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

Sibelius Quick Tip : Change the Number of Staves Per Page

In every score, Sibelius allows a specific number of staves to show on each page. Sibelius formats page one with the first stave lower than all subsequent pages by default, to allow for the title and composer credit. There are two places to overrule defaults, to allow you to fit more systems on the first page as well as subsequent pages.

If your title and composer text placement and size will allow it, the one method to allow more staves on the first page only is to change the margin of the top staff on page one. In Sibelius 6, choose Layout>Document Setup. In Sibelius 7.x, choose Document Setup… from the Document Setup Group of the Layout tab.

When the dialog comes up, reduce the distance in the Top Staff margin box for the first page:


If you want to generally have more staves on every page, you can reduce the distance between *all* systems (and / or staves).

In Sibelius 6, go to House Style > Engraving Rules > Staves. In Sibelius 7.x or later, choose Staves Engraving Rules from the Staff Spacing Group of the Layout Tab.

In the Layout section, for a part, look for “spaces between systems” (you would start here for a single staff part, for instance). Lower the value to make the systems appear closer together so more will fit per page. For a score, you might want to reduce the value of “spaces between staves”.


Note also that there are settings here for allowing extra space based on certain criteria, such as whether or not a staff has lyrics under it, or tempo markings (system objects) above it.

The measurements in these fields are in spaces.

Finale Quick Tip : Number Beats for Rhythmic Exercises

If you are a music educator teaching the fundamentals of rhythm, from time to time, you may find the need to count out beat numbers over the notation to help indicate various rhythms for your students.

Sibelius has a useful plugin called “Number Beats” (found in the plugins Text category) which does this automatically, but until recently, I wasn’t aware of a similar  plugin for Finale.

The JW Pattern pluginmac | windows ) will do the job nicely in more recent versions of Finale:

  1. Select a region
  2. Choose JW Pattern
  3. Drop-down the Sequences category
  4. Choose the “Numbered Steps” task.
  5. For “Step Method”, choose Beats in measure”



Finally, you can choose one of Finale’s Text Categories from the Category drop down to control the text style and placement of the resulting text.

The JW Pattern plugin is available free of charge on Jari Williamsson’s website.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Gary Gibson for contributing this tip.


Finale Quick Tip : Fix Incorrect Tied-to Pitches w/ Hidden Accidentals

Say you have a B-flat in one bar, tied to another B-flat in the next bar. In Finale, it is possible to (ahem, accidentally) enter the second B-flat as either a B-natural or a B-flat and it will look the same:


Even thought there’s no visual indication that it’s wrong, it won’t play back correctly. And in a score with a number of staves, they are a nightmare to aurally locate for proofreading.

more >> “Finale Quick Tip : Fix Incorrect Tied-to Pitches w/ Hidden Accidentals”

Find Plugins & Information about Finale & Sibelius QUICKLY

Have you noticed that a typical internet search doesn’t always produce relevant results for music notation? For instance, if you do a Yahoo, Bing or Google search for  “articulation”, you’ll get dozens of results, with none of them related to Finale or Sibelius, and only a handful related to music . . .

‘NET SEARCH (see sidebar) is a useful resource that can help.

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