Take Advantage of a Modern “Swindle” : Dynamic Parts In Sibelius

It baffles me that there are still a number of commercial Music Copying Houses in LA, New York and elsewhere that are still not taking advantage of the benefits of integrated Dynamic Parts in Sibelius. These copyists are still using an old method from the mid 1990’s, where a master parts template file is created, and each part is pasted into the template one at a time, then saved off as individual, separate files.


Back before computer notation programs, hand copyists working in commercial genres such as musical theater, film, television and live performance would create a Master Layout for each instrument section by figuring page turns in advance; drawing bar lines, clefs, key and time signatures, then filling in all of the common rests and unison notes into the first stage of the Layout for that group of players.

The copyist would then shoot photocopies of these master pages for each musician in the section, and then fill in any remaining harmony, counterpoint bars or other unique notation for each of the individual parts. This technique was called “Advancing the Layout”. Copyists are historically paid by the page, so this technique which saved a great deal of time for what in essence amounted to much better hourly pay was popularly referred to as a “Swindle”.

When hand copyists started making the transition to computer notation programs, it was natural for them to approach their workflow in a similar way: paste the first instrument into a copy of the template file, do a layout, and then save off a copy. Pasting the second instrument in the section into the same layout is, in effect, a “digital swindle”. Of course, with a computer notation program like Sibelius, you aren’t *required*  to do the layout first, and creating layouts is even faster and more efficient now than when separate parts files were required.

From a housekeeping standpoint alone, the difference between managing one master parts file or thirty individual .sib files is a no brainer. Printing is much slower with individual files, as each part must be individually opened before it can be printed. Factor in any sort of edits, particularly changes to the form or transposition / key of the piece, or sections where notes from one staff are to be copied into another, and it quickly becomes obvious that a few minutes to learn a technique which integrates all the parts into a single file would be invaluable.

The following technique for working with Dynamics Parts in Sibelius is especially fast and efficient in situations where the master score and parts do not need to reside in the same file. The technique will also work if the score and parts are in the same file, although you will need to make a few additional adjustments to the score and parts settings for this.

Let’s take a look…

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Easy Automated Arpeggios in Sibelius 6 & 7

In Sibelius 5 and earlier, the way you would indicate an arpeggio or rolled chord was to Type “L” to open the Lines Dialog and select the appropriate wavy line. Once on the page, you dragged the arpeggio line into place. With no collision avoidance or precise placement built in, the results frequently looked like this:

If you’re still creating arpeggios this way in Sibelius 6 or 7, read on. 

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Meter Re-mapping: Merge two measures to create a larger one in Sibelius

Q: I would like to reconfigure some meters which are already in place in Sibelius 7. Rather than having a 2/4 bar followed by a 3/8 bar, I would like to convert these pairs of measures into single bars of 7/8. Is that possible? It happens quite a bit in one Mvt.

A: Absolutely. Sibelius 7 has made this really easy. Let’s say you have a passage that alternates 2/4 and 3/8, like this:


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Take Control of Multirests in Sibelius and Finale

Let’s talk about rests. Multimeasure Rests, that is. You may not have given them much thought, but Multimeasure Rests play a key role in how your parts look. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to control multirest settings and also, how add a unique touch to your charts in Finale and Sibelius with custom multirests.

In modern charts, the standard type of multimeasure rest is called an “H-bar”. The defaults for Finale and Sibelius are nearly identical. Here are the Engraved Style defaults:

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Collision Avoidance in Finale, Part 1 : The Little Things

Q: What method(s) do you use to avoid collisions in “busy” scores in Finale, i.e: a tutti section with dynamics, hairpins, accents, chord symbols, etc… I have messed with the Avoid Collisions plugin but that doesn’t seem to do the trick for me.

A: For me, regardless of the notation program you are working in, there are a couple of basic “small things” that make a piece of music look “clean”. The first is a consistent amount of white space between any two objects that are close together on the page. The amount of minimum white space between any two objects is usually a matter of personal taste; a “house style” decision.

The second is that wherever possible, the vertical alignment of similar grouped objects such as dynamics, chord symbols or lyrics should remain consistent. Horizontal alignment should also be consistent. For instance, if you decide that techniques like “arco” and “pizz.” should be right aligned with noteheads horizontally or centered over notes, then you should locate these markings consistently in that position as much as is possible.

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Halving or doubling rhythmic values in Sibelius & Finale

Q: A student of mine has created a .MID file and imported it into Finale 2011. However,  all the note values are twice the length she desires. How can she make the notation appear correctly?

A: The musical terms for lengthening and shortening the durations of notes in a musical passage so that the length of the phrase is increased or decreased are “augmentation” and diminution”.

dim·i·nu·tion Noun /ˌdiməˈn(y)o͞oSHən/
The shortening of the time values of notes in a melodic part.

aug·men·ta·tion Noun /ˌôgmenˈtāSHən/
The lengthening of the time values of notes in a melodic part.

With that bit of technical jargon out of the way, let’s take a look at how to do this in Finale and Sibelius:

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Enter and Edit Dynamics as Music text characters in Sibelius

I see a lot of music that has dynamics entered in Times New Roman Italic or Times New Roman Italic Bold:

There is something not quite right about this “engraved” looking bar of music, right? The Opus Text Std Music text font would look more “correct” for the dynamics. However, even though this  font is assigned as the Music Text Font in many of the Sibelius Manuscript Papers, you may find your dynamics look like the above, rather than:

Let’s walk through a couple of different ways to enter these dynamic text symbols, and importantly, let’s take a look at how to fix them after the fact, using the Change Dynamics plugin in Sibelius:

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