How to do what JW Rhythm and Meter (Plugin) does in Sibelius

After reading Robert’s post about the JW Rhythm and Meter plugin for Finale, I decided to figure out what you could do in Sibelius to accomplish the same results…


(A) Double Meter / Half Meter – resizes the meter:

There are several ways you could double or halve some bars in Sibelius. If you only need to double or halve the durations of the notes and then fit the notes into the same bar structure, you can just use the shipping Double/Halve Note Values plugins, or the downloadable Copy Double/Halve Note Values plugins, and put their results into your bars.

If you want to change the bar size as well as the contents, the following is probably the most simple method, especially if your selection contains numerous key signature changes. A single plugin that could do all this could be very useful, if this is an operation that is done often.

Use the shipping Double/Halve Note Values plugins, which will create a new score, with double or halved notes and adjusted time signatures, and then system-select the changed bars in the new score and copy to the clipboard. So if you start with the music below (a modified version of Drowsy Maggie, which would not normally have time signature changes!):

The new score with doubled bars will look like this (after using CNTRL / CMND A to select all of the bars:

Once the bars from the new score are copied to the clipboard, return to the original score. There are a number of ways to do the following operations, but this mechanism should always work:

1. Select the bar following the original selection, and create a time signature that matches the time signature it currently has (without rewriting). Leave that bar selected.
2. Paste the doubled bars, which will be inserted after the original bars, and before the bar you just put a time signature into.
3. Delete the final barline at the end of the pasted bars. The score should look like this:

4. If the original selection included system text (such as the title), select it all, cut it and paste it back onto the corresponding new pasted bar. You could use the Move System Objects For Delete Bar plugin to help with this.

5. Reselect and delete the originally selected bars. Your score should now be something like this, which should be the desired result:



(A) Compound Meter to Triplet – (this converts meters like 3/4 or 6/8 into straight time signatures (e.g. 4/4) with triplets).

There is no plugin or other automated method currently that will do this. I would think it would be possible to write a plugin that would do this, though it would not be an easy plugin to write.

(B) Triplet to Compound Meter

The closest you can come to this is the shipping plugin Convert Simple Time to Compound Time (Notes and Rests), which rewrites passages in 4/4, 3/4 etc. time signatures as 12/8, 9/8 etc., by doubling the length of the odd-numbered eighth notes (quavers) in each bar. (The exception to this rule is that triplet eighth notes, quarter notes and half notes are kept straight.)

The converted notation is added to the score at the end of the selection. Where a tuplet has not been converted, a text warning is added to the score indicating the bar number that contained the original tuplet, so you can correct it. The plug-in only copies notes: articulations, lines, special barlines, lyrics, etc. will not be copied, so you will need to copy or re-create these after running the plug-in.

So even when this will work, it will take some tweaking to get the same results.

(C) Create Compound Meter – this task creates a new time signature based on groups of 3. This task does not have any visual effect on the music.

(D) Split Compound Meter – Splits a time signature that is grouped by 3 into individual time signature elements. This task does not have any visual effect on the music.

Both of the above can be accomplished in Sibelius by using Appearances > Reset Notes > Beam Groups


(A) Create Time Signature – creates a time signature that matches the note content, It can use the content of a single staff, selected staves or the full measure stack to make this determination.

The downloadable plugin Time Signature For Irregular Bars (category Layout) adds a time signature appropriate to the length to an irregular bar, so that irregular bars are made regular.

(B) Use Displayed Time – creates a time signature based on the contents while still keeping the current meter for display. For instance, this can be useful for pickup bars. e.g. 4/4 time with a single quarter note displayed

Possibly the Resize Bar plugin Shrink Bar to fit contents option is the closest, and it will create pickup bars by discarding rests and shrinking the size of a bar without changing the time signature.

(C) Free Time – creates a time signature that matches the contents and hides it. This is useful for cadenzas and similar notation. This powerful mode also includes a “Conceal Barlines” option to show the entire cadenza as a single phrase, without barlines.

