, the settings in your old school template will apply to the “score” and not the “parts” in your file. That is, you aren’t actually creating “parts” when you do your Save-as and Paste-ins; you are simply pasting individual lines of music into a new “score” which is a single instrument.

The first thing we need to do is to match the Parts settings in our new parts score with the Score view from your old school Parts Template document. To do this, we’ll export the settings from your old school template and re-import them back into the parts so the parts and score look the same.


Let’s expand your old school template’s text and music fonts, sizes and locations, staff size, page size and the rest of it so these settings apply to BOTH the parts and the parts score:

  1. Open your old school parts template and export the house style from the score:
    • In Sibelius 6, select House Style > Export House Style…
    • In Sibelius 7, select Export from the House Style Group of the Appearance Tab
  2. Save the Export with a descriptive name, such as “New Parts Template”
  3. Create one or more new parts
    • In Sibelius 6, go to the Parts Window and click the New Part icon.
    • In Sibelius 7, click New Part in the Parts tab.
  4. Import the Score settings back into your Parts  (remember, these are really supposed to be parts settings, anyway) . The score settings will then apply ALSO to the Parts in Sibelius rather than just to the score.
    • In the Parts Window of Sibelius 6, click the Multi Part Appearance button, then select the House Style Tab and choose “Import House Style…”
    • In the Layout Group of the Parts Tab of Sibelius 7, choose “All Parts”. When the Multiple Part Appearance dialog opens, select the House Style Tab and choose “Import House Style…”
(If you used Edit Text Styles to change font sizes for page text such as Title, Subtitle, Composer etc in your original template file, you may have to go into Edit Text Styles and change these so the “Parts” size matches the “Score” size.)
  • In Sibelius 6, location is House Styles > Edit Text Styles
  • In Sibelius 7, location is Edit Text Styles in the Styles Group of the Text Tab

Save your modified template file. Your applicable “score” settings are now also applied to the parts in this file. (From here, you can change the page size, font sizes and so forth for the score side of the file to be actual “score” looking settings if you want, but if you are only concerned with the Parts, it isn’t actually necessary.)

Remember to export the new version of the House Style whenever you tweak your template file,  so you are always importing all of your latest settings into new parts scores.


The next time you receive a score to create parts for, first save off a separate copy of the score labeled “parts” (e.g. main_title_parts.sib).

Now import the “New Parts Template” House Style you created earlier. Import it first with the score forward. This is to match your original parts template. Then repeat step 4 above, importing it also into the Parts.


The Copy Part Layout feature of Dynamic Parts provides a more efficient, modern “Swindle” in Sibelius. Create the layout in one part. Now, copy this Layout to one or even several other similar parts all at once:

  • In Sibelius 7, click the Copy Part Layout button located in the Layout Group of the Parts Tab. When the dialog comes up, select the source part in the left column, and the destination part(s) in the right column. OK the dialog. Easy.
  • In Sibelius 6, with the source part already open, select the destination part(s) in the Parts Window and click the Copy Part Layout button at the bottom of the window. Easy and Fast.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it. If you get paid by the page, and have been creating individual parts files, you’re already making more money.


P.S. To be even more efficient, you’ll want to learn how to create Wildcards for title, composer and so forth. I’ve posted a tutorial for creating and using Wildcards in Sibelius here.

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