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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Installing and using plug-ins in Sibelius 7

My colleague Philip Rothman of NYC Music Service posted this excellent Youtube video tutorial I want to share with you. In the tutorial, Philip walks through how to install and manage Sibelius 7 plug-ins from within the program.


He also covers these six very useful and free-for-download plug-ins:

  1. Edit Part Instrument Names
  2. Exchange Staff Contents
  3. Fill Selection With Slash Notes
  4. Harp Gliss
  5. Add LV Symbols to Notes (requires Sibelius 7)
  6. Open Selected Parts (requires Sibelius 7)

With the exception of Add LV Symbols to Notes and Open Selected Parts, the plugins covered in the video tutorial can also be used with Sibelius 6, by downloading from the direct links above. Sibelius 7 users can download the plugins directly from within Sibelius, as outlined by Philip in his Youtube tutorial.

Philip currently owns and authors the Sibeliusblog website, which is a great resource for Sibelius tips and tutorials.

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

As a composer and teacher, I often have the chance to explore areas of music and musical notation with which I am unfamiliar. A few years ago one of my students expressed an interest in composing “outside” the traditional Western idea of the equal tempered 12-tone scale. We decided to start our exploration with the concept of quarter tones. As so often is the case, the resulting study benefitted me as much as my student. Along the way, I was delighted to find my notation software was up to the challenge of creating and playing our various compositional attempts.

A very brief history of quarter tone music

The simplest way to describe a quarter tone is a pitch falls halfway between what we think of as a half step (semitone) in the traditional western chromatic scale. A quarter tone scale contains twice as many notes (24) as its 12 note chromatic cousin. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the origins of quarter tone music:

Known as gadwal in Arabic, the quarter tone scale was developed in the Middle East in the eighteenth century and many of the first detailed writings in the nineteenth century Syria describe the scale as being of 24 equal tones. The invention of the scale is attributed to Mikhail Mishaqa whose work Essay on the Art of Music for the Emir Shihāb (al-Risāla al-shihābiyya fi ‘l-ṣinā ‘a al-mūsīqiyya) is devoted to the topic but also makes clear his teacher Sheikh Muhammad al-‘Attār’ (1764-1828) was one of many already familiar with the concept.

The quarter tone scale may be primarily considered a theoretical construct in Arabic music. The quarter tone gives musicians a “conceptual map” with which to discuss and compare intervals by number of quarter tones and this may be one of the reasons it accompanies a renewed interest in theory, with instruction in music theory being a mainstream requirement since that period.

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Notation Workflow : Tips For Moving Logic Files into Sibelius or Finale

For Logic users there may come the time that one needs to get a file over to Finale or Sibelius to finish a project. Logic has its own proprietary notation display formatting and doesn’t currently support Music XML. However, you can export a Standard MIDI File (SMF) and achieve good results. To maximize compatibility before exporting a SMF, you’ll need to do some adjustments, as described below.

The important proprietary formatting items are Display Quantize, Interpretation mode and to a lesser degree, Syncopation mode. These items affect Logic’s display only – playback remains unaffected. You may also need to deal with pedal markings (these do affect playback). Let’s look at what they do, and how to pass along this information in a SMF.

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