Find Next One of These – A Useful and Little Known Sibelius Plugin

A couple of years ago I was editing a piece of music and realized I was spending too much time and effort selecting objects with the mouse. In order to understand just how much of a problem that was, it’s useful to take a look at a sample page:


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This is music for solo guitar, which can be notoriously difficult to edit. It can include up to 4 independent voices on one staff, and complex passages can include up to 4 pieces of text for each note: left hand fingers (numbers 1-4), right hand fingers (the letters p, i, m and a), string indications (numbers 1-6, in circles) and bar indications (Roman numerals indicating which fret is being barred). That is a great deal of text, which require a lot of minute adjustments to place it all just right.

The problem I was running into had to do with Sibelius’ navigation keys. If you have a note selected in Sibelius, pressing the left or right arrow keys will take you to the adjacent note. But on a piece of text, such as a chord symbol or these fingering indications, pressing the arrows will move the text object. To select adjacent text objects you need to hit the Tab key. But Tab will simply select the next object in the same voice, whatever it is. For example. if you look at bar 49 in the image above, starting from the ‘1’ fingering indication (next to the A-flat) will take you through the A-flat, the circled ‘4’, the ‘3’, the ‘m’, the circled ‘3’, and the D. 6 key strokes and we’re still in beat 1. Tedious.

I needed to be able to do separate edit passes on a passage; first fixing all fingerings, then all string indications, then all right hand indications, but there was no way to do this comfortably in Sibelius. I took my plight to the always-helpful Sibelius chat page, and was lucky to have it answered by Bob Zawalich. Frequent visitors to that chat page know Bob as one of Sibelius’ most experienced users, and as a programmer who has contributed scores of plugins to the Sibelius community, all free of charge. Bob created two plugins that did exactly what I needed.

‘Find Next One of These’ takes whatever selection you have (a text object, really), and selects the next text object of the same style. ‘Find Previous One of These’ does the same thing backwards. These plugins are of the sort that really work best when you assign shortcuts to them (I have alt+ctrl+right arrow / alt+ctrl+left arrow). Now, if I started on the ‘1’ at bar 49, the plugin will quickly take me through all the voice 2 fingering indications, and I can quickly adjust their positioning. It cut my work time on these charts to less than half.

Plugin Keyboard Shortcuts can be programmed from Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Plug-ins (Sibelius 7) or Preferences > Menus and Shortcuts > Plug-ins (Sibelius 6).

Although they started with a very specific need, I have since found myself using these plugins for other purposes. Need to change the instrument name at instrument change text objects, which often have dozens or hundreds of bars separating them? Start at the first one and use the plugin to navigate to the next. Adjust all metronome marks to reflect different tempos? Even just skip between rehearsal marks. It’s a quick keystroke with no dialogues and works fast and efficiently.

You can find the plugins here. They work with Sibelius 5, 6 and 7. Thanks to Bob for writing them, and to Robert Puff for letting me share this experience on his excellent blog.

About Me

A formidable composer, the missing link between Rasputina and Bernard Herrmann‘ (Lucid Culture)

Vilnai’s musical journey owes to a unique heritage as a Russian-Romanian descendant raised in Jerusalem around a mix of contemporary and traditional music, with a BFA in jazz and an MM in composition. He studied jazz guitar at the New School, graduating with honors in 2003. In 2009, Vilnai completed an MM in composition at Brooklyn College, studying with Jason Eckardt and earning the John Cage Award for Excellence in Composition. He was in residence with the college’s Contemporary Music Ensemble, directed by Ursula Oppens, and with the conservatory’s orchestra. He has been commissioned by ai ensemble, trombonist Jen Baker, Metro Chamber Orchestra, New York Trombone Consort and others, and his compositions have been performed around the country, most notably by CUNY’s CME, OMNI Ensemble and Mivos quartet. As a guitarist, Vilnai has performed with Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio, Midrash Mish Mosh, Romashka, and other ensembles in NYC’s downtown and world music scenes. He has shared the stage with diverse figures such as Frank London, balafon player Famoro Dioubate and the Phoenix Symphony. Vilnai leads Vampire Suit, an ensemble that examines the intersection of Balkan, jazz and chamber music. The ensemble has released two recordings to positive reviews, being called  ‘spirited and enjoyable‘ (Time Out NY) and said to have ‘enduring beauty‘ (Cadence Magazine). His 2011 release ‘Shakespeare Songs’, featuring the MIVOS quartet and singer Gelsey Bell was said by Lucid Culture to possess ‘creepy otherworldliness’, and ‘ghostly ambience’. An expert engraver, Vilnai has helped prepare music for Broadway, film, jazz performances and concert performances ranging from traditional to avant-garde.

3 Replies to “Find Next One of These – A Useful and Little Known Sibelius Plugin”

  1. This article and many others appearing in Of Note… is thought-provoking and practical. I have been ‘preparing music as its now called since Letraset days and each genre provides new challenges.

    One that puzzles me, in Sibelius, is the apparent lack of a clean, quick way to write in two or more parallel time signatures. The only workaround I can find (presented in Sibelius 7 manual) is a complete bodge! Any thoughts?

    Thanks again, I shall refer back to this to get my guitar notation right!

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