Sibelius 7.5 announced: An evolutionary, not revolutionary upgrade

by Philip Rothman on January 23, 2014 · 45 comments

in News

sib75-75Today Avid announced Sibelius 7.5, the first major upgrade to Sibelius since July 2011. The announcement was made during the NAMM 2014 show in Anaheim, California.

Sibelius 7.5’s new features are primarily in the areas of navigation, performance, playback, sharing, and social media.

There is no precedent for a “point five” version of Sibelius, although the concept is not new in the world of music software. Indeed, just recently, Steinberg released the latest version of its DAW, Cubase 7.5, and back in 2010 Native Instruments released a 4.5 version of Kontakt, its software sampler. Both were paid upgrades, and today’s announcement of Sibelius 7.5 follows this example.

For over a decade, the Sibelius upgrade release cycle was reliably predictable. Major new versions were released every two years, usually in the late spring or early summer. Bug fixes and modest feature enhancements would follow for approximately a year afterwards, and the cycle would repeat. Each Sibelius release had significant and sometimes groundbreaking new features.

The release of Sibelius 7.5 breaks that regular pattern, due, no doubt, to the well-documented restructuring that began at Avid in the summer of 2012. It has been 15 months since the last Sibelius update, 7.1.3, and more than two and a half years since Avid released 7.0. With the dust now having been settled, especially with the move of longtime Sibelius team member Sam Butler into the role of senior product manager, progress on the product is happening in a public way once again. In a blog post published today, Sam said that “Our goal with Sibelius 7.5 was to design innovative new features that build on the solid foundation of Sibelius to help you write and arrange music easier and faster than ever before.”

Bobby Lombardi, Avid’s director of product management, told me that while the company felt it was doing everything possible to communicate to the public that its developers were working on a new release, Avid was very aware of the growing concern amongst its customers about whether Sibelius development was continuing at all. Ramping up with a new team, coupled with Avid’s priorities of updating its languishing Scorch web plug-in and iOS app, meant that realistically developing a fully-featured Sibelius 8 would take even more time. So Avid decided to release an intermediate version – 7.5 – that would assure users that development was proceeding, and still have enough new features to be considered a worthy upgrade.

Of course, the old Finsbury Park team worked on Sibelius for over a year after the release of 7.0. One can reasonably assume that that team wasn’t solely working on bug fixes the whole time. How much of Sibelius 7.5 represents their vision and work is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely that the origin of some, if not most of Sibelius 7.5’s new features can be traced back quite a while.

A review of what’s new in Sibelius 7.5 follows.

Sibelius 7.5’s new features

Timeline: A new navigation tool

Sibelius 7.5’s most visible new feature is the Timeline panel, located at View > Panels > Timeline. It is designed by default to dock across the bottom of the document window, but can be optionally resized, undocked or moved to a separate display. It allows the user to easily navigate to any place in the score by simply clicking on one of the landmarks, which can be optionally hidden or shown depending on the user’s preferences and the nature of the particular score.

sib75-timeline1

Presets can be named and saved in Preferences > Timeline:

sib75-timeline4

Landmarks to choose from comprise rehearsal marks, comments, tempo and metronome markings, time and key signatures, repeats, titles, hit points, and other types of system text, including a new “Musical structure” text style.

Timeline looks for landmarks in your score, and assigns a color-coded lane to each of these objects. If no landmarks of a particular type are present (say you have no hit points or comments in your score), then those lanes are automatically hidden. You can optionally display a ruler in the Timeline, which will display bar numbers and timecode that correspond to your settings in Play > Video > Timecode, and match up with what displays in the Transport panel.

sib75-timeline3

Bars are represented in a grid, and the background color of each bar is colored light or dark depending of whether there is music in it or not. A highlighted area represents the viewable portion of the score, and the Timeline is sophisticated enough to highlight noncontiguous sections if that’s what’s in your display. If a staff passage is selected in your score, that passage turns blue in the Timeline; likewise, if a system passage is selected in the score, it shows as purple in the Timeline. If a landmark is truncated due to space limitations in the Timeline, hovering over it will show it fully; hovering over a bar in the grid will show a small pop-up displaying the instrument name and bar number.

The Timeline is an outstanding new feature, and yet it could be even better. It is purely navigational – perhaps by design, to prevent users from making unwanted changes in their scores. But the Timeline so resembles a sequencer-style track editor that instinctively I found myself clicking within it and trying to copy or move items, or trying to re-order the tracks in the left-hand column by simply dragging them. It is so tempting to try to option (Alt)+drag a rehearsal mark in the Timeline to create a new one, but it can’t be done. Although the Timeline represents a selection you make within your score, the reverse cannot be done; you can’t actually make a selection from the Timeline.

