Recording Key Switches & CC Data into Sibelius

Q: How do I record Key Switches and Continuous Controller data into Sibelius?

I built a “Frankenstein”; using a fixedIP address I hooked a PC (slave) to a Mac which works very nicely. I use VEPro 5 server but mainly using EW Symphonic Orchestra Gold.

I saw a video on YouTube where the composer added staves to play those key switch notes and hid them, but it was not very clear. Can you explain what was done?

itzhak Yaron

I haven’t seen the video you refer to, but there is no reason the technique you describe shouldn’t work. Let’s take a quick walk-through.

In Sibelius, you’ll typically be entering music one of three ways: step entering notes and data, recording in real time via Flexitime, or via MIDI import.

Let’s first look at MIDI import, since this is a standard workflow for many composers. When importing MIDI, if you have key switches in your DAW instrument tracks, uncheck “Only one staff per track” in the Instruments section of the MIDI File pane.


Sibelius will now create a braced grand staff instrument to split out your key switches automatically for you by importing notes of extreme range into a separate staff (if you haven’t already done this in your DAW).

(One caveat here is that you will very likely have to reassign instrument definitions to staves imported in this manner – the added key switches essentially indicate an unknown instrument of such extreme range, Sibelius will analyze it as a piano.)

Did you know you can create a braced grand staff of any instrument in Sibelius? You can then use one of those linked staves for recording key switches and even controller data in real time, then hiding it in the score.

One advantage of creating a braced grand staff instrument and then hiding the part of it being used for key switches and CC data is that all of the input and output assignments are automatically linked to that instrument.

To do this in Sibelius 7 or later, select “Add or Remove” in the Instruments Pane of the Home tab. (In Sibelius 6, this is found in Create > Instruments). In the right side of the dialog, select the instrument you want to turn into a grand staff, and then choose extra staff below (or above). Here, I will create an Extra Staff Below Trumpet 3:


When you add the extra staff below, the instrument name becomes centered between them in the score. Its position will be restored after you hide the staff:


Depending on the range of the key switches for any given instrument, which are going to be outside the instrument’s normal range, you may want to change the clef of the newly created “Performance” extra staff, as shown above. This serves no purpose except visual housekeeping, as the staff will end up being hidden anyway.

(when importing a MIDI file with “Only one staff per track” unchecked, the braced grand staff created will automatically be assigned appropriate clefs.)

In the lower Tpt. 3 staff (or in a separate staff assigned in the mixer to Tpt.3), you can use Flexitime record to input notes that are keyswitches as well as controller information. In Flextime options you can layer multiple passes on the same track / staff by choosing Overdub in the flextime panel:


Key switches are generally short isolated events, so the quantization settings in the Notation panel don’t matter. However,  if you wish to record the instrument notation in the same pass, you will need to set this quantization appropriately.

Another consideration is CC Controller data. If you  want to input modulation wheel or any other type of controller data, you need to check “Keep Controller Messages” which is off by default:


Notation programs have a great deal more graphical overhead than a DAW. Depending on your processor, you may experience performance issues when recording lots of CC information in a single pass. 

Using the Extra Staff Below method, if you record everything in one pass in Flexitime (e.g. the Keyswitches and Controller data along with the Notation), Flexitime will automatically separate out extremely low keyswitches into the lower staff. If you want to define a manual split point for the key switches, you can set this in the Notation panel of Flexitime Options:


Note that this split point can also be set during MIDI Import. The Notation tab is shared between the Flexitime and MIDI import features of Sibelius.

Of course, you can also enter these key switches manually in step time; inserting them into the lower staff instead of recording them in real time.

Here is a short passage with notation, keyswitches and modulation wheel recorded in the same pass. Sibelius does a good job of inputing everything. Note that the CC data appears in the upper staff:


(Once you complete all of the note and performance data entry for the piece, you may want to cut all of the CC data  from the upper staff to the clipboard and paste it down into the “Performance” staff before hiding it. Use the advanced filter to search and select only text that contains the tilde ~ character, cut to the clipboard, then paste into the key switch staff you have created.)

Finally, it’s time to hide anything that isn’t visible music notation in the score.

Triple-click the “Performance staff, and hide the key switch notes and any controller data within it (on Mac, the keyboard shortcut is Command-Shift-H).


Now, while the staff is still highlighted, invoke Hide Empty Staves. (On Mac, the keyboard shortcut is Command-Option-Shift-H), and the “Extra Staff Below” Performance staff will disappear in Page View:


Repeat for any other “performance” staves.

While Sibelius wasn’t really designed with this particular workflow in mind, hopefully, with some experimentation, you can incorporate Key Switches and CC data into your Sibelius scores with excellent visual as well as playback results.


5 Replies to “Recording Key Switches & CC Data into Sibelius”

  1. Thank you for such a clear reply – the Youtube videos have their limitations.

    A. this one does not do the slave thing with VEPro5

    B. this is the one that is illustrating your workflow but a little different. I like your details.

    He does not use VEPro 5 Server to host the play plug ins, or a dedicated server.

    Thank you for your detailed step by step instructions that are easy to follow.

  2. Robert –
    How do you stop Sibelius from sending unwanted keyswitch notes?
    I have a single staff and am using Kontakt (with Mojo Horn Section).
    When I enter a series of note play it back, Kontakt responds not only to the written notes but also adds a keyswitch change with the first note in the series, which I can see visually on Kontakt’s keyboard layout. I have no idea where this keyswitch signal is coming from in Sibelius. Any ideas?

  3. (Sorry for the errors in my previous post. It’s corrected here.)
    Robert –
    How do you stop Sibelius from sending unwanted keyswitch notes?
    I have a single staff and am using Kontakt (with Mojo Horn Section).
    When I enter a series of notes and play it back, Kontakt responds but also adds a keyswitch change with the first note in the series, which I can see visually on Kontakt’s keyboard layout. I have no idea where this keyswitch signal is coming from in Sibelius. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Steve – there is no reason why you couldn’t do this, if the VST instruments are set to respond to these. You might experience some slowdowns on certain computers because of the additional graphical overhead required by Sibelius to render the notation, but the staves are just sending out standard midi messages.

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