An Ambitus (sometimes anglicized to ambit) is mostly found in vocal and some instrumental scores from the Medieval/Renaissance period and it is a notational representation placed just before the clef in the modern multiple-staves system, indicating the note range for a given voice or the pitch range that a musical instrument is capable of playing (See score extract below).
In order to demonstrate how to effectively create an Ambitus in Sibelius 7, I am going to use as example the above musical extract “Astiterunt reges terrae – Septimum responsorium, Sabbato Sancto” by Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611).
♦ To begin, create a standard vocal score for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), then add a key signature with 1 flat “b” and a time signature of 1/4 to the first bar of the score followed by a time signature of 4/2 to the second bar.
In the Medieval/Renaissance period, when the mensural notation system was in vogue, four basic mensuration signs determined the proportion between the two main units of rhythm. No measure or bar lines existed in music of this period and these signs were used to indicate the ratio of duration between different note values. It can be said that mensuration signs are the ancestors of modern time signatures.
(For more detailed information about mensural time signatures please follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature#Mensural_time_signatures)
♦ Next create the Ambitus notes for all the four voices using the quarter note (crotchet) shape from the first Sibelius keypad layout (Please refer back to the Tomás Luis de Victoria musical extract).
♦ Once all the quarter notes have been created, point-click on an empty part of the first bar (1/4 time signature bar) in the Soprano stave and then Shift+click to the first bar in the Bass stave to select the entire first bar of the score; then from the main Sibelius menu at the top of the screen choose Notations>Notehead Type>Stemless (Alt+Shift+8 or Option+Shift+8 on the Mac) to hide all the note stems.
♦ At this point select the 1/4 time signature in the first bar and type Delete on your computer keyboard to remove it. A warning message will appear on screen asking if you want to rewrite the following bars up to the next time signature, click No.
♦ Reselect all the stemless notes in bar one and open the Engraving Rules dialog box by choosing Appearance>Engraving Rules from the main menu at the top of the screen (Ctrl+Shift+E or Cmd+Shift+E on the Mac), then select Clefs and Key Signatures from the left-hand side list and change the Gap before initial clef value to 4 spaces.
Setting the parameter Gap before initial clef to 4 space is a good starting point to accommodate the Ambitus notes, but feel free to choose your desired value by experimenting on what looks good to you. Click OK to confirm the change and to return to the score.
♦ We are now ready to left-move all the Ambitus notes; if you still have all the notes in bar one selected, fine, otherwise reselect them. In order to shift all the selected notes to the left we need to call up the Inspector by choosing Home>Inspector from the main menu at the top of the screen (Ctrl+Shift+I or Cmd+Shift+I on the Mac).
As soon as the Inspector is visible on screen, click the little pin icon in the upper left-hand corner of the dialog box, this will prevent the Inspector from accidentally disappearing out of sight.
♦ With all the notes selected and the Inspector visible on screen, change the X value under the General tab to – 8.5 by either typing the value directly in the field box or using the little down arrow next to the filed box.
The value I just gave you is a good starting point based on the Gap before initial clef value (4 spaces) that we have previously set. Once again, feel free to change and experiment with this parameter in order to find the best Ambitus position and look for your score.
I would like to make you aware that when a key signature is not present in the score, the value we have just changed will be higher than what we have set here (around – 7.5).
We can now hide the Inspector by clicking on the little cross (x) in the upper right-hand corner of the dialog box.
♦ The next step entails of hiding the barline at the end of the first 1/4 bar. Simply click on the barline to select it and then from the main menu at the top of the screen choose Notations>Barline>Invisible. Alternatively, after selecting the barline, right-click the mouse button (Ctrl+click on the Mac) and choose Barline>Invisible directly from the context (pup-up) menu.
Important: Make sure that the option View>Hidden Objects in the main Sibelius menu is turned On, otherwise you won’t be able to see any hidden object in your score.
♦ Now drag the invisible barline all the way to the left until you can no longer move it, then select the 4/2 time signature and do the same to bring it closer to the key signature.
♦ At this point we want to disable all the Ambitus notes from playing back, in order to do this, point-click between the key signature and the time signature in the Soprano stave then Shift+click to the same place in the Bass stave to select the entire first bar of the score. Now call up the Inspector (Ctrl+Shift+I or Cmd+Shift+I on the Mac) and uncheck Play on pass 1.
