Two of the early products from the Steinberg team’s efforts to develop new music notation software have been the advent of an open standard for music fonts, called the Standard Music Font Layout, or SMuFL, and the creation of its first compatible font, named Bravura.

In May 2013 Daniel Spreadbury announced both SMuFL and Bravura on his blog, and over the course of a year, both have been developed and refined into stable versions. Daniel’s blog post provides an excellent overview of the history of music fonts, and a post from the Finale blog provides additional insight into the early days of music font creation leading up to Finale 1.0. Over time, Daniel says, “As hundreds of new symbols were added to these font families, and new families were added, there was no standardization at all. The Opus family, for example, now has hundreds of glyphs spread over 18 different fonts, but there is almost no overlap with how many of the same symbols are laid out in, say, Maestro or Engraver, the two font families most commonly-used in Finale.”

Having made the case to develop the new SMuFL standard, Bravura was created as its flagship font. It is described as having a “bolder and more substantial look than most other music fonts: thin strokes are slightly thicker than in other fonts, improving the overall ‘blackness’ of the font and its legibility when read at a distance.”

Bravura’s basic glyphs are modeled after the Not-a-set dry transfer system, which itself was based on a set of engraving punches used by Schott, in turn based on the punches used by Breitkopf & Härtel. Bravura’s closest cousin in the world of music fonts, interestingly, is the Finale default font Maestro, which is also a digital version of Not-a-set, according to MakeMusic’s Mark Adler.

A Not-a-set dry transfer sheet, from the Music Printing History web site

A Not-a-set dry transfer sheet, from the Music Printing History web site

Perhaps future versions of Finale, Sibelius, or other applications will utilize the SMuFL standard. When asked about it last year, Sibelius’s technical lead Michael Ost said, “I’m agnostic on this issue. I don’t see the big win at present, but I’m interested to see what develops.”

For the time being, then, Sibelius users who wish to use Bravura need a compatible version that is mapped to Sibelius in the same way that the Opus family of fonts is. This is where Norfolk comes in.

Norfolk

The Norfolk family of fonts is a derivative of Bravura that is expressly reconfigured to work within Sibelius. This is an effort that is sponsored by my company, NYC Music Services, and is now available to download and use from a special page on that web site. Matthew Maslanka of Maslanka Music Prep ported the glyphs from Bravura, and fine-tuned them to work in Sibelius.

Norfolk is intended as a drop-in for Opus, but for practical reasons, it was not possible to faithfully reproduce every symbol in Norfolk. Many of Sibelius’s symbols are actually composite symbols with intricate and tightly integrated positioning. We did, however, try very hard to reproduce the most commonly used glyphs into the following fonts, with the corresponding Opus analog:

  • Norfolk Std
  • Norfolk Text Std
  • Norfolk Special Std
  • Norfolk Special Extra Std
  • Norfolk Ornaments Std
  • Norfolk Metronome Std (in progress as of this writing)

There is also an additional font called Norfolk Special II Std, which is an additional font containing Bravura characters not found or easily replaced in Opus.

Norfolk in use in Sibelius 7.5

Norfolk in use in a part in Sibelius 7.5.1

Still, Bravura in many ways is fundamentally different from Opus. To accommodate its idiosyncrasies, we developed a house style based on the Sibelius default Standard Opus (Plantin) that is tailored to Norfolk, which is included in the download package. Use of the house style is recommended if you’re starting a new document from scratch (or if you’re working with a file that is using the Standard Opus (Plantin) settings, but if you already have a customized house style, you may wish to simply replace the music and music text fonts, and make further adjustments only as needed. Included is some documentation to this end and a list of known issues at this time.

Norfolk derives its name from Norfolk, Connecticut, home of the Norfolk Music Festival, where Jean Sibelius conducted the premiere of his work The Oceanides during his only visit to the United States in 1914.

Thanks to Matthew for all of his hard work, to Daniel Spreadbury for creating a beautiful font (and for choosing to make it freely available under an open font license), and to Avid’s Sam Butler for allowing us to use the structure of the Opus fonts as a starting point for our work.

