L.V. Symbols in Sibelius (Laissez vibrer) – Several Solutions

Laissez vibrer [Fr.] allow to sound, do not damp.


from Ned Rorem’s Flute Trio

Laissez vibrer, or L.V. indications such as the one pictured above, are common notation practice. Instead of writing out a series of notes or chords together for what might be a long duration, the player is simply instructed, via a tie and the abbreviated ‘l.v.’ text, to let the note(s) ring out for as long as they would sound.

When creating these in Sibelius, however, I ran into some caveats. My first instinct was to simply hide any rests that followed the tie. The result is not particularly elegant, though, as the tie is way too long. In addition, if the note was at the end of a bar, the tie extends into the following bar, or the following system if at the end of a system:


Also, this caused some playback issues when using certain VST’s. With no ‘note-off’ message (because of the tie), subsequent notes might not play. For instance, in the example below the second triangle hit will not sound:


Sibelius’ built in solution is to use non-functional Symbols for laissez vibrer (l.v.), which are included in the Create->Symbols dialogue in Sibelius 6 or the Notations tab in Sibelius 7. These symbols look like short ties that can be placed next to the notehead:


This solution is far from ideal. First of all, Symbols in Sibelius do not attach to notes. If you later change the pitch, or add notes to the chord, the Symbol has to be repositioned vertically. Sibelius does not factor Symbols into its note spacing rules, either.

Finally, these static tie symbol widths are fixed; there is no way to control their length (symbols cannot be edited individually). It is possible to create alternate versions of the same Symbol in differing widths, but that is a somewhat long process (and the subject for another post).

The first of these problems at least was tackled by plugin master Bob Zawalich, a longtime Sibelius user who has contributed countless indispensable plugins to the community. The ‘Add LV Symbols to Notes‘ plugin does just what the name implies, taking selected notes and applying the LV symbol to them, giving you a host of options as to their exact position:


It’s a marvel, especially when working with dense chords. But it still works with symbols, with all their inherent limitations.


One of Sibelius’ most powerful features is the ability to selectively hide and show different elements of your score. This feature is very useful, for instance when notating  a passage that is rhythmically a little off, like a cadenza.

This same capability, while perhaps not obvious at first,  also provides us with the very best solution for proper LV display and playback.

In my case, I wanted the tie to have a fixed termination point, without effecting the overall count of the bar. To do this, I made my quarter note into a quarter+eighth triplet, and then hid the eighth note and the triplet bracket:


We now have what appears to be a regular quarter note, but the tie extending from it terminates at the (invisible) eighth triplet, and so its exact length can be controlled simply by adjusting the space between the two notes. Further more, if I decide to transpose the note, or put the whole passage into a different clef, the tie will move along with the note.

Coincidentally, this also solves the playback problem. The triplet eighth note provides the ‘note off’ message that allows subsequent notes to be played.

(For further control of the duration of the sustain I use hidden pedal lines, extending them to the exact point I want the note to ring out).

The only problem with this solution is that it takes several steps to complete; time-consuming when many L.V. ties are called for.

Once again Bob Zawalich came to the rescue with his ‘LV Fake‘ plugin, which automates the process I came up with. It can be run with either individual notes selected (in which case it will process them all) or on a passage selection (in which case it will only process notes with dangling ties).


Thanks for reading, and as always, to Bob for having written these plugins. They can be downloaded here (‘Add LV Symbols’) and here (‘LVFake’). And thanks to Robert for having me on his excellent and informative blog.

About The Author

A formidable composer, the missing link between Rasputina and Bernard Herrmann‘ (Lucid Culture)

Vilnai’s musical journey owes to a unique heritage as a Russian-Romanian descendant raised in Jerusalem around a mix of contemporary and traditional music, with a BFA in jazz and an MM in composition. He studied jazz guitar at the New School, graduating with honors in 2003. In 2009, Vilnai completed an MM in composition at Brooklyn College, studying with Jason Eckardt and earning the John Cage Award for Excellence in Composition.

He was in residence with the college’s Contemporary Music Ensemble, directed by Ursula Oppens, and with the conservatory’s orchestra. He has been commissioned by ai ensemble, trombonist Jen Baker, Metro Chamber Orchestra, New York Trombone Consort and others, and his compositions have been performed around the country, most notably by CUNY’s CME, OMNI Ensemble and Mivos quartet.

As a guitarist, Vilnai has performed with Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio, Midrash Mish Mosh, Romashka, and other ensembles in NYC’s downtown and world music scenes. He has shared the stage with diverse figures such as Frank London, balafon player Famoro Dioubate and the Phoenix Symphony. Vilnai leads Vampire Suit, an ensemble that examines the intersection of Balkan, jazz and chamber music. The ensemble has released two recordings to positive reviews, being called  ‘spirited and enjoyable‘ (Time Out NY) and said to have ‘enduring beauty‘ (Cadence Magazine).

His 2011 release ‘Shakespeare Songs’, featuring the MIVOS quartet and singer Gelsey Bell was said by Lucid Culture to possess ‘creepy otherworldliness’, and ‘ghostly ambience’. An expert engraver, Vilnai has helped prepare music for Broadway, film, jazz performances and concert performances ranging from traditional to avant-garde.


2 Replies to “L.V. Symbols in Sibelius (Laissez vibrer) – Several Solutions”

  1. Indeed very informative.
    Thanks, Jay (and Robert for publishing it)!

    The one thing I find tricky about the LVfake-solution is the way the ‘faked’ notes behave if you make them into cues for other players. Then, all of a sudden, the so cleverly hidden notes appear and cause a lot of extra work tidying up.

    I usually re-define the fall and doit symbols as l.v. up and down (at least in non-Jazz scores) and add them then as an articulation to l.v.-notes. Although this is also far from ideal (I regularly have to split a chord in different voices to make use of l.v. up and down in one chord) I like the way Sibelius even makes small adjustments to the note spacing in order to fit the symbols (articulations).

    Cheers, Renard

  2. Thanks for this information.

    I do have note positioning problems when I use the LV fake plugin.

    I work as an engraver for a wind band publisher and to me, it looks very odd to see i.e. 4 quarter notes in the other parts with the first quarter note slightly offset to the others because of the hidden triplet tie in the percussion part.

    Is there really no other way to solve this just for the eye (not for playback). Maybe I’ll just stick to the LV symbols plugin…



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