♦ To complete the Ambitus look let’s add a standard vertical line ( | ) to each pair of notes for every stave. Make sure that nothing is selected in the score and type the letter L on your computer keyboard to open the Lines dialog box, then scroll down and under “Lines” choose vertical line.
The mouse pointer will change to dark blue indicating that Sibelius is ready to input the vertical line; simply point-click between the Ambitus notes in the Soprano stave to create the line.
♦ Before doing any manual adjustments to the vertical line, just select it if not already so, right-click the mouse button (Ctrl+click on the Mac) and choose Magnetic Layout>Off.
Now you can use the computer keyboard Up/Down (↑/↓) and Left/Right (←/→) arrows to adjust the vertical line length and position.
After inputting the first vertical line, switching off Magnetic Layout and adjusting its length/position, you now have two options for creating the remaining vertical lines:
1) Select the vertical line then hold down the Alt key (Option key on the Mac) while you point-click between the next pair of Ambitus notes; repeat the same procedure for all the remaining staves.
2) Create every subsequent vertical line anew from the Lines dialog box as you did when creating the first one.
The first option is the fastest because once you copy the vertical line you can then immediately adjust its length and position, while with the second option you need to turn off Magnetic Layout each time after creating a new vertical line, otherwise you won’t be able to adjust its length and position.
♦ After creating all the vertical lines, select them, then go to the main menu at the top of the screen and choose Appearance>Align in a column (Ctrl+Shift+C or Cmd+Shift+C on the Mac); this operation ensures that all the selected lines will be perfectly align together in a column.
♦ To continue, let’s make the bar numbers visible for every bar by going to the main menu at the top of the screen and choosing Appearance>Engraving Rules (Ctrl+Shift+E or Cmd+Shift+E on the Mac).
In the Engraving Rules dialog box choose Bar Numbers from the left-hand side list, then under Appearance>Frequency select Every x bars and set the x value to 1. Click OK to confirm the change and to return to the score.
♦ As you can see, due to the fact that we have inserted a 1/4 bar at the very beginning of the score to accomodate the Ambitus notes, Sibelius now treats the first full bar of the score “bar no. 2” instead of “bar no. 1”. In order to change this, right-click the mouse button (Ctrl+click on a Mac Laptop) on any white part of the score then, from the context menu, choose Other>Bar Number Change.
The Bar Number Change dialog box will appear on screen, just leave everything as it is and click OK. The mouse pointer will change to dark blue indicating that Sibelius is ready to input the bar number change; simply point-click anywhere in the first full bar to change it to “bar no. 1”.
♦ At this point open again the Engraving Rules dialog box (Ctrl+Shift+E or Cmd+Shift+E on the Mac), change the Appearance>Frequency back to the default Every system and click OK to confirm the change and to return to the score.
Then, select the number 1 above the first full bar and use Ctrl+Shift+H (Cmd+Shift+H on the Mac) to hide it.
♦ Before wrapping up I would like to mention something important regarding individual vocal/instrument parts in relation to the Ambitus, whether your score has already music in it or not.
For example, when opening the Tenor voice part, you will immediately notice that the Ambitus notes collide with the treble clef, the time signature and the hidden barline that belongs to the 1/4 bar that was created to accomodate the Ambitus notes; now distant from the actual key signature.
(Be aware that in order to see any hidden object in the score you need to turn on View>Hidden Objects in the main Sibelius menu).
This issue occurs in all the individual parts and has to be addressed manually by selecting the Ambitus notes and dragging them to the left (or using the Inspector’s X offset in General Properties), then doing the same for the time signature (4/2) and for the hidden barline.
If you ever need to split a multirest, simply deselect the Layout>Show Multirests option in the Sibelius main menu. You can then select the barline and choose Split Multirests.
♦ Another thing I would like to recommend is to reset the note spacing of the first full bar in the full score and all the parts.
Select the first bar then from the main menu at the top of the screen choose Appearance>Reset Note Spacing (Ctrl+Shift+N or Cmd+Shift+N on the Mac).
This is it! Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this tutorial. It is my hope that you will find some value in what I have shared here.