Sibelius : Special Barlines, Multirests & Default Double Barlines

Q: I have a Sibelius file which is a series of different Effects for strings. I have separated each of these effects with a double barline. However, in any parts which are resting, the multirests are not showing up, and I would like them to. Can you help me solve the problem?

A: Common practice indicates that typically, wherever there is a double bar, it is indicating a new section, rehearsal mark, key change or some other significant event in the music. In your situation, it does make sense to use double bars as a “divider” between each effect; however, Sibelius is breaking these as if they were new sections.


In Sibelius, barlines other than the Default are called “Special” barlines. Any time you overlay a new barline over an existing one, it creates a new “Special” barline which will break multimeasure rests. Here is the list:

  1. Start Repeat
  2. End Repeat
  3. Double
  4. Dashed
  5. Final
  6. Invisible
  7. Normal
  8. Tick
  9. Short
  10. Between Staves

Where are they located?

  • SIBELIUS 6 : Create Menu > Barline
  • SIBELIUS 7 and later : Notations Tab > Barline button in the Common Group

Note in particular number 7 on the list which is “Normal”. It is possible to get into a situation where you actually convert the Default barline to a “Special” barline. It’s actually hard to spot, because there is no visual indication that anything is out of the ordinary.

If you overlay a normal barline on a Default “Normal” barline, it will still “look” like a Normal barline, but will, in fact, become a “Special” barline, which will break a multirest.

While other factors may be in play, a likely solution is to “clear” the “Special” barline information, which will return all of the “Normal” barlines to the proper default barline.

A fast fix is to download the Delete Normal Special Barlines plugin, written by Bob Zawalich.

This plugin removes Special Barlines whose type is “Normal”. These barlines are often created to replace other special barlines, such as double barlines, but have the undesirable side effect of splitting multirests.

Deleting these barlines will, in almost all cases, cause no visual change (except in multirests), as the default barline, which is almost always a single barline, will now be visible.

You can also clear these special barlines manually by individually selecting each barline so the line itself is highlighted, and pressing the delete key.


But if special barlines always break the multirests, how can I separate each effect with a double bar, and still get multirests in resting parts?

The answer is found in the Engraving Rules of Sibelius. First, make sure that no “Special” Barlines are active where you want the possibility of multi rests in any part (e.g. select and clear them individually to restore to Default **), then locate the Barlines panel of the Engraving Rules dialog.

  • SIBELIUS 6 : House Style > Engraving Rules > Barlines
  • SIBELIUS 7 and later : Appearance Tab > Engraving Rules (in the House Style Group) > Barlines

Here, you can choose the barline style you would like to use as the Default for the current document:

Back out in your score and parts, you should find that every barline is now a double barline (unless, of course, you’ve chosen to overlay one or more of the other barline types to create a “Special” barline. Since they are “Default” barlines, these double barlines should behave just like “Normal” barlines, which includes allowing multirests to appear in resting parts.

** To clear special Double barlines using the plugin above, first set the default barline in Engraving Rules to be a double barline, then run the plugin. Only the double barlines you’ve created as special barlines will be “re-set”. 

That’s all there is to it!

Thanks to Ingvar Karkoff, Stockholm, Sweden

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