Understanding octave-transposing clefs in Sibelius

by Philip Rothman on October 22, 2014 · 3 comments

in Tips

It’s time to have the talk. You know, the one about octave-transposing clefs. Now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Let’s start with this statement from the Sibelius Reference:

Some people write (say) piccolo with a normal treble clef, some with an “8” above (particularly in avant garde scores) – this is a matter of taste. A real-life piccolo playing music with a “treble 8” clef would not sound an octave higher than a piccolo playing the same music with a plain treble clef – they sound at exactly the same pitch. In other words, the “8” is just a hint or reminder to the reader that this is a transposing instrument.

Therefore in Sibelius clefs with or without “8s” (or “15s”) on them are all precisely equivalent. The fact that a piccolo sounds an octave higher than a flute playing the same notes is an attribute of the instrument, not of the clef (after all, they could both be playing from a plain treble clef). This is indicated in Sibelius by the fact that a piccolo has a transposition change by default, namely it transposes up an octave both in a non-transposing score and in a transposing score. You can create a transposing instrument like this yourself using Edit Instruments.

A tenor voice “instrument” in Sibelius is similar – it has a transposition change to make it transpose down an octave both in a non-transposing score and in a transposing score. The “treble 8” clef for a tenor is again just a hint to the reader – it’s an alternative to a plain treble clef and has no direct effect on the sounding pitch of the notes.

All clear, or all confused? Let’s set it up another way, by using this example straight from page 507 of Elaine Gould’s acclaimed notation reference book Behind Bars (highly recommended to all readers of this blog):


Notice how I’ve placed the Piccolo instrument change on the second bar (indicated by the hidden rectangular box), and then a return to the Flute on the 3/4 bar. (This is done by selecting those bars and going to Home > Instruments > Change and selecting Piccolo from the list.) Then I placed the octave-up treble clef by pressing Q to bring up Notations > Common > Clef and selecting the appropriate clef. Placing the clef in the score had no effect on the music — it was the instrument change that was responsible for the transposition.

This is what is meant in the Sibelius Reference when it is stated that “The fact that a piccolo sounds an octave higher than a flute playing the same notes is an attribute of the instrument, not of the clef (after all, they could both be playing from a plain treble clef).”

Indeed, it is preferable, in my opinion, to not use octave-transposing clefs at all in these types of situations. Elaine Gould says as much: “The advantage of not using the octave-transposing clefs is that the clef exchanging is redundant.”

But wait, you say! When you set up an SATB choir score from scratch using the Quick Start dialog, the tenor part uses the octave-down treble clef. When you copy music from the alto part to the tenor part, the music transposes up an octave! Surely this means that the octave-down treble clef has a transposing effect?


Nope. Again, it’s the instrument — in this case the tenor voice — that is causing the music to be transposed. You can see for yourself by selecting any bar on the tenor staff, and going to Home > Instruments > Edit Instruments. Be sure that Tenor is selected (it should be) and click Edit Instrument… (click Yes if you get an intervening warning pop-up).


You’ll see that the Tenor instrument is defined so that a written middle C sounds as C3, whereas with a non-transposing instrument, a written middle C would sound as C4.

This means that, should you prefer the tenors to read the music with an ordinary treble clef but still have the music transposed an octave above its sounding pitch, you would simply have to replace the clef at the beginning of your score without anything further needing to be done.

Those users accustomed to working in Finale or MuseScore will find Sibelius’s behavior different and disorienting at first, because in those programs, the octave-transposing clefs do actually transpose the music. Likewise, if you usually work in Sibelius but need to work in another program, you’ll need to be aware of this difference.

Now that you know how octave-transposing clefs behave in Sibelius, they really aren’t so mysterious, are they?

P.S. If you look closely, the music examples in this post were set using the new Norfolk music font that we at NYC Music Services developed expressly for Sibelius. Get it for free now.


