2014 holiday shopping guide, Sibelius blog style

by Philip Rothman on November 25, 2014 · 0 comments

in Opinion

As regular readers of the blog know, I love “geeking out” about music and technology. A happy consequence of that is that I often get asked for advice on what software or hardware to purchase. In the spirit of the holidays, I figured I’d put together a list of some of the products that are on my devices or in my office. These may not necessarily be the most suitable projects for everyone, but, except where noted, I own and use everything on this list. Keep in mind I’m a Mac and iDevice user, so some items will be specific to those platforms only. Happy shopping!

Note: I purchase a lot of products from Amazon, and apps from Apple’s App Store, so I’ve linked to those products directly. Those are affiliated links, which constitute advertising; if you’d like to learn more about what that means, please see our privacy policy, section 4(b). A product is only listed here if I own it. Prices were accurate at the time this article was written, but are, of course, subject to fluctuation.

Desktop software

finale-sibelius-150@2xIt probably goes without saying that I’m using Sibelius and/or Finale practically every workday. Sibelius 7.5 and Finale 2014 are both available from major retailers (upgrade, academic, or competitive crossgrades are also available). You can read an extensive review of Sibelius 7.5 on this blog along with the improvements in Sibelius 7.5.1, and a detailed review of Finale 2014’s new features is here for your reading pleasure too. Feel free to compare and contrast the features of each application, and it’s fair to say that most articles you’ll find around here have something to do with one or the other.
Price: Sibelius: $600 or less; Finale: $600 or less; discounted prices for both can usually be found, along with discounted pricing for upgrades, academic versions, or competitive crossgrades.

icon256After notation products, the next heavy hitter here is Logic Pro X. This pretty much came close to the ideal software upgrade for me when it was released last year. The interface is more intuitive compared to Logic Pro 9, there are an incredible number of useful new features (I have to say I love the Drummer), and at $200 it’s a bargain. Notation-minded users will appreciate the added MusicXML exporting feature and the redesign of the Score Editor, even if you use it to make rough drafts and then polish in a dedicated notation program. It’s Mac-only, though, so PC users will have to use something else. Sound on Sound has a detailed review.
Price: $200 from the Mac App Store.

NotePerformerSibelius users writing orchestral music will want to check out NotePerformer, a modeled sound library that is super-easy-to-use. No special programming is needed to get playback from a notated score that is quite convincing in many cases, and certainly much more satisfying than anything else that comes “out-of-the-box”. It won’t compete with a live orchestra or souped up demos created in a sequencer, but for the price it’s a must-have. I did an early review of it when it first came out last year; subsequent updates have only improved the product.
Price: $129; note that NotePerformer only works within Sibelius and not with any other program.

Rounding out my sample library collections are volumes 1 and 2 of the Vienna Symphonic LibraryEWQLSO Gold, Garritan Personal Orchestra 4, and the XSample solo libraries. Each of these products is a little dated and they each use a different sample player, but for my purposes they are reliable and familiar, allowing me to get good results quickly. (After all, what good is a sample library if you don’t know what’s in it or how to use it?) As storage space has gotten faster and cheaper over time (see below), the massive size of some of these libraries is less of a concern than it used to be. They they all play nicely with any VST- or AU-supported software, and Sibelius includes sound sets for VSL, GPO, and XSample. Jonathan Loving’s Sound Set Project offers, for purchase, Sibelius sound sets for EastWest and many other libraries.
Price: Vienna: $135-$1,600 depending on which volume or bundle; EWQLSO Gold: $375; GPO: $150 or less; XSample: $225. Read the full article →


Get smarter with smart quotes

by Philip Rothman on November 21, 2014 · 3 comments

in Tips

One of the ways in which computer keyboards are descendants of the manual typewriter is the agnostic straight apostrophe and quotation mark. Bending neither this way nor that, it has never looked quite right compared to its curly, or “smart” brethren, to which no keys are expressly dedicated.

Some computer programs, like Microsoft Word, have automatic ways to correct this as you type, but Sibelius does not. When you’re intent on composing music you may not care too much about such niceties, but with just a little bit of know-how you can spruce up your contractions and quotations.

After the fact

Whether it’s a score you created or one you’ve received from someone else, you may have a score that’s full of straight quotes. Easily beautify these with the shipping plug-in Smarten Quotes, found in Text > Plug-ins. You’ll first get a dialog asking whether you want to process the current score only, or a set of files within a folder.

Then, you’ll get a dialog with various options. Here are the ones I find most handy:

Smarten Quotes

There are various automatic options for ambiguous words as well as for angled quotes found in some languages. Running the plug-in will turn, for example, this:


into this:


Not very hard at all. If you’re looking for something similar in Finale, my friend Robert Puff has a solution over on his blog, Of Note.

