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,

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Sibelius score playback (notes switching off)

Seattle composer Bill Panks posted this question about missing notes during Sibelius score playback on the Seattle Composer’s Alliance Discussion email list, which I thought I would share here:

Hi All!

When playing back scores in Sibelius 7.5, I frequently have notes cut off suddenly throughout a score. This is especially a problem with larger scores (30+ instruments).

My guess has been that given the number of midi channels available, multiple instruments are placed on each channel, and instruments on the same channel occasionally play the same note – and the note-off signal from one instrument is cutting off both/all of those unison notes. (For example, a harp arpeggio might cut off a sustained choral note on the same channel).

My question is whether there is a quick work around for this, or do people generally custom-route their instruments to channels in a way that avoids conflicting notes (i.e., pair bass instruments with treble – but then might you encounter key-switch conflicts when you export to a DAW for mockup? – so perhaps pair instruments that share similar rhythms and would therefore have similar note-off times if they do happen to cross)? (To date, I’ve been using the channels that Sibelius automatically assigns to each instrument – maybe that’s my mistake).

Or, do others not experience this? Is there something else happening that’s causing the notes to cut off?

I appreciate any thoughts or feedback.

Thank you,
Bill Panks

Hi Bill,

Regardless of whether you are using the Sibelius 7 Sounds, Sibelius 7 sounds (light) or Sibelius 6 sounds, only one iteration of the Sibelius Player can be included as a sound set. This shouldn’t be a problem, though, since the Sibelius Player supports up to 128 channels. Check Preferences > Playback > Sibelius Player Options to make sure this hasn’t been inadvertently changed to a lower value:


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Where is the Clavichord Sound in Sibelius?

Q: How do I get the Clavichord Sound to play back in Sibelius 7.5? I switch from the Piano to Clavichord Instrument in the middle of my score, but the sound stays on Piano.

(The amplified version of the Clavichord is called the Clavinet or Electric Clavichord).

A: It would appear that Avid / Sibelius has never assigned the Clavichord instrument to playback, at least since Sibelius 6. The good news is that it’s easy to assign an appropriate sound to this instrument:

more >> “Where is the Clavichord Sound in Sibelius?”

Finale Quick Tip : Chord Symbol Playback

Chord symbols in Finale can play back, should you want them to.

To turn on Chord Symbol playback, select the Chord tool, then make sure Enable Chord Playback is checked in the Chord menu.

Chord Symbol playback can be muted for an individual staff in Score Manager > Instrument List > Instrument > Chords in Finale 2012 and later, and in Window > Instrument List > Instrument > Chords in Finale 2011 and earlier.

Some chord libraries, such as the JazzCord suffix library from Finale 2010 and earlier are not defined to play back by default, which is a shame, since the JazzCord suffixes look really nice for handwritten charts. Or perhaps, you’ve created a custom chord suffix and would like it to play back.

Here’s how to define a non-playing chord suffix for playback:

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Sibelius Quick Tip : Quarter-tone playback

In the Sibelius Keypad, there are preset symbols for microtonal accidentals (6th keypad). There are separate symbols for “Quarter sharp”, “Quarter flat” as well “Three quarter sharp” and “Three quarter flat”. While keypad entry allows you to graphically display the accidentals, they do not play back automatically.

Microtonal playback for these accidentals can be created using MIDI pitch bend.


If you are using the microtonal accidentals to visually create your quarter-tone notation, the most straightforward solution is to use the shipping Sibelius plugin called “Quarter-tone playback” which completely automates the process of creating playback for microtonal accidentals. If you want playback for the microtonal accidentals in the Sibelius Keypad, that’s all you need.

To see the hidden Technique Text that contains the MIDI commands the plugin generates, check Hidden Objects in View.

For those interested in “how it works”, the visible microtonal accidentals in Sibelius are set for playback to what might be considered the “closest” chromatic interval by default:

  1. A chromatic or diatonic sharp and a three quarter-sharp sound as the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  2. A natural and a quarter-sharp sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  3. A chromatic or diatonic flat and a quarter-flat sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  4. A double flat and a three quarer-flat sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.

The plugin works by sharpening occurrences of any microtonal accidental by a quarter-tone via MIDI pitch bend to get the correct playback pitch, halfway between two chromatic tones.

After running the plugin, you’ll see the following string of Technique Text: ~B0,80 for any microtonal accidental and ~B0,64 for any diatonic or chromatic pitch.

Only one MIDI pitch bend command per instrument is possible at a time, so, for instance, different notes in a chord cannot be tuned differently from each other in the same staff.


Sometimes you might want quarter-tone pitch bend on a diatonic or chromatic note (e.g. a note without a microtonal accidental). An example might be to create a “blue note” in a jazz line. For this type of application, the plugin won’t work.

Using Technique Text (which only affects one specific staff / instrument), select the note or beat where you want the tuning change to occur. The syntax is tilde, B (for Bend) zero, comma, then the value.

Make sure to use the text string ~B0,64 to return the affected staff to normal tuning.

Basically, add or subtract 16 from the “centered” value of 64 for each additional quarter tone, sharp or flat:

  • ~B0,64 = normal tuning
  • ~B0,80 = quarter-tone sharp
  • ~B0,96 = half-step (semitone) sharp
  • ~B0,112 = three quarter-tone sharp


  • ~B0,64 = normal tuning
  • ~B0,48 = quarter-tone flat
  • ~B0,32 = half-step (semitone) flat
  • ~B0,16 = three quarter-tone flat


Note that while the tuning will be correct with the internal Sibelius sound sets, the actual tuning result depends on the value of pitch bend range on your sound source, so you may need to adjust the pitch bend range on third party sound sets or devices.

related: West meets East – Notation & playback of Quarter tone music using Sibelius

Concert Pitch, Transposing and Octave-Displaced Instruments : A Prelude

Music scores, whether orchestral, concert band, big band, or a pop chart etc. typically contain a variety of differently pitched instruments. Because factors like instrument length, size and acoustical properties affect each instrument’s range / tessitura, certain instruments need to be written transposed, in a different octave, or both to produce pitches in common with other instruments.

This system of written pitch notation allows the music to remain largely within the staff for each part as well as the transposing score. Instruments written in a different octave than where they sound are referred to as octave-displaced instruments.

Additionally, it is common practice in Concert Scores to show octave-displaced instruments at written (rather than concert) pitch. This allows these instruments to be notated largely within the staff. (For Finale users, more on this later.)


Regardless of whether a pitched instrument produces its sound by vibrating metal, membranes, strings or air, it falls into one of the following four transposition / octave displacement types:

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