Sibelius, Finale, and Mac OS X Yosemite

by Philip Rothman on October 16, 2014 · 27 comments

in News

yosemiteIt seems like only yesterday that Apple released OS X Mavericks, but it was, in fact, nearly a year ago. Today Apple’s Craig Federighi gave consumers a demonstration of its newest operating system, OS X Yosemite (10.10), and announced its availability today, as a free update from the Mac App Store.

If you use Sibelius or Finale, here’s what you need to know.


Sibelius users interested in upgrading to Yosemite should note the following information, which was provided to me by Avid’s Sam Butler and Joe Pearson:

  • Sibelius 7 and Sibelius 7.5 are fully supported by Avid, and qualified by the testing team.
  • Sibelius 6 is not officially supported, but should work. However, in early beta versions of Yosemite, there were serious issues, so it is not advised to upgrade to Yosemite if you intend to remain working in Sibelius 6.
  • Sibelius 5 and earlier do not work in Yosemite.

It’s also worth noting that Apple has changed their system font and other subtleties (such as radio buttons and check boxes). Sibelius respects these changes and updates the UI accordingly. However, this does mean that the font in the Ribbon and dialogs has changed from its pre-Yosemite appearance:




Thanks to A. Eric Heukeshoven for providing the screenshots!

You can find Avid’s official Yosemite compatibility page for Sibelius and other products at their knowledge base.


Yesterday MakeMusic’s Scott Yoho provided an update on Finale’s performance on Yosemite. He says “Finale 2014 runs well. We are tracking a few issues, including performance of pinch zoom gestures, but overall things look very promising.”

This official support article says that Finale 2014, PrintMusic 2014, and NotePad 2012 are all supported in Yosemite, with the following caveats:

  • Pinch to zoom can be slow (especially in Scroll View).
  • When changing between tools which cause an additional dedicated top-level menu to appear (like the Staff Tool or Expression Tool), the menu bar may not update right away. Redrawing the screen (Cmd+D) will fix this.
  • Users may encounter a warning that Java Runtime must be installed when launching notation programs for the first time. Java will be automatically downloaded to your computer and the program should open correctly afterwards.

However, earlier versions of Finale have a problem with Human Playback and new file creation causing crashes on Yosemite:

Finale 2012, 2011, PrintMusic 2011 and SongWriter 2012 can crash if Human Playback is enabled. In Finale 2012 and SongWriter 2012, this crash can occur when pressing “play” or exporting to an audio file. In Finale 2011 and PrintMusic 2011, we have also seen crashes occur after creating a new file with the Setup Wizard.

Changing HP to “none” can prevent the crash in Finale 2012 and SongWriter 2012, and in Finale 2012 the “Apply Human Playback” plugin can be used as an alternative to HP.

This crash is NOT present in Finale 2014, PrintMusic 2014, or NotePad 2012.

Users working with Finale 2011 and 2012 are advised to not upgrade to Yosemite until more information is available, or at the very least, turn off Human Playback. To turn off Human Playback, go to Window > Playback Controls. Under Human Playback Style, choose None. Here is the official support article for this issue.

Using Yosemite? Let us know about your experience working with Sibelius or Finale.

Updated October 17 and October 18 with additional information about Finale, and with links to the Finale support articles.


Norfolk suite updated with Metronome font, other fixes

by Philip Rothman on October 9, 2014 · 7 comments

in News

Norfolk, the free Sibelius-compatible version of the Bravura music font, was released nearly two weeks ago. Since then we’ve made a number of improvements to the fonts. Today we’ve released those improvements along with the final (for now) font in the suite: Norfolk Metronome.

If you want to get right to it, download the updated fonts from the NYC Music Services web site. Be sure to quit Sibelius first and uninstall the existing versions of the Norfolk fonts that you may have on your computer. A quick summary of the highlights:

  • An important fix was made to Norfolk Std that results in time signatures displaying and aligning better.
  • Norfolk Metronome Std is new.
  • The House Style has been updated, with versions for Sibelius 7.5, 7, and 6.
  • Many other important fixes since September 26.

Read on for a few interesting and helpful details.