During playback, the Timeline will update along with your score, representing the viewable highlighted portion. But unlike a DAW, there is no corresponding playback line in the Timeline, and there is no “catch” option – meaning that if, during playback, the score extends beyond the Timeline’s viewable area, you must manually move or re-size the Timeline.

Still, the Timeline is a welcome improvement. Built-in support for navigating to a particular bar or page has always been included in previous versions of Sibelius, but you usually had to know in advance where you wanted to go and type in the appropriate number. Certain plug-ins have augmented this somewhat, and the Navigator panel was groundbreaking for its time (it’s still available in Sibelius 7.5, with a new option to disable automatic scrolling). But the Timeline makes it especially convenient to quickly jump to points in a document based upon visual landmarks. If you work on large scores with many such items, you may well indeed find this a time-saving feature.

Note that the shortcut for the Timeline is Ctrl+Alt+N or Opt-Command-N. This replaces the old shortcut for the Navigator, which no longer has a default keyboard shortcut.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Zawalich January 23, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Great review, Philip. You pretty much answered all the questions I had!

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Wheat Williams January 23, 2014 at 6:25 PM

You should have put the upgrade pricing and release date information in the very first paragraph of your review. I kept skimming down through it asking myself “When?” “How much?” and had to get to the end before I found them.

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Beethoven September 12, 2015 at 6:01 AM

Excellent point, Wheat, I second that. Or should i say minor second? Good read, none of the less.

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Rex Thomas January 23, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Hallelujah!! 7.5 runs on OS10.6.8!

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Leon King January 23, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Is there any information about compatibility of Sibelius 7.5 with Mac OS mavericks? Will there still be problems such as those with Sib 6 and 7?

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Chris January 23, 2014 at 7:14 PM

Any word on if this update addresses the issues in OSX 10.9?

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Tim Parkin January 24, 2014 at 12:28 AM

Thanks for a great, comprehensive review Philip.

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Theo January 24, 2014 at 3:48 AM

according to avid’s website, Sibelius 7.5 should run on 10.6.7, 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9

http://www.avid.com/US/products/Sibelius/specifications

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Jan Steele January 24, 2014 at 4:18 AM

Thanks for this – the Timeline feature sounds great. Also the ability to switch off scrolling in the Navigator

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Derek Williams January 24, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Many thanks Philip for this comprehensive and helpful review. I’ll share on the SaveSibelius Facebook forum now.

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Aaron Hines January 24, 2014 at 11:09 AM

I have been using both 6 and 7 flawlessly on Mavericks and my new Macbook pro. So this isn’t that exciting to me…

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Ernie Jackson January 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Philip – thanks so much for this review. Thanks again for supporting my presentation last night at the Digital Film Academy. I hope as 7.5 gets out there that people make up their minds based on their current needs and workflows. Not everyone needs to upgrade, which is usually the case. I look forward to seeing how Sib. 7.5 is received.

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Philip Rothman January 24, 2014 at 6:22 PM

Thanks, everyone, for reading and for the comments. Ernie – great to see you last night!

Re those asking about 10.9 – best to head over to Avid’s official Facebook page, where Sam Butler has been answering many such questions. Among his answers: “We haven’t published information for fixes for those using Sibelius 7 on Mavericks. We are expecting there won’t be a cost to this when it’s available.”

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Peter Roos January 24, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Great review Philip – tell Bobbi Lombardi that in spite of everything, we still have hope.

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Gary Haberman January 25, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Phillip – Thanks for the comprehensive review. I found this very helpful.

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Neil Alexander January 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Great review, awesome new features!
I have been experiencing sluggishness and slightly unresponsive beahivoir with occasional crashes on Mavericks; but not enough to disrupt my workflow. Timeline, however, will speed up my workflow so significantly it’s hard to describe =.
Thanks again, Phillip!

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John McCoy January 25, 2014 at 4:19 PM

I just bought Sibelius 7 over a week ago (upgraded from 5 out of necessity) so they’re saying because I didn’t wait to buy it starting on Jan 23rd, I have to pay to upgrade?! Just one more reason I’m looking forward to Steinberg’s new software being developed…

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Philip Rothman January 25, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Thanks again everyone for the comments. I’m glad so many are finding the article useful.

John – that does seem unfair. Have you actually contacted anyone at Avid to see if they can help?

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John McCoy January 25, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Philip – I just sent them an email so we will see what their response is.

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Craig Brandau January 25, 2014 at 11:50 PM

I’m looking forward to the update!