Try it out and see what you think. It’s officially in beta at the moment, although it should be quite usable. The intention behind this effort is to have the Norfolk family be a viable and widely-distributed option for users seeking an alternative to the fonts included with Sibelius. To that end, your comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome and encouraged. Feel free to comment here or send me a message.

Like Bravura, the Norfolk fonts are made available under the SIL Open Font License, which means that the fonts are free to download, use, embed, redistribute with other software (including commercial software) or to create derivative versions. However, please consider allowing others in the community to benefit from any improvements you make by allowing NYC Music Services to improve the core fonts, rather than choosing to create a derivative font.

Enjoy!

{ 7 comments }

New and updated plug-ins from Kenneth Gaw

by Philip Rothman on September 23, 2014 · 2 comments

in Tips

Plug-in creator Kenneth Gaw has recently introduced a new addition to his impressively useful plug-in repertoire, and he has updated several others as well. Here’s a run-down of the goodies.

All of these plug-ins may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 or 7.5 at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > [Category]. Or, click on the link on each plug-in name to be taken to the plug-in’s page on Sibelius.com, where you can download the plug-in and install it manually, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.

1. Import and Export Mixer Settings is actually two plug-ins found in the Composing Tools category and, named, appropriately enough, Import Mixer Settings and Export Mixer Settings. This is a brand new plug-in that addresses a surprising deficiency with Sibelius: the ability to export volume and pan settings and import those settings into an existing file. Kenneth says, “I normally work with a hardware sound module but use Sibelius Sounds when exporting audio. This allows for saving different mixer settings without creating two versions of the file.”

2. Decrease and Increase Dynamics, also technically two separate plug-ins, is found in the Text category, and the latest update fixes a bug which caused it to crash when reading fp.

3. Delete Voices 1-4 is found in the Filter and Find category. It sees an update whereby voice 1 is now never left empty in a bar, when deleting voices 2, 3 or 4. If no voice 1 notes or rests are present, a bar rest is added, like in this example:

delete

Be sure to see this post from last year which describes Decrease and Increase Dynamics and Delete Voices 1-4 in more detail, along with how to assign shortcuts to them for maximum efficiency.

4. Apply Series, found in the Composing Tools category and designed to help with serial composition, is now bumped up to version 3.0 with a major upgrade. The octave position of the series notes can now be determined by the selected notes, and the series can now be applied one stave a time or across all selected staves in the order that the notes are played.

5. The new version of Paste Rhythm to Pitches, Kenneth says, is “much more useful than the previous one.” It’s found in the Notes and Rests category. This plugin superimposes a rhythm of the notes on the clipboard on to a selected passage of music, and Kenneth says that the “the addition of a multipaste option, which will paste the clipboard rhythm repeatedly, makes a significant difference.” Kenneth has posted a video tutorial to explain an offset option, which gives the user more choice in the way the rhythm is pasted over the existing pitch material:

Let us know how these new and updated plug-ins are working for you!

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With all of the hype about Apple’s newest iPhone and Apple Watch, one could easily forget that phones and watches have lineages dating back centuries. Interestingly, the computer keyboard, that mainstay of desktop inputting, can trace its roots back to the invention of the typewriter — right around the same time that the telephone was invented.

Of course, typewriters typically had a row of numbers across the top, but nothing that would resemble a calculator-style numeric keypad. That particular section of a modern computer keyboard can actually trace its lineage, and layout, back the Sustrand adding machine in 1914.

When Apple revamped its line of computer keyboards in 2007, the sleek aluminum devices came in two versions: a wired, full size model that included the numeric keyboard, and a more popular (and pricier) wireless, compact model that omitted it. Anyone hoping for an official Apple wireless version with a numeric keypad was out of luck.

The many keypad layouts of Sibelius

The many keypad layouts of Sibelius

Like in many other areas (floppy drives, CDs), perhaps Apple was foreseeing the future ahead of everyone else. Just recently, in fact, Sibelius expert user Robin Walker on this blog said that the keypad is “an object which is by now almost extinct. Nothing more clearly labels Sibelius as a child of the 1990s than its dependence on the numeric keypad.” Perhaps future products like Steinberg’s in-development notation software, or even future editions of Finale and Sibelius will fulfill this prophecy, but for now, the efficient use of music notation desktop software products relies heavily upon the numeric keypad.