As you type

If you would rather type your desired characters directly, you can do that. When typing in lyrics, Sibelius offers some built-in shortcuts:

To gettype (Mac)type (PC)

Note that these are not your computer operating system’s default keystrokes; the shortcuts included with Sibelius are pre-programmed via the Symbols word menu, which is used for the various lyric text styles. Curiously, these same shortcuts don’t extend to editing other types of text besides lyrics, at least not on Mac. If you want to, though, you could change that; see this recent blog post for instructions on how to go about editing Sibelius’s word menus.

You could, of course, use your OS’s keystrokes to enter these characters. Another option, suggested by my friend Doug LeBow, is to program shortcuts to your liking in a macro editor (like Keyboard Maestro or the mothballed but still functional QuicKeys).

However you enter these curly characters, you — and your scores — will be smarter for doing so.


Road report: Copland 3 in The Big Easy

by Philip Rothman on November 18, 2014 · 6 comments

in Meta

Over the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune to re-engrave several of Aaron Copland’s greatest works, in cooperation with The Aaron Copland Fund for Music and Boosey & Hawkes. One of the main purposes of these new engravings was to make a clear set of performance materials — score and parts — that improved upon what had been circulating for decades, both in the accuracy of the music and its presentation on the page:


Yet another purpose of these projects, in some cases, was to provide additional insight and performance options to interested musicians. It is well-known among clarinetists, but perhaps not to the general public, that Copland revised his initial draft of his Clarinet Concerto after reviewing it with Benny Goodman, who premiered the work in 1950. As the preface to the new engraving says:

The several changes made to suit Goodman in the fast movement have resulted in two versions of the Concerto—Copland’s original and the published score with Goodman’s requested changes. (Copland had made them somewhat grudgingly in deference to Goodman.) Clarinetists have taken sides on their preferences. The aim of this publication is to provide both versions in published form to be available for choice by performers and conductors: The published edition incorporating the changes requested by Goodman is presented along with the differences from the earlier 1948 manuscript version appearing as ossias.

In a similar vein, we’ve just about completed work on a new edition of Copland’s Third Symphony that will soon be available. From the preface: Read the full article →


You probably know that Cmd-E or Ctrl+E are, respectively, the Mac and PC shortcuts to apply Expression text in Sibelius, and that Cmd-T or Ctrl+T apply Technique text. If not, now you know!

Further, you may very well know that, after typing the command for Expression text, with the cursor blinking, holding down Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (PC) and then typing f, m, n, p, r, or s get you the dynamics in the stylized music font (Cmd-Opt-Shift-Z on Mac or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Z on PC is for the z). If that’s news to you, check out this video on the subject.

You may even be quite aware that, also with the Expression text cursor blinking, typing Cmd-Shift-C (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+C (PC) is the shortcut to apply the text “cresc.” and that Cmd-Shift-D (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+D (PC) is the shortcut to apply the text “dim.”

Don’t believe me? Try this: with the cursor blinking, right-click (or Control-click on Mac) the screen to bring up the Expression contextual menu. There they are:


Note that you can, of course, click on any of these items to instantly apply them to the score.

Applying shortcuts to items in a word menu

That’s great, you say, but if only there were a way to really get on this shortcut bandwagon and use it for other text… well, there is! Read on… Read the full article →


Thumbnail image for 20% off Mac productivity apps from our sponsor, Many Tricks

20% off Mac productivity apps from our sponsor, Many Tricks

November 11, 2014

Learn about Name Mangler and Moom, two apps for Mac users that automate common tasks, and receive a discount code that’s good through November.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Horizontal note spacing in Sibelius

Horizontal note spacing in Sibelius

November 5, 2014

A collection of tips and plug-ins to help space your music not too wide, not too narrow, but just right.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Transitioning from Sibelius 6 to Sibelius 7.5

Transitioning from Sibelius 6 to Sibelius 7.5

October 29, 2014

If you are thinking about finally upgrading to Sibelius 7.5 from Sibelius 6, whether it’s from desire or necessity, you’ll want to know these useful pointers to ease the move.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Understanding octave-transposing clefs in Sibelius

Understanding octave-transposing clefs in Sibelius

October 22, 2014

A guide to how and why octave-up and octave-down clefs relate to the position of the music on the staff, and how Sibelius is different than other music notation programs in this way.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Sibelius, Finale, and Mac OS X Yosemite

Sibelius, Finale, and Mac OS X Yosemite

October 16, 2014

A summary of Sibelius and Finale compatibility information with Apple’s newest operating system.

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Thumbnail image for Norfolk suite updated with Metronome font, other fixes

Norfolk suite updated with Metronome font, other fixes

October 9, 2014

Norfolk, the free Sibelius-compatible version of the Bravura music font, welcomes a new member of the family and some other important updates and fixes.

Read the full article →