Create White Space Where Text & Barlines Intersect In Finale & Sibelius

Question: I’m trying to create dynamic markings or other text over bar lines between staves. In the example above, the organ registration text appears “in front” of the bar line.  The text has a bit of white space around it so there is no collision.  Do you know of a way to do this?

The solution for this in both Finale and Sibelius is to define an enclosure or border area around the text (without a visible border line), then electronically “white-out” the background of the text within this enclosure. Here’s how:


In Finale’s Expression Designer, create a new piece of Expressive or Technique text. Where the Enclosure shape popup appears, choose Rectangle, then click the Edit button. The Enclosure Designer sub-dialog will open. Here, check the “Opaque” box and set the “Line Thickness” to zero. Also set “Enforce Minimum Width” from the Options Popup. To control the amount of “white space”, add a small amount of “padding” in the Height and Width boxes:

This same technique also works where text and hairpins intersect:

Now, when you add this text to the score, wherever it intersects the barline, the text will appear “in front” of the barline, with whatever “white space” padding you’ve allowed:


In Sibelius, each bit of text is associated with a specific Text Style. One of the possible attributes of any Text Style is a border and background. Some Text Styles, such as Boxed Text are preset with borders. By default, borderless Text Styles such as Technique Text, Expression Text, Small Text etc. do not have opaque (erased) backgrounds.

If you want a Text Style available that matches, say, Small Text, but has an opaque (erased) background, you can make a duplicate of that text style, and add these attributes.

In Sibelius 6, go to House Styles > Edit Text Styles, select the text you want to duplicate and press the New… button.  You will be asked if you want to create a new text style based on Small Text, or whatever Style you currently have selected. When you confirm, you will be taken to the Text Style dialog. Note that the Name of your new text style can be edited if you want something more descriptive. Select the Border tab at the top of the dialog, and click the “Erase background” checkbox.

Below the Border shape section of the dialog, you’ll find a “Position – (percentage of height)” section (simply called “Size” in Sibelius 7). Here, you can change the amount of white space “padding” which will appear around the text:

If you have “Circled” or “Boxed” checked here to show a border shape, “Position – (percentage of height)” provides the controls to change the size of the visible box or circle surrounding the text.

Having two versions of the same text style allows you to control this background opacity on a case by case basis in Sibelius 6.

Sibelius 7 has some additional controls for text borders and backgrounds of Text Styles. (found in the Edit Text Styles Group of the Text tab). In addition to the “Erase background” with the associated left, right, above and below enclosure / padding controls (now labeled “size” rather than “position – % of height”), you can change the background color, and also specify a fixed frame / border / padding size:

But even better, as of Sibelius 7, while you are working in the score, you can erase the background of an individual occurence of text (which means you no longer have to create a duplicate text style with different attributes to achieve this effect for a single occurrence).  Select the text in your score you would like the erase the background for, open the Inspector (Command-Shift-I on Mac, Control-Shift-I on Windows), and check “Erase background”:

If you look closely to the Text properties section of the Inspector, you’ll notice a very powerful feature set new to Sibelius 7. In addition to erasing the background, a number of the selected text’s attributes can now be changed on a case by case basis, including superscript and subscript baselines, Line spacing (width between lines), Tracking (width between characters) and even text angle.

Whether you erase the background using a duplicate text style, or the Sibelius 7 inspector, wherever the text intersects the barline, it will now appear “in front” of the barline:

That’s it! That’s all there is to it.

for Michael Wolniakowski, Chicago, IL

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