Sibelius Quick Tip to Widen or Squash Note Spacing

Q: I’m writing a piece with semi-quaver runs full of accidentals. The finished score shows the note heads crammed together with the accidentals and it’s not readable. The bar won’t increase its width to properly display everything. Is there a way for me to make the bar wider so everything in it would fit and not be crammed up?

To apply standard Note Spacing on Mac, select a passage and then type CMND-SHIFT-N.  To apply standard Note Spacing  on Windows: CONTROL-SHIFT-N

A: Assuming you have already run Note Spacing on the score, if it is ok for your score layout to change, the most straightforward method to increase space is to select the region in question, unlock the systems up to the next major event (e.g. rehearsal letter, key change etc.) and reapply note spacing to increase the spacing between the notes. in the selected region.

To spread out a passage of music on Windows, select the passage and type
SHIFT+ALT+ → a few times. On Mac, SHIFT+OPTION+ → spreads the passage out. You can also hold down Ctrl (Windows) or CMND (Mac) at the same time to move in bigger steps. You can make make a selected passage narrower by using the left arrow rather than the right arrow, e.g. Shift+Alt+ ←


Sibelius has the ability to change the note spacing look on a beat-by-beat or bar-by-bar basis, so this technique will work to respace even a couple of notes.

Note that Sibelius will, in fact, allow you to keep an individual system’s layout locked, while spreading out the note spacing for a single bar in the middle of that system, but keep in mind that the net effect is that  the note spacing in the surrounding bars on that system  become more compressed by doing so, since the total space isn’t being allowed to change.

This may or may not be desirable depending on the total number of note events on the system you are applying the note spacing to, so you may have to experiment a bit with locked vs. unlocked systems to get the passage’s note spacing to look correct.

For accidentals collisions specifically, an alternate trick you can try when using the normal note spacing is to increase the minimum space allowed before accidentals. This is found in the Minimum Space section of the Note Spacing Rule:


I find that about a quarter space usually does the trick. Remember, you are only applying this additional “padding” before accidentals to a selected tight passage, so it won’t affect your note spacing in other areas of the score unless you apply it to those areas.

Remember to set the Note Spacing Rule settings back to its defaults after you do an operation like this, so you aren’t affecting regions in your score where this extra space is not needed. 


for Jonathan Caile

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