Sibelius : Vertical Alignment of Tempo Indications With Rehearsal Marks

Q: In Sibelius, is it possible to have boxed Rehearsal marks which are automatically vertically aligned with coincident changes of tempo? For example, I have entered the boxed rehearsal letter “A” followed by a tempo marking; “a tempo”. By default, Sibelius aligns the tempo text with the bottom of the enclosure, but I want the tempo text to be centered with the whole height of the boxed rehearsal mark.

A: You’ve touched on two interesting topics related to vertical text alignment here. The first relates to general settings and positioning, and the second, as it concerns Sibelius, relates to collision avoidance. Let’s take a look…

The new notation program Dorico has a nice feature within its Engraving Options that recognizes there are a couple of different “standards” for alignment of other items vertically with rehearsal marks, and matches either prevalent style with a single setting:

While Sibelius doesn’t offer this one-step alignment capability, it is straightforward to align these two different Text objects globally; either with the bottom of the rehearsal mark enclosure, or with the text baseline.

Before you get too far into this, first make sure your tempo marks and rehearsal marks haven’t been moved from their default vertical positions.  In Sibelius, selecting any text object and typing COMMAND-SHIFT-P (Mac) or CONTROL-SHIFT-P (Windows)  will reset its position. If the tempo text jumps above the rehearsal mark, nudge it only to the right until it drops back into its default vertical position.

The Sibelius templates are typically set to align the text baselines.  You can get to the specific settings by navigating to the Appearance Tab in Sibelius 7 and later, and selecting the Default Positions button in the Design and Position Group. (In Sibelius 6, select “Default Positions” from the House Style menu.)

Once in the Default Positions dialog, select the Rehearsal Marks text Style and note its Vertical Position Relative to Staff setting. Now, do the same for Tempo (and Metronome mark) text. If you want the default behavior of alignment of the Text Style’s baselines, set Vertical Position Relative to Staff identically for all three text styles. If there are no other considerations, they’ll line up perfectly. More on that in a moment.

If you want tempo text to align with the bottom of the Rehearsal Mark enclosure, you will need to set the rehearsal mark’s vertical position slightly higher, globally. The exact amount of space needed will depend on the size of the Rehearsal Mark enclosure. You can control the size of the enclosure here:

Sibelius 7 and later : Text Tab > Styles Group > Edit Text Styles > Rehearsal Marks > Edit > Border > Size

Sibelius 6 : House Style  > Edit Text Styles > Rehearsal Marks > Edit > Border > Position

In all recent versions of Sibelius, the thickness of the enclosure is set in Engraving Rules > Text > Text Borders

(The above settings can all be saved and loaded as a House Style).

Which brings us to the second topic for this article. It would be great if we could just set our baselines to taste and be done with it, but you may have already noticed that my first example above looks different than the Dorico Engraver Setting, which is at the left margin, and shows a treble clef and time signature.

Here is what happens in Sibelius when Vertical Position Relative to Staff is set identically for Rehearsal Marks and Tempo Text but appears with a treble clef and time signature at the left margin matching the example in the Dorico Engraving Options:

Notice how it is nudged up? With the Selection Ruler on, you can clearly see that Magnetic Layout has pushed the Rehearsal Mark up by about a half a space. What we want is for Magnetic Layout not to be quite so aggressive with collision avoidance; at least on the Rehearsal Mark’s left side, where a collision with the treble clef is being prevented.

Unfortunately, there is no one global setting in Sibelius that will work for every use case, as we’ll examine next. The idea here is to figure out correct global positioning for the highest number of cases, so there is a minimal amount of manual tweaking required.

We need to address these possible scenarios:

1.  Rehearsal mark and tempo text appear together in the middle of a system.

2. Rehearsal mark and tempo text appear together at the left margin with a treble clef plus a time signature.

3. Rehearsal mark and tempo text appear together at the left margin with a treble clef and a key signature.

4. Rehearsal mark and tempo text appear together at the left margin with a treble clef, a key signature and a time signature.

5. Rehearsal mark does not change position vertically when there is more than one rehearsal mark on a system.

6. Rehearsal mark and tempo text appear together at the left margin with a treble clef only (no key signature or time signature).

Great. Now all I can think of is that scene from M.A.S.H: 🙄

[going through letters in Klinger’s file] Father dying, last year. Mother dying, last year. Mother and father dying. Mother, father, and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. Here’s an oldie but a goodie: half of the family dying, other half pregnant. [puts file down] Klinger, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?

Yes sir. I don’t deserve to be in the Army.

OK… We could give up, and turn off Magnetic Layout, but since ML is otherwise so elegant, it’s worth trying to tweak the settings a bit. Let’s try removing some of Magnetic Layout’s collision avoidance “padding” on just the left side of the Rehearsal Mark and see what happens.

Go to the Magnetic Layout Group of the Layout Tab, and enter the Magnetic Layout Options dialog. (In Sibelius 6, location is Layout > Magnetic Layout Options).

Once in the dialog, sorting object types alphabetically by clicking at the top of the column will make it easier to locate the Rehearsal Mark settings.

Select / highlight Rehearsal Marks and then reduce the value in Minimum distance around object (spaces) : Left: to .13 spaces (the default should be .25 spaces):

This small adjustment in Magnetic Layout should allow your Rehearsal Marks and Tempo Text to remain aligned vertically for the first five of six conditions above. For the scenario where the Rehearsal Mark is at the left margin with a treble clef by itself, you still have two options.

The first is to manually adjust the two text types at these locations as they occur.

The second option is to raise the global vertical positioning of these Text Styles by going back into Default Positions as outlined above. Even something as small as .25 spaces of vertical clearance can make a difference in how Magnetic Layout behaves . However, keep in mind that in the example above, Magnetic Layout is moving the rehearsal mark up by .53 spaces, so for this case, the tweak to Magnetic Layout’s minimum distance is probably a better solution overall.

for Nicolai Pfeffer

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