Alternate Key Signatures for Transposing Instruments

One thing we take for granted with music notation programs is that, for transposing instruments in a transposing score, the software automatically displays the correct key signature and transposes by the appropriate interval.

Most of the time, we don’t have to think about it. Both Sibelius and Finale will even, by default, “wrap” the key signature of the transposing instrument to prevent unnecessarily complex or remote key changes, ensuring that, for instance, an Alto Sax playing in the concert key of B major will display the key signature of A flat instead of a very unusual G sharp.

Occasionally, though, we need to display an enharmonic key signature other than the one the program chooses. Consider a B flat Clarinet playing in the concert key of E major. Both Sibelius and Finale will show the transposed key as F sharp (6 sharps), but we may want the key instead to be G flat (6 flats). Here’s how to do it:

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Entry Workflow for Piano Music in Sibelius 7


Having a consistent workflow routine when engraving a piano score can increase efficiency and accuracy. This guide provides the series of steps I follow to stay on track.

Sibelius has a very good piano template which will produce a nice looking piano score. Of course, you can always adjust the layout, and change various house style elements, but for now, let’s start with provided New Score Manuscript Paper (template).

Start by setting the score up with the proper title, composer, meter and key.

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Centered dynamics between staves on braced grand staff instruments

Q: I can never get the placement of dynamics to align nicely to the middle of the grand staff in piano parts. Because they are connected to the treble or bass clef stave, they tend to move towards that stave. But it would be nice to have them in the middle, centered between the 2 staves. I can’t find an option in to automate this.  What’s the best way to center these dynamics?

A: I’ve found that consistently attaching dynamics below the treble clef staff really helps with dynamics text / hairpin positioning on a braced (grand staff) instrument. Both Finale and Sibelius offer a mechanism to center dynamics between grand staves as a group, but in order to move as a group, they have to be attached consistently to the same staff.

Generally, dynamics should be placed as close as possible to the notes they refer to. However, in keyboard music, a convention is to center the dynamics between the staves, as the dynamics most typically refer to both the left and right hand. As with parts on one staff, keep dynamics on the same horizontal plane where possible.

The following techniques can also be helpful when entering music in a dense score for an instrument with ledger lines. 

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Aligning Piano Pedaling & Other Smart Lines in Finale 2012 & earlier

Q: I would like to be able to ‘automatically’ align piano pedal markings horizontally in my scores. The TG tool appears to be useless when it comes to these.

A: There are a couple of different approaches you can use for this in Finale.

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Control Multirest Break Points in Sibelius

Q: I’m trying to import a graphic onto my score, but whenever I place it where I want it, the multi-measure rest breaks in a way I don’t want it to. How can I place the graphic above the staff and keep the  multi-measure rest at the full duration?

A: From version 2 of Sibelius onward, the Properties Palette has provided a good solution for  controlling placement while keeping multimeasure rest integrity. In Sibelius 7, the Properties Palette was renamed “The Inspector”, but for all intents and purposes, it is still the same tool.

Suppose you want a graphic to appear in the score and parts at a location prior to the barline, over the multirest:

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Create Custom Repeat Dots On 2 Line Staves in Sibelius 7 or Sibelius 6

Q: In Sibelius (v.6 and now v.7) with a “Percussion [2 lines]” instrument, I want to make repeat signs that appear in between the two lines. My two alternatives so far, are (1) ‘percussion-style’ repeat signs, with one dot above the top staff line and one dot below the lower staff line; and (2) conventional repeat signs on two 1-line staves, which gives two separate sets of repeats, e.g. not combined as one repeat sign between the two staff lines).

A solution to this problem would be useful to many music educators, who often present introductory music in fewer than five-line staffs, but want to acquaint students with the conventional symbols like repeat signs.

A: In Finale, moving the repeat dot locations is a simple matter of adjusting the vertical location for available “Top Repeat Dot” and “Bottom Repeat Dot” parameters in Staff Setup. However, while the method to achieve this in Sibelius is somewhat more circuitous, it is indeed quite possible, and in fact, once you’ve created the mechanism once, it is very fast to create in subsequent worksheets or even scores, via Export / Import House Style.

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Proofreading is an essential part of music preparation, whether it’s engraving for publication, a recording session, or for performance.

It’s more than merely having an eye for detail. Good proofreading really boils down to having an efficient and methodical / systematic approach which allows every aspect of the music on every page to be examined  consistently and thoroughly.

I recommend the method advocated by William Holab and David Fetheroff in “The G. Schirmer/AMP Manual of Style and Usage” as a great starting point. Once you’ve learned how it works, you may modify the process somewhat, as I have, but the gist is, you want to specifically target groups of musical elements one at a time in a methodical manner to produce consistent and accurate results.

In the G. Schirmer system, the proofreader prints out a copy of the score or part and pencils the following letters at the top of the page, crossing each letter off as that task is complete:

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