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Stan Martin January 26, 2014 at 1:16 PM

I was at the NAMM show the past two days. There was a palpable contrast between the Finale booth & Sibelius booth. It was exciting at the Finale booth, with give-aways, mini-mentoring classes(including a class on how easy it is switching from Sibelius) Over at Avid, it was very ho-hum with a couple of guys who admittedly didn’t know that much about Sibelius (they were from the ProTools side) I was able to talk to one of the guys at the Sib booth that said he had many personal opinions about Daniels’ team leaving, but being employed by Avid, he couldn’t say them. Over at the Finale booth, it was standing room only with the presenter on fire about Finale 2014!!

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Bernie Cossentino January 26, 2014 at 3:42 PM

@Stan

Yes, Tom (Johnson) is always very much engaged and animated with his Finale presentations. That said, I wouldn’t judge the outlook of Sibelius (or of other software titles) from the Namm floor alone.

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Janet January 26, 2014 at 5:28 PM

Once again Avid shows a real lack of respect for their customers. I HAD to replace my computer, which means I HAD to upgrade to Maverick, and now, I HAD to also upgrade to Sibelius 7, (which I did not want to do), because Avid has made it quite clear they are not going to fix the problems with Sibelius 6 and Maverick. And to add insult to injury, they are vague at best as to WHEN the problems with Sibelius 7 and Maverick are to be fixed. Not good business at all. I am now officially looking for a replacement music notation program. What a mess.

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Neil Alexander January 27, 2014 at 12:52 AM

Hi all –
Janet expresses a concern that a lot of us SIB users have. I did not even go to the Finale booth because, well, I didn’t want to go down that road. But as Stan said, the guys doing the demo i saw didn’t really know how to use the program – and didn’t seem to care. And Bernie is of course right –
you can’t judge a product from the NAMM floor. The new updates with 7.5 are very exciting, and I have no intention of switching. But it’d be nice to see a bit more enthusiasm from the Avid people.
Eagerly awaiting 7.5. :)

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Janet January 26, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Oh, and thank you for writing this informative article, and letting me vent a bit.

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Philip Rothman January 26, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Janet – Happy to let you vent, no worries!

Just today on Sibelius’s official Facebook page, regarding Mavericks, Avid’s Sam Butler said “We have resolved the font problem in 7.5 and are working with Apple on a solution that will resolve the performance for all v7 and v7.5 products all at once.” I suspect he wouldn’t have said that if he wasn’t confident of an eventual resolution.

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Stan Martin January 27, 2014 at 1:27 AM

Mild disclaimer – I still only use Sib 6. I know 6, I love 6!! If a newbie asks what music notation program that I would recommend, I always say Sibelius 7, because of the interface is so conducive to a beginner. But I always tell them that the company that owns Sibelius is in turmoil and beware.

Avid, in print & at NAMM have been professing a commitment to Sibelius as one of their 3 “Core” products. With a product “semi-upgrade” they should have come out swinging at the NAMM show. Instead it is the second year in a row of wimpy presentations. I ended up helping answer a question on chord symbols, because I knew the keyboard shortcuts on Sib 6.

I have no intention of going over to Finale, because I don’t want to go through the hours of learning a new program. But, listening to the Finale presentation sure got me thinking…….. Am I on the fence, no, but I’m thinking of climbing it!!!

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Philip Rothman January 28, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Neil, Stan, Bernie — thanks for these insights from the NAMM floor! If anyone else was at NAMM, I’d be interested in hearing about your impressions as well.

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John McCoy January 29, 2014 at 12:08 AM

Well, I got a response from Avid in regards to my request to upgrade since I bought Sibelius 7 a week before their “starting date”:

Unfortunately, the free upgrade to 7.5 is only for purchases of a Sibelius 7 product that are on or after January 23rd, 2014. We are not able to make any exceptions.

To Upgrade from Sibelius 7 to 7.5 will be $49.95 (when it becomes available.)

Thank you for choosing Sibelius for your music composition…
_____________________________

Thanks Avid, you just put the last nail in the coffin. As soon as Steinberg’s new software comes out, I am switching for good.

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Renato Sandrini January 29, 2014 at 6:04 AM

John Mccoy, I’ve got the exact same response. I activated my Sibelius 7 teacher on december 2013.

I really do not NEED the new features introduced in 7.5, but I think they should be more merciful on this, given the long time without any announcements and updates.

