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 →


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!


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

by Philip Rothman on September 10, 2014 · 8 comments

in People


Robin Walker

A benefit of being a Sibelius user, or any user of music software, is the opportunity to be part of a community of fellow users worldwide. I’ve met many terrific people because of my work in Sibelius and other software — some in person, some remotely via phone and internet, but all of them enriching and interesting.

One place where I hang out whenever possible is the official Sibelius chat forum, where a robust mix of occasional visitors and regulars go to seek and offer solutions about many Sibelius issues. One of those regulars, Robin Walker, is universally appreciated among his fellow users for his deep and broad knowledge of Sibelius. His replies are always clear and accurate, and he knows how to ask good follow-up questions to try to solve problems. I’m not alone when saying that I’ve learned quite a bit from him.

I thought it would be interesting to learn more about Robin and how he came to use Sibelius, among other things.

Sibelius Blog: Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you live, what you like to do, etc.?

Robin Walker: I grew up in Enfield, north London. After finishing school, I was accepted by Queens’ College in the University of Cambridge to read Physics. This was a life-changing event, as my family circumstances were fairly modest, and no one in my family had ever been to university before (my two younger brothers followed on to the same college in their own time). But mid-way through my undergraduate career I caught the computing bug. After graduating in Physics, I stayed on to take a Ph.D. in Computer Science. After graduating Ph.D. and obtaining an assistant university lectureship (Associate Professor in US terminology), I was elected a Fellow by Queens’ College, and given lots of undergraduate teaching to do. Eventually, the college made me Junior Bursar, responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, improvement of college buildings, and Director of Studies in Computer Science, responsible for the academic mentoring of undergraduate Computer Scientists.

SB: Tell us about the non-musical work you do. Does it influence your music, and if so, how? Read the full article →


computer-music3Computer Music Ltd. of New Zealand, along with the College of Music and Sound Production is sponsoring a free “tips and tricks” live webinar for Kiwis using Sibelius 7.5 or interested in upgrading to it. The webinar is free, and there are two one hour-long sessions, both on Tuesday, September 9th: one at 4:30 pm and one at 7:30 pm NZST.

Avid Sibelius Technical Support Specialist David Dowling will be presenting the sessions, which Avid says have been designed based on feedback from local teachers. The session agenda covers specific items like using articulations, score and instrument setup, repeat bar options, stem directions, and section breaks.

Attendees will receive 20% off single upgrades to Sibelius 7.5 for both legacy (pre-Sibelius 7) and Sibelius 7 to 7.5 upgrades. The discount will only be available to New Zealand customers and only from Computer Music Ltd. However, Helen Beech of Computer Music said that they are offering schools 25% on their multi-upgrades and 25% on license extensions, “so attending the webinar is a win-win situation!”


Computer Music Ltd. has worked with Sibelius going all the way back to Sibelius 1, and Helen says that she “personally been on board since Sibelius 3.” She has owned and run Computer Music for the last 7 years.

To register for the webinar, go to the information page on Computer Music’s web site, and choose your time slot. Or, here are direct links to the 4:30 pm slot and the 7:30 pm slot.

If you attend the webinar, please let us know how it goes!


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.

Read the full article →
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.

Read the full article →
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.

Read the full article →
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.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for A look at using NotateMe with built-in PhotoScore technology

A look at using NotateMe with built-in PhotoScore technology

August 12, 2014

NotateMe, the music handwriting app for mobile devices, can now take photos of your music and interpret them. Learn how it works with an eye on its place in the history of music notation software.

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Thumbnail image for MakeMusic joins Peaksware; HQ to move to Colorado

MakeMusic joins Peaksware; HQ to move to Colorado

August 6, 2014

MakeMusic, the maker of the Finale, SmartMusic, Garritan and MusicXML products, has joined Peaksware, a maker of endurance training software. Read about the corporate move along with our interview with CEO Gear Fisher.

Read the full article →