If 6 was 9 : Measured Tremolo & Tuplet Rhythms in Sibelius

Measured tremolo is a specific repetition of notes per beat measured exactly in a given tempo. It’s a type of notation shorthand which takes up less space than writing all the notes out, commonly found in published classical works.

It’s common practice to write out the full notation of the first beat or bar of a measured tremolo passage to avoid confusion:


In her book “Behind Bars”, Elaine Gould also recommends adding the label “non trem.” to the first note value of the abbreviation.

You can apply these in either duple or triple meter, with the added benefit that Sibelius plays these back as if they were written out in long form, (which will help you to check your work).

One case where the “how to” is not quite as obvious, however, are tuplets that are represented by measured tremolo. For instance, in 2/4 time, how would you create:


Let’s take a look…

Of Note : The following technique can be used with any tuplet who’s combined duration can be represented by a single note value.

⚡  Let’s first walk through how Sibelius *ought* to work…

1) For the above example, start by creating a sixteenth note on the downbeats of bars 2, 3, and 4:



2) Select the first of these 16ths so that it is highlighted, and choose Triplets > Other from the Note Input Tab. In Sibelius 6, choose Tuplets… from the Create menu. When the dialog opens, choose “No bracket”, but show the Number:


3) Create tuplets for the other downbeats as well. You will see the 16ths followed by rests, and the tuplet numbers without the bracket.

4) The next step is somewhat automated, as you can create the dotted quarter value for all of the highlighted notes together.

The ability to change the durations of, or add articulations to multiple selected notes globally is a very powerful feature in Sibelius, making quick work of cleaning up an imported MIDI file, for instance. See my colleague John Hinchey’s excellent tutorial on using the Advanced Filter in Sibelius for more information.

To do this, select all of the downbeat notes as a group, using CNTRL-Click (Windows) or CMND-Click (Mac):

While they are highlighted, type the number 4 and then the duration dot using the keypad. The notes will first change to quarters, then dotted quarters immediately. Done!

Except… wait. 6 has turned into 9. Well, actually, they’ve been turned upside down:


If you select the tuplet number and type “X” to flip it, the number changes position, but it’s still upside down…

This is a Sibelius bug that can occur when a tuplet doesn’t have a conventional start and end attachment point.

So… what to do? Put your favorite Jimi Hendrix LP on the turntable, and let’s back up a few steps

  1. For step 2 above, leave the tuplet bracket showing when you create the tuplet (auto bracket it the default, so you should see it normally in this situation).
  2. The bracket becomes vertical once you change the duration. In some cases, the number itself will remain oriented right side up, sometimes not.
  3. Regardless of whether the tuplet on the single note is upside down or not, select the closing leg of the tuplet bracket (which will be down somewhere near the note head).
  4. Drag the tuplet bracket back to its correct position above the staff to the right of the note.
  5. Then with the tuplet bracket still selected, use the Inspector in Sibelius 7 or the Properties in Sibelius 6 to turn off the bracket.


Result: a perfectly formed, correctly-sized, tuplet digit above the note.

The measured tremolos can be added at any point in this process. Go to the third keypad and choose the double slash tremolo, labeled “4 tremolos”:


In the same way that you are able to change the durations of more than one selected note, you can highlight and add tremolos to multiple notes all at once, too.

The dotted quarter with measured tremolos will now look and play back correctly.


4 Replies to “If 6 was 9 : Measured Tremolo & Tuplet Rhythms in Sibelius”

  1. Another way of dealing with upside-down tuplet digit is as follows:

    – leave the tuplet bracket showing when you create the tuplet;
    – when you get the upside-down problem on the single note, drag the closing leg of the tuplet bracket (which will be down somewhere near the notehead) back to its correct position above the staff to the right of the note;
    – then select the tuplet and use the Inspector to turn off the bracket.

    Result: a perfectly formed, correctly-sized, tuplet digit above the note.

    1. Thanks, Robin. Yours is a less circuitous workaround than the one I had originally posted. I have updated the tutorial to incorporate your solution.


  2. I would think it less tedious to create the tuplet with no format (no number, no bracket), and then use the tuplet text style to place whatever number is needed. Is there any reason why this would be undesirable?

    1. Hi Stephen – Yes, absolutely that would be an option as well, although things like transposing parts would require that the text be moved.

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