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Erich Einfalt January 30, 2014 at 2:55 AM

John McCoy, Renato Sandrini, and Janet; Of course one should consider that “Avid” is just a backwards “Diva” ;-)

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Mike Philcox January 31, 2014 at 4:03 AM

Thank you, Philip, for your comprehensive, easy-to-read review! Although it’s not yet available (perhaps Avid is waiting until Apple has resolved Mavericks’ difficulties with Sibelius software?), you have laid out very clearly what is coming in 7.5 and I’m clearly one of many feeling thankful.

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Darcy Danielson February 3, 2014 at 11:20 PM

This in-depth assessment of the new .5 version is really what I wanted. Thanks for doing the research to explain the new changes and to put screenshots behind them. Again, much appreciated!

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Mike Klinger February 4, 2014 at 6:44 PM

Great review Phillip! Love your un-biased take on things. Keep up the great work for us.

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Philip Rothman February 5, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Thanks for the feedback, and thanks for reading!

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Frank Macchia February 18, 2014 at 3:59 PM

I’m sorry but this is does not have enough new features or resolved bugs to be a paid upgrade! Like Stan, I still primarily use Sibelius 6 in all my professional work in Los Angeles, working on films and television productions (doing music prep and orchestrations full time) as the interface for Sib 7 just slows me down. Why the “Microsoft Office” type toolbar? Or at least offer us long time power users a preference to use the Sib6 style interface, which has worked wonderfully since the beginning of the program? And still tuplets are a PITA. As well as a long standing complaint of not allowing grouped systems to to be enclosed at the end of a group but not through the barlines for SATB choir parts. Thank you for the nice review Philip but I am not planning on purchasing this “upgrade”.

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Anne February 27, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Where can I buy Sibelius 6? I have Sibelius 3, which has worked fine for me for years, but I would like the auto score-changing feature of Sib 6, and I don’t want Sib 7.

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Lex Grantham March 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM

I bought Sibelius 7 when it came out. It seems a bit confusing with all the stuff found in the ribbon on the screen. I had Sibelius 5.4 before that, and it was OK, at least not so cluttered with many things that can be done with it. I have long ago used Finale but decided to try Sibelius. Now I am looking at Finale 2014. I have just made an arrangement using Sibelius 7 for a band piece. I found that that program would NOT allow me to have the proper key signature for horns…it was as though the horns were always in the key of C with many accidentals in the parts. I had to use Finale to get this corrected…what a mess of things. So, my feelings for Sibelius 7 are a bit negative. In fact, I might look at Notation 4 now…

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Philip Rothman March 8, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Lex: This is actually quite easy to accomplish in Sibelius. In Home > Instruments > Add or Remove, just choose “Horn in F”, not “Horn in F [no key]”. This will create a horn staff with key signatures.

In fact, until Finale 2014 came along, Sibelius was much more flexible regarding these types of situations. Finale 2014 remedied these shortcomings.

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Peter April 18, 2014 at 2:12 PM

I am trying to install the Free Demo on my Windows XP machine, and the installer disappears after the initial dialog that says “extracting Sibelius7.5.msi”.

Then nothing happens.

Has anyone else had this problem?

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Carl Robertson April 30, 2014 at 7:36 PM

It’s amazing how musicians will pretty much put up with any crap thrown at them… What passes as “professional” notation software is a joke. Obviously no software will be perfect but compared to other industries, music notation software is by far on the bottom of the heap when it comes to reliability and ease of use. And Sibelius is 7 is about as bad as it gets. And as if Avid wanted to mock the always dumb subservient musician, it added a hideously ugly purple interface with Playskool icons. But what’s more disgusting is the poor layout, constant glitches and intermittent crashes. It seems like nothing actually gets fixed unless some writes a plug-in for it, and many of those plug-in functions should have already been incorporated into the core program from the start. The only other fix is to find a workaround that’s usually convoluted and time-consuming, which brings me to my latest gripe and final straw…. I was unable find a way to split a chord between the treble and bass clefs in a piano part so I checked the manual and online for a solution and found this:

66: Chords – entering notes from the same chord on different staves

It is a reasonably common notation in piano music that the notes of a chord will be split between the right- and left-hand staves. To achieve this in Sibelius, you should enter the notes directly onto the staves on which they should appear, because you cannot currently cross individual notes of a chord onto another staff. If you enter, for example, the upper two notes of a chord onto the right-hand stave in voice 2 (with stems pointing downwards), you should then enter the remaining notes in the left-hand stave using voice 1, flip the stems (by typing X), and then drag the end of the stems of the right-hand notes down to meet the stem of the left-hand note.
In the case of chords using notes shorter than a quarter-note (crotchet) in value, in Sibelius 5 you can hide the flag or beam of these short notes; just select the flag or beam and go to Edit, Hide or Show, Hide, then proceed as above.
It is not possible to hide flags or beams in versions of Sibelius prior to Sibelius 2. If you need to use this notation regularly, we recommend you get an upgrade.

