Creating custom trill flat, trill natural and trill sharp lines in Sibelius 6 & 7


There are a couple of common approaches to indicating non-diatonic trills in music. One clear way is to indicate the trill-to pitch as a stemless, cue sized note in a parenthesis. However, while extremely clear, this method is somewhat labor intensive.

There are also a couple of shorthand methods used in symphonic pops as well as film and game scores to show trill destination or tonality. The first is to display a “½” character for half steps, and either “w” or “wt” for whole steps just to the right o the “tr” symbol.

The other, very common in symphonic pops and commercial orchestral music as well as film and video game scores because it is very efficient for entry, is to include a flat, natural or sharp symbol just to the right of the “tr” symbol.

Sibelius 7 and Sibelius 6 don’t have these combined symbols by default, so one common approach is to input the regular trill line that comes with SIbelius, and then add a flat, natural or sharp symbol from the symbols dialog. The problem with this approach is that the symbol tends to drift away from the trill line when the music is respaced, or you view it in a transposed part.

Fortunately, it’s very straightforward to build each of these as a fixed, combined symbol and use each of these new trill characters to create new trill lines.

If you are in a hurry, there is an even easier way. Simply open the Sibelius 6 file I’ve linked to here, select one of the trill lines (making sure that only the trill line is selected), copy it to the clipboard (CTRL-C / WIndows or CMND-C / Mac), and then paste it into your own Template document.

  • For correct playback in Sibelius 7, select the line after you’ve placed it in the score, go to the Home Tab and select the Inspector. Go to the Playback Section of the Inspector.
  • For correct playback in Sibelius 6, select the line after you’ve placed it in the score, open the Properties Panel and choose the Playback dropdown.
  • For both Sibelius 6 and Sibelius 7, uncheck diatonic trill, and make sure the interval is set to one half step.
If you are curious about how to create these lines yourself, here are the steps:

Sibelius 6: Go to House Style > Edit Text Styles.
Sibelius 7: Select Edit Text Styles from the Styles Group in the Text Tab. 

  1. Select  Common Symbols, then select the New… button. Select Yes.
  2. Change Size from 19.8 points to 14 points, score and parts (in Default document).
  3. Rename to Common Symbols (smaller). OK.
Sibelius 6: Go to House Style > Edit Symbols.
Sibelius 7: Select Edit Symbols from the Symbols Group in the Notations Tab. 

  1. Scroll to the bottom of the list, to User Defined.
  2. Select the first blank character box in User Defined, select Edit… or New…
  3. Enter the Symbol Editor and choose Common Symbols (smaller) as the Music Font.
  4. Scroll down and select the flat (natural, sharp) character. OK.
  5. Select the next unused character box, and choose Edit…
  6. Make sure the default Common Symbols is selected as the font (not the smaller one)
  7. Select the Trill character
  8. In the bottom right corner of the dialog, look for the Extra Symbols section. Click Add.
  9. Choose your smaller flat symbol. Highlight it.
  10. Change the vertical and horizontal positioning of the flat to look properly placed with the trill. (I positioned the flat 1 space up and 1.84 spaces to the right.)

At this point, the Symbol editor window should look something like this:

OK the Symbol editor dialog, and close the Main Symbols dialog.

Sibelius 6: Go to House Style > Edit lines.
Sibelius 7: Select Edit Lines from the Lines Group in the Notations Tab. 

Select the regular Trill line and select the New… button. Confirm that you wish to create a new line based on the default trill.

In the Line Editor dialog, locate Start and click the Select button next to the Symbol radio button.

Locate your Trill Flat Symbol, and choose OK.

Because of the extra space needed by the wider combined character, adjust the “Spaces Right” field to taste.

Name your line something appropriate (e.g. Trill flat)

At this point things should look something like this:

OK the dialog, and use the new trill just like you normally would.


Unfortunately, there is currently no way to define a trill line to play back non-diatonically by default in the Playback Dictionary of either Sibelius 6 or Sibelius 7. However, playback for these trills can be defined on a case by case basis in the Inspector > Playback > Trill of Sibelius 7, or with Properties Palette > Playback > Trill in Sibelius 6.

In Sibelius 7, with the trill line selected, open the Inspector. For a half step trill, uncheck the Diatonic checkbox, and set the number of half steps to 1.


The Playback Tab of the Properties Palette in Sibelius 6 gives you exactly the same functionality as the above. Note that if you change the key of the piece or otherwise change the pitch of the trilled note, “trill flat” on this particular note may mean something different.

That’s it! You can apply this custom line technique to many other notations. Nicely done.

Thanks to Jacob Ahlberg for the playback clarification suggestion.

10 Replies to “Creating custom trill flat, trill natural and trill sharp lines in Sibelius 6 & 7”

  1. Thanks for these files! They’re very helpful. I’m completely new at Sibelius (I can’t even figure out how to create ANY new symbol at all, so at this point I’m really lost on a whole bunch of things), and these files are saving me a lot of gray hair. Thanks again!

  2. Thanks a lot for these files Robert!
    Helped me save a lot of time, and I learned about the inspector as well!


  3. Great article. Many thanks.

    What would be the sounding result of a flat placed above a Db?
    What is the best way to indicate a semitone trill on Db?
    Tim Davies suggests using “1/2” or “W” for semitones and tones.
    I suggest using numbers instead of sharps and flats.
    Fixed measurements are not open for interpretation so long as musicians are aware of the implication of a number next to the trill mark.
    Any thoughts?
    Is there a standard that I haven’t come across?

    Many thanks.

    1. Thanks, Julian! Good point. The 1/2 and whole indicators with trills are very common in film and game scores which most typically have no key signature, and, like the trill flat, sharp and natural, faster than writing in parenthetic destination pitches. The other reason that some commercial orchestrators prefer this system is that in the case of keyed scores, you don’t need to take into consideration diatonic pitches for transposing parts (of course, if you score is transposing then the score and parts appear with the same and “trill flat” means the same thing).

  4. This is fantastic, thanks for the resource! I just made three new trill lines and can’t wait to check what else is on this blog!

    1. Thank you for the good words, Aleph. Glad you are finding the blog to be a useful resource.


    1. Hi Kim – if you go into Edit Symbols, choose the (8va) symbol and click Edit, you will see the process for this.

      Select an empty slot at the bottom of the Symbols list, then add your two characters added to the list like you see the parenthesis added in front of the 8va – you can adjust the left, right, up down of each symbol with the arrow keys.

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