A world of metric modulations awaits you with Norfolk Metronome Std

Matthew Maslanka, my collaborator on this project, spent many hours thinking about the relationship of the symbols in the Opus Metronome font, and how to improve upon them in the Norfolk version. The Metronome font, despite its name, is used primarily for metric modulations in Sibelius (metronome marks use the music text font, i.e., Norfolk Text Std). Here are the results.

Opus Metronome handles triplets fairly inconsistently and displays them with the right hook over the final note rather than aligned with the stem. In Norfolk there are several changes that make that behavior work better, at the cost of breaking some of the default menu options a bit. The only issues will involve inserting an extra space in the following default menu items:

Opus, Helsinki, etc.
qaa az=qa.aa iqaa az=qa.a a i
qs i=qapa asqqs i=qa pa asq
e=qe =q
e=ee =e
q.=qq. =q

Keep in mind, if you care about playback, you’ll need to made the above adjustments in Play > Interpretation > Dictionary. Click System Text and scroll to find the appropriate expression (i.e., qaa az=qa.aa i). Click Duplicate to add the Norfolk version to account for the extra space, and rename it accordingly (i.e., qaa az=qa.a a i).

You’re still reading and want to know how this magic was accomplished?

  • The space bar now inserts a half-space rather than a whole space.
  • The sidebearings for flagged notes are now at the right side of the stem, rather than the flag. This allows for more flexibility with spacing. Adding a half-space after the note inserts the expected amount of space.
  • Dots are now 0-width; they can be inserted under beams easily and appropriately spaced.

A couple other goodies:

Stem lengths for 32nd notes have been shortened to fit under appropriate brackets and to look better.

Arrows are now in the font, mapped to < and >. This means, for example, you can create the following entirely within the Metric modulation text style by typing: < e =e  >


If all that is a little much, here’s a Sibelius 7.5 file that demonstrates the basic concepts. If you want to get really fancy, you can update the default menus that appear when you add metric modulations, to account for these changes. To do that, go to File > Preferences > Word Menus. Find Metric modulations in the list, and go to town.

If the latest posts over at the Steinberg blog are any guide, the team there is thinking deeply about some of the same engraving minutiae for their new product. We hope the Avid team is pondering similar improvements for future Sibelius upgrades. In any event, it’s been a lot of fun bringing the best of both worlds together in this project.

Download and enjoy, be sure to read the included documentation, and please do report any problems or suggestions for improvements in the fonts.


Dolet 6.4 MusicXML software updated for Sibelius 7.5

by Philip Rothman on October 3, 2014 · 0 comments

in News

MSX_RGB_H_SM 2MakeMusic yesterday announced the release of Dolet 6.4, the latest version of its plug-in that exports music into the MusicXML interchange format. The 6.4 release adds the ability to export Sibelius’s gap before bar feature, which was made newly available to ManuScript in Sibelius 7.5.

On a post on the MusicXML blog, MakeMusic’s Michael Good said:

Earlier versions of the plug-in worked with Sibelius 7.5, but the installers did not support this release. This was particularly a problem for people using Windows systems that only had Sibelius 7.5 installed.

Our Dolet plug-in is as complete a MusicXML export plug-in as the Sibelius plugin interface allows.

The Dolet 6 for Sibelius plug-in provides the only way to export MusicXML files from Sibelius 5 and Sibelius 6. Many people have also told us they prefer the Dolet plug-in’s export to the built-in MusicXML export provided in Sibelius 7 or 7.5. This probably depends on the type of music you are exporting and the application that you are exporting to. If you are exporting MusicXML files from Sibelius 7, try our free Dolet plug-in as well as Sibelius’s built-in export, and see which works best for you.

Last year I asked Michael more about the Dolet plug-in and MusicXML, and he talked about why users might wish try both the inbuilt and plug-in options for exporting MusicXML form Sibelius.

There is also a version of Dolet available for use within Finale. Visit the download page to get Dolet 6.4, which is free to anyone with a registered MakeMusic account.


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