Sibelius : Notehead Types & Playback

Hi Robert,

I’m working on a composition of a 17 year old student for their final exams at the end of high school. He has written a drum part which requires samples as well as drum kit.

These samples are notated as diamond noteheads on his score:


However, when I export the midi file to to Logic, I lose all these diamond headed notes.

So, I created a second version of his score (Liam Comp 2.sib), where I managed to copy these diamond noteheads into a new staff. However, when I try to play these back – nothing (whether the new instrument is drum set or piano).

Are you able to see why these notes on the score do not appear to be registering as midi messages on playback and export?

Please help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope.

Thanks very much,

Hi Derek,

You are on the right track with breaking out the diamond noteheads into a separate staff for playback as your starting point. Liam’s original score uses the “Drum Set, Fusion” instrument in Sibelius, which uses a Percussion Staff Type. In the Instrument Definition, the Percussion Staff Type lets you map specific pitch / notehead pairs so they will play back the appropriate percussion samples in Sibelius.


Note the open and closed hi-hat definitions:  articulations can also change the playback sound in Sibelius.

But you can see from the image above, the “Drum Set, Fusion” instrument has only assigned the diamond noteheads to play back for Ride Cymbal (top line) and Hi-hat (space above the staff). Consequently, for this instrument, these are the only two pitches that will play back specific samples. Furthermore, since the diamond notehead pitches in the score have no assignment, they are lost when exporting a midi file.

If , in the score, the lines and spaces marked in the student’s score as diamonds represent standard drum set instrument placement – e.g. following the P.A.S. drum set standard that Sibelius does, (bottom space is bass drum, 3rd space is snare drum etc.), then the most straightforward way to get source material for a midi file that will play back correctly is:

  • Create a second Drum Set Instrument in Sibelius
  • Using Advanced Filter, select just the Diamond Noteheads
  • Copy these noteheads to your new Drum Set instrument.
  • (Dont’ forget to include the Tuplet Numbers in the selection.)
  • Change all noteheads for the prelay part to Normal (assuming all S.D., Toms, B.D.)


Creating a diamond notehead version of each percussion note in Instrument Staff Type is not an ideal solution here, since presumably you only want the “sampled” part to play back – the “live” part will most likely be muted.

At that point, using the Normal notehead type on their respective lines and spaces, the Sibelius Sounds samples should play back properly in Sibelius, which means they will also export successfully as a MIDI file. Note that if there are any Cymbals instruments in the sample playback part, you will need to manually change their noteheads to the appropriate type for playback.


One Reply to “Sibelius : Notehead Types & Playback”

  1. Thank you so much Robert,
    You are so generous with your expertise. Hugely appreciated.
    btw – at the risk of committing a 101 mistake, I will mention this in case it can help someone in the same boat – I now understand my other issue here;
    The notes were silent. As they look the same visually as normal notes i had not
    thought to check. Many hours of swearing at a computer screen and it was one click away.
    Without you I would still be saying rude words and scratching my head.
    Yours very gratefully,

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