“Professional” software?? Really??? By Avid’s own admission, admits that “It is a reasonably COMMON notation in piano music.” So where’s the fix??? Plug-in??? This workaround was posted 2007! Either it takes Avid 7 YEARS to fix a glitch or Avid just don’t give a damn. The fault eventually lands on the always dumb subservient musician that keeps upgrading a broken program even when Avid hasn’t fixed what’s broken in the earlier versions. You want better software? Stop buying the product! Stop making excuses for the company! Better yet, use and support open-source notation software! Only an IDIOT would support a company who obviously has ZERO respect for its customers.

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mihail May 1, 2014 at 3:47 PM

For many years I used Sibelius 3, then 4 and eventually 5. I love 5 because I could use it on my x64 super fast machine with jbridge for Play edition of EWQL Pt edition. Sibelius 6 came but I was too quick with 5 to waste time importing everything in 6. Then 7 came and I bought it with some reserves, but hoping to gain some points with a native x64 program. I nearly fell of the seat: a totally new program. I then put it right back into the box and still use my S5. Perhaps at some point in time I’ll adopt 6. I had the curiosity to read about improvements… Not convinced. With Sibelius (the one created by the decapitated UK team) I found new frontiers for writing music and performing it. But now, with all that it has, I wonder if Beethoven would have wrote a better music with Sibelius 7.
I believe the Midnight Point for the program has been reached

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James July 11, 2014 at 7:12 PM

I’m using Sibelius 7 First, and I must say that even using that – not the full version – I find it offensive that Avid claims this software is intuitive. As an advanced user of Propellerhead Reason who’s learnt it intensively over two-and-half years, I bought Sibelius First to notate vocal parts for singers to use to record for songs I’m producing in Reason. I regret not trialling Sibelius for longer before potentially deciding against buying it. I have to say that in Sibelius First, I’ve had much more frustration with unexpected software operation, software errors, and incorrect and missing information in the Sibelius First manual in just a few hours of using it than I’ve had with Propellerhead Reason or any of the 200 software Rack Extensions I’ve learnt how to use with it for music production in 2.5 years (after many years of hobby composing on simpler software previously), and using Sibelius is my first experience of not enjoying music in 14 years. It’s unfortunate that music notation options are so limited. It’s also unfortunate that I have a complete intolerance of ugly software, because Sibelius is one of the few pretty music notation software options. Since it’s also considered to be one of the best, I have to say I feel music notation software is in a very sorry state compared to music production DAWs. But if Avid’s idea of “intuitive” in relation Sibelius is a benchmark for user-friendliness in its other software, I’ll be avoiding Pro Tools for as long as I can. It staggers me to think Avid might consider it intuitive to use its numeric keypad system, on the right-hand side of the keyboard, for note input, as intuitive. Obviously I would want to leave my left hand on those note input options (on the right-hand side of the keyboard?) and leave my right hand on the mouse – and that’s just one of many head-scratchers I’ve come across in a few hours. At this stage I can’t foresee finding it better to use Sibelius First than using the free NCH Crescendo software, which can’t even import or export a MIDI file, and which gets some note groupings wrong! And that’s because NCH’s idea of note input is that much more intuitive that I could notate and add lyrics to a song from scratch many times over in Crescendo in the time it takes me to ensure my MIDI file has accurate enough note values to be imported into Sibelius First neatly and/or correct any remaining inaccuracies within Sibelius. Seriously! I hope my opinion of Sibelius changes, but it’s definitely not going to without many more hours of working on overcoming mental blockages caused by the abstract, non-intuitive nature of Sibelius commands, if that happens at all, and certainly not without first writing this here first as an alternative to having to get up and walk away from my computer in disbelief every 20 minutes at the way Sibelius is configured.

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Ray Morris January 31, 2015 at 12:19 AM

James, I learned ten years ago that the keyboard was faster than the mouse for inputting music notes in Sibelius. My left hand handles the notes A-G and my right hand handles the numeric keypad mapped to note types and commonly used accents > . and – I mapped the ^ accent to the ” key because jazz and swing music uses that symbol frequently.

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Beethoven September 12, 2015 at 6:02 AM

This article is SIIIIICCCK!!!! Thanks homie, sure to be a huge timesaver. Still debating between this and 8. Idk, it’s so cool that we can write music on little screens. Seriously, wow!

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