There It Is!

by Philip Rothman on February 27, 2015 · 1 comment

in Tips

When Sibelius 7.5 was first announced last year, the Timeline received top billing out of all of that product’s new features with its score navigation capabilities. Less noticed, perhaps, but vital to an important set of Sibelius users was a subsequent update to Sibelius 7.5.1 that added support for the open-source screen reader, NVDA. To quote the NVAccess web page, “NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free ‘screen reader’ which enables blind and vision impaired people to use computers. It reads the text on the screen in a computerized voice. You can control what is read to you by moving the cursor to the relevant area of text with a mouse or the arrows on your keyboard.”

Because the Timeline and certain other Sibelius features are not accessible to NVDA, plug-in developer Bob Zawalich, the Sibelius development team, and Sibelius users Kevin Gibbs and Gordon Kent set about creating tools that would take advantage of Sibelius 7.5.1’s new ability to access the screen reader. You can read more about the process in a blog post that Kevin Gibbs wrote for Avid, and download the accessibility tools from Avid’s Knowledge Base.

The result was a series of plug-ins available in a new Sight-impaired category that can be downloaded from the Sibelius plug-in page or directly through Sibelius 7.5.1 by going to File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Sight-impaired. A side benefit of these new plug-ins is that some of their features are useful for sighted users as well.

One such plug-in is called There It Is!. As you might expect, it searches objects in a selection and tells the user precisely where each of those objects is located. A View button can be used to browse to objects without taking the dialog down, a feature that is probably only helpful for sighted users. If you’ve ever used Bob’s plug-in What Is Where?, There It Is! is similar, but with navigation capabilities.

The plug-in can detect an incredible number of objects — including many more than are available in the Timeline — and there are options to skip ones that can be slow to gather, like notes, rests, slurs, and bar rests.

As an example of one of the many uses of this plug-in, I wanted to find all the instrument changes in my score to look for any anomalies. There It Is! dutifully complied:

instrument-changes

When an object type is chosen, another list is filled with the objects of that type present in the selection, with their staff, bar, and position in bar locations noted. Choosing OK will select the object, and bring the selected object on screen.

Objects can be displayed sorted by bar, so you can see all the objects in a single bar for all the staves, or you can sort the objects by staff, so you can see the objects across all the bars in each staff.

There It Is! is a valuable tool for vision-impaired and sighted users alike. Congratulations to the Sibelius team, Bob, Kevin, and Gordon for collaborating on this and other tools that improve usability for as many people as possible.

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NotePerformer updated to 1.4.0

by Philip Rothman on February 24, 2015 · 13 comments

in News

NotePerformerBoxTest01Wallander Instruments has updated its NotePerformer sound library to version 1.4.0. NotePerformer is a third-party integrated library and playback product designed for automatic integration with Sibelius.

NotePerformer 1.4.0 is the first update to the product in eight months. While a version bump from 1.3.3 to 1.4.0 may not seem that substantial, the improvements are rather significant.

Here is a list of the new and fixed items, according to Wallander:

  • Added bowed pitched percussion (glockenspiel, vibraphone, crotales, chimes, xylophone, marimba).
  • Piano was replaced with new sounds.
  • Drum kit was replaced with new sounds, optionally played with brushes.
  • Strings were replaced with new section-building technology:
    • All string sections are now, under the hood, constructed from individual solo players who will automatically play divisi. There’s also a new option to assign 1/2 sized sections, from the mixer, which allows splitting the section in half over two staves, or for creating smaller sections.
    • From now on, when using the solo strings, you tap straight into the players of the section, one by one. This means the volume for solo strings will appear lower because they have not been adjusted for a close-up perspective, but they remain in an orchestral perspective.
  • Improved tuning, and better random pitch algorithms.
  • Dryer/more close-up sound, across the board, with updates in both reverb and synthesis/DSP algorithms.
  • The built-in panning law now uses a more traditional approach, with a stronger left/right separation.
  • Brass intonation problems have been fixed.
  • Piano now allows using different dynamics for different voices in the score.
  • Long notes are now played will less separation.
  • Various Sound Set (NotePerformer.xml) fixes.
  • Glitches and clicking loops was fixed.
  • Improved string glissando sound.

In addition, the update notes say that “you can expect a considerable difference in sound, balance and reverb amount when updating to this version of NotePerformer.” A link is provided to download version 1.3.3 should the user prefer to re-install and roll back to that version after installing 1.4.0.

We reviewed the initial release of NotePerformer in September 2013, and since then, the already very good product has continually improved. It continues to be a smart addition for users who compose primarily orchestral music and need realistic-sounding playback within Sibelius without fussing with MIDI data and sequencers. A license costs $129 and a free 30-day evaluation period is available.

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Harp support in Sibelius

by Philip Rothman on February 20, 2015 · 3 comments

in Tips

zawalichThis blog post is written by Bob Zawalich, composer, guitarist, software designer, and creator of hundreds of useful plug-ins for Sibelius. In this post, Bob summarizes support for harp playback and notation in Sibelius.

One can create harp pedal diagrams in Sibelius character-by-character by creating a Text object, such as Text > Styles > Technique, and using Ctrl+Alt+7/8/9/+ (on keypad) for Windows, or Command-Option-7/8/9/+ (on keypad) for Mac.

The classic shipping pedal harp plug-in for Sibelius is Neil Sands’s Add Harp Pedaling, which by default is found in Home > Plug-ins > Other. It generates harp pedal diagrams from the notes in the selection. There is an updated version of this on the plug-in download page in the Harp category, which can be used for Sibelius 6.1 and 6.2. For Sibelius 7 and later, just use the version of this plug-in that ships with Sibelius.

add-harp-pedaling

Neil also wrote Check Harp Pedaling, found in Review > Plug-ins > Proof-reading, which writes warnings in the score if any notes in the selected passage are unplayable on a harp with the pedal configuration specified in the dialog.

Also in the Harp category on the download plug-ins page are several downloadable plug-ins which should be useful to composers and arrangers who work with pedal harp, as well as for harpists. Read on to learn more about those.
Read the full article →

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An interview with Daniel Spreadbury

by Philip Rothman on February 12, 2015 · 26 comments

in People

For many readers of this blog, Daniel Spreadbury surely needs no introduction. For the unacquainted, Daniel started working at Sibelius in 1999 and, when he left Avid in 2012, was its senior product manager. During his time there he independently started the very blog you’re reading now, for which he wrote hundreds of posts. So it was a special privilege to invite him to talk about what he’s been doing for the last two-plus years as product marketing manager for Steinberg.

For the better part of two hours we spoke via Skype about a variety of topics related to his current work on a new music notation program. An edited version of his remarks appears below.

    Daniel Spreadbury in Steinberg's London office, during our conversation this week

Daniel Spreadbury in Steinberg’s London office during our conversation this week

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