The downloadable plugin Time Signature For Irregular Bars (category Layout) adds a time signature appropriate to the length to an irregular bar. But really, if you have an irregular bar, you are already done, and there is no need to add and hide a time signature. You can create an irregular bar in Home > Bars > Add, or use the Resize Bar plugin to change an existing bar to another size. If you have a number of bars that would want to appear to be a single bar, you could use the Home > Bars > Join to actually make them a single large bar, or you could select each barline you want to hide and use Notations > Common > Barlines > Invisible to hide barlines, or use the downloadable Barline Tool or Change Selected Barlines plugins to change multiple barlines.

(D) Bound Time – this reverses the process of the “Free Time” task. It displays the time signature and restores the barlines, barline numbering and spacing.

Use the downloadable Barline Tool or Change Selected Barlines plugins to restore multiple barlines. Home > Bars > Join and Home > Bars > Split could be used to change the sizes of bars.

(E) Resize Contents to Signature – this mode stretches or shrinks the note contents to fit the measure’s time signature. This can be used as an alternative to the “independent time signatures” feature of Finale.

Use the Resize Bar plugin “Resize bar to fit time signature” option for this.



(A) Notated Swing – creates a noted (triplet-based) swing rhythm based on 2 straight notes. The created tuplet uses the current settings from Finale’s Document Options > Tuplets.

(B) Remove Notated Swing – replaces a notated (triplet based) swing rhythm with a straight rhythm.

(C) Dotted Pattern – creates a dotted rhythm based on a straight rhythm. The dotted value can be based on various note durations (e.g. 8th or 16th).

(D) Reshape dotted rhythms – this task will “flatten” or “sharpen” rhythmic patterns. For instance, you can convert a dotted 8th+16th pattern into two straight 8ths (“flatten”) or convert the same dotted 8th+16th pattern into double-dotted 8th+32nds (“sharpen”).

(E) Rest – here, you can transform rests to conform to the current time signature beat groupings, split rests into various sub-beat groupings (for both common and compound meters), modify rests within tuplets, and consolidate / merge rests.

There are probably no exact equivalents to these in Sibelius. The Combine Tied Notes and Rests and Split Bar Rests plugins could provide some of the Rests functions.


(A) Merge – which merges selected measures into one single measure and automatically creates a new meter. For instance, if you combine a measure of 3/8 with a measure of 2/4, you have a choice of the resulting meter being a traditional single bar of 7/8 time, or, you can instruct the plugin to create a complex meter (e.g. 3/8+4/8).

Home > Bars > Join will merge selected bars into a single bar. You would need to run the Time Signature For Irregular Bars plugin afterward, or manually add a time signature if you wanted a time signature in the result.

(B) Repeated Merge – merges groups of measures into single measures in the new meter. Measure attached information including measure numbers are automatically adjusted.

There is not obviously any automated way to do this in Sibelius.

So to sum it up, there are a lot of useful features in this Finale plugin in a compact package, and I commend its author for providing it. Many of its features can be accomplished either within Sibelius itself, or using plugins (with various amounts of additional fiddling around). For the ones that have no Sibelius equivalent, I would expect that a dedicated Sibelius plugin writer could probably reproduce these features, and suggest that it would be a good exercise for a budding plugin author to pick out a useful feature and write a plugin to implement it. Good luck!

Bob Zawalich is a composer, guitarist, and software designer who lives near Seattle, Washington. He has studied both computer science and music, and has written software at Microsoft. Bob is the author of several hundred plugins for Sibelius notation software.

One Reply to “How to do what JW Rhythm and Meter (Plugin) does in Sibelius”

  1. Hi there!

    Thanks for the post.
    If I may comment on moving triplets to compound, I found a way using a music program that might be cleaner:
    – Export a midi file from your sibelius part
    – Open it in, say, Logic Pro
    – Fit the time signature and tempo as it is on the part.
    – LOCK SMPTE position of the midi regions
    – Change time signature and adjust tempo (from 4/4 to 12/8, you need to multiply the tempo by 1.5)
    – Unlock SMPTE.
    – Quantize in 8ths (or other)
    – Re-export midi file
    – Open it in Siblius (or Finale)
    – You’re done.

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