Use Slurs to Create Straight, Note-attached Lines in Sibelius

One of the features lacking even in the latest version of Sibelius are straight lines which snap-to notes. All of the straight lines, including the gliss lines, attach to the staff, and actually don’t snap to noteheads. The gliss lines and other straight lines do play back in Sibelius, but they are fussy to position correctly between notes.

Bob Zawalich’s excellent and highly recommendedLines Between Notes” plugin for Sibelius takes a great deal of the work out of positioning lines between notes accurately; indispensable if you write a lot of music with gliss lines, for instance.

The “Lines Between Notes” plugin is an amazing productivity tool, but it’s not a “dynamic” solution. If you apply the plugin in a concert score you’ll most likely have to make a second adjustment in the part if it transposes. If you change the start or ending note pitch after the fact, you’ll have the run the plugin again. A way to create a real, honest-to-goodness straight, note-attached lines would be a useful feature.

In Sibelius, slurs are a part of the larger Lines group. One of their unique properties is that they snap to noteheads, unlike other lines. However, they are curved, not straight lines. But it turns out that slurs are actually flexible enough to provide us with note-attached straight lines.

Not only can these note attached slurs be made to display as a straight line so they can display as a gliss line, their thickness can adjusted, and any of these settings can be applied to single slur, independent of the House Style. Let’s take a look…

We start by adding a slur between two notes. The start and end notes don’t have to be adjacent, as in the example below, but because of the current Sibelius design, they do need to be on the same staff in order to snap notehead-to-notehead:


Now, with this slur selected, turn off its Magnetic Layout, which will allow us to move the start and end points of the slur line into position easily.

(In Sibelius 7.x or Sibelius 8, locate the Magnetic Layout Group in the Layout tab, and select OFF for the Object popup. In Sibelius 6, with the slur selected, choose Magnetic Layout OFF in the General Tab of the Properties.)

Next, we’ll turn the slur arc into a straight line. WIth the slur selected, open the Inspector (or Properties in Sibelius 6), and set the X and Y values for “Slur left curve:” and “Slur right curve:” to zero:


The slur will become a note-attached straight line. While you are in this area of the Inspector, note the entry field for Slur thickness. This field allows you to control line thickness for this one instance. At this point, just drag the start and end points individually into position, and you have a respectable looking straight gliss line:


For a more esoteric look, you can use the same approach with dashed slurs or dotted slurs (for dotted slurs change the dot size by using the “width” setting of Edit Lines.)

If you want these “slurs as gliss lines” to play back, you can create a *duplicate* of the default slur in Edit Lines which will become your new glissando line source. Name it something appropriate, then go into the Playback Dictionary and define its Sound ID as +glissando.


The nice thing about this approach is that the line is truly attached to the starting and ending notes:


I love it when an easy workaround produces good results. In a future post, I’ll talk about some other cool things you can do with slurs in Sibelius. Stay tuned…


5 Replies to “Use Slurs to Create Straight, Note-attached Lines in Sibelius”

    1. Thanks, Andre. I think you are asking if the default curve shape for a slur could be changed so they will be entered in the document as straight lines in the first place, and unfortunately, the answer to that is… yes, but the only way it is accessible in Sibelius is a global and inviable solution.

      The curvature control is global for all slurs and can be flatlined by zeroing all of the fields in the “height” section of Engraving Rules. Set these values to zero, and all your arced slurs become straight lines; obviously not desired global behavior.

      The Edit Lines dialog would be a logical spot for controlling line curvature globally for an individual line, but no visible controls for “slur left curve” and “slur right curve” exist in that location.

      But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Note that you *can* select multiple slurs at once, and change their values to zero via the inspector to make them all straight at once. You could even do this throughout a long piece with the Advanced filter very quickly, as long as you were working with a duplicate slur that you had named differently so you could easily filter for it.

      Note that the mulit-adjustment procedure is a bit fiddly; it doesn’t appear you can enter zeros directly in the Inspector without first incrementing or decrementing the values with the field arrow. Once you see “any” value in the field after incrementing or decrementing with the arrow, you can *then* type a zero, and the value will change identically for all of your selected slurs.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.