Construction and use of the NewerTech wireless keypad

Several offerings have tried to fill the void for a perfect wireless solution, either through hardware, or apps like the $5 NumPad for iOS, which even comes preloaded with Finale and Sibelius layouts. But no one has come closer than NewerTech, which just last week released its $50 Wireless Aluminum Keypad, available from Other World Computing.

NewerTech's Wireless Aluminum Keypad

NewerTech’s Wireless Aluminum Keypad

Unabashedly described as “the keypad that looks and feels like the Apple Keyboard you already love,” it fulfills that promise. Even the most ardent Apple fan would be hard-pressed to identify the keypad as a non-Apple product. Everything from the brushed aluminum enclosure to the font on the keys on the NewerTech product matches up with Apple’s products. Only upon very close inspection and regular use do subtle differences become apparent: on the NewerTech keypad, the keys are raised ever so slightly more, leading to a miniscule difference in the keypress action compared to Apple’s keyboard; and the keys themselves are just barely more rectangular on the NewerTech product than are the more rounded corners of the Apple one. Read the full article →

{ 6 comments }

Re-input pitches in homophonic music

by Philip Rothman on September 16, 2014 · 3 comments

in Tips

If you’re writing or copying homophonic parts, like similar Violin 1 and Violin 2 lines, or Trumpets 1, 2, and 3 in a band chart, you’ll want to know about this technique. Say you’ve already entered the music in your first part and taken the time to place slurs, text, and articulations.

Simply copy the music from the first to the second part, and then, in Sibelius 7 or 7.5, select Note Input > Note Input > Re-input Pitches (Sibelius 6: Notes > Re-input Pitches).

repitch1A dotted caret appears (rather than the normal solid line), meaning that you can just enter the pitches from your MIDI or computer keyboard, and Sibelius will overwrite the pitches while leaving the rhythm and articulations intact.

Here’s a video that I made some four years ago using Sibelius 6 that demonstrates the concept (note that the keyboard shortcut changed from Sibelius 6 to Sibelius 7: in 6, it’s Command-Shift-I (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+I (PC); in 7 it’s Option-Shift-N (Mac) or Shift+Alt+N (PC):

Finale offers a similar function called repitching, available by going to Tools > Simple Entry > Repitch.

A few other tips (in Sibelius):

  • If you don’t want to change a particular note, hit 0 on the keypad to move onto the next one
  • To turn an existing note into a rest, hit to select it without changing its pitch, then hit 0 on the first Keypad layout
  • To turn an existing rest into a note, use or to move onto the rest, then input the pitch you want

Re-inputting pitches has saved me countless hours on all kinds of projects, and I hope it will do the same for you!

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Thumbnail image for Forum expert Robin Walker on his life, work, and Sibelius

Forum expert Robin Walker on his life, work, and Sibelius

September 10, 2014

An interview with Sibelius user Robin Walker in which he discusses his background, helping fellow Sibelius users, and the future of music technology.

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Thumbnail image for Sibelius 7.5 free webinar for New Zealand customers on September 9

Sibelius 7.5 free webinar for New Zealand customers on September 9

September 4, 2014

A free Sibelius 7.5 webinar is available on September 9 for those in New Zealand, and attendees will receive 20% off of their upgrade to Sibelius 7.5.

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Thumbnail image for Back to school

Back to school

September 3, 2014

A few thoughts on school and music teachers at the start of the academic year.

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Thumbnail image for Reset text font to defaults while typing

Reset text font to defaults while typing

August 27, 2014

If you’ve ever been frustrated by getting strange-looking characters while typing expressive text, here’s how to fix the problem.

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Thumbnail image for New plug-in: Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text

New plug-in: Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text

August 21, 2014

This plug-in allows you to specify the music font for the Beats Per Minute (BPM) characters in ‘Tempo’ text and ‘Metronome mark’ text, with options to format associated equal signs, dashes and parentheses.

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Thumbnail image for Shaun Buswell scores for his Fringe Orchestra Challenge in Sibelius

Shaun Buswell scores for his Fringe Orchestra Challenge in Sibelius

August 18, 2014

A musician recruits strangers to form an orchestra and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the span of 10 days, and scores the music in Sibelius in an unconventional way.

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