How to get a helping hand with Sibelius

by Daniel Spreadbury on August 5, 2010 · 9 comments

in Tips, Tutorials

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The Sibelius hotline, yesterday (courtesy Phillie Casablanca on Flickr)

Avid has recently rolled out a new unified support policy for all of its products, which has changed the standard support entitlement for many of its products, including Sibelius. Read on for a run-down of the changes and how they could affect you and, most importantly, the many other ways you can obtain support for your copy of Sibelius.

The new policy involves the use of Avid Support Codes (ASCs) to enable you to contact Avid’s support team. When you purchase a new copy of Sibelius or an upgrade, you will receive a complimentary ASC allowing you to contact support to resolve a single incident (even if that takes multiple emails or phone calls). After that, if you want to contact support again, you can purchase additional ASCs from Avid’s online store.

However, one of the real benefits of using Sibelius is its amazing user community, and there are plenty of ways to get great support without contacting Avid’s support team. Here are a few suggestions.

Product documentation

Sibelius comes with comprehensive documentation, and it should be the first place you look for an answer when you’re stuck. Look in the Help > Documentation submenu in Sibelius 6 to find more than 1000 pages of documentation designed to help you answer your questions.

Here are some tips to using the documentation effectively:

  • Try the Visual index section just before the text index at the back of the Sibelius Reference book. This is particularly useful when you’re not sure what a particular notation element is called.
  • Try the table of contents as well as the index. If you’re looking for an answer about, say, chord symbols, find the Chord symbols topic via the table of contents and flip through the topic, rather than going straight to the index.
  • Think about the terminology you’re using. While I’ve done my best to index and cross-reference all of the common terms, unfortunately there are many different words for the same thing, and I may have missed one out. (If you find a term that’s familiar to you but isn’t indexed, do let me know about it.)

All of the documentation for Sibelius is also available for download from the Sibelius web site in PDF format. If you have an iPad, why not try loading the PDF into iBooks by adding it to your iTunes library? (I’m sure other digital readers allow a similar kind of thing.)

If you would like to purchase a hard copy of the Sibelius 6 Reference book, it’s available from Amazon in the US and the UK, and otherwise from Avid’s online store.

There are a couple of third party books about Sibelius available, but neither has yet been updated for Sibelius 6 (though publishers Hal Leonard and Cengage have their authors working on it):

Online knowledge base

The online Help Center at the Sibelius web site has more than 600 articles, and more are being added all the time. You can also find the same content at the Avid site, with a slightly different search mechanism. Try out both of them and see which works best for you.

User-to-user forum

The forum on the Sibelius web site is the Sibelius user’s secret weapon. If you’re not going here when you need help, you’re missing out. This is where the amazing Sibelius user community really comes into its own. Because only registered Sibelius users can post to the forum (though anybody can read it via guest access), there’s a very high signal-to-noise ratio, and flame wars and trolls are few and far between.

You can very often post on the forum and receive an answer from an experienced Sibelius user (or often from me) within minutes of posting your question. Often you will get a faster response via the forum than you would get if you contacted Avid’s dedicated tech support staff!

The forum is probably the most important support resource available to a Sibelius user, and it’s no understatement to say that is one of the most remarkable things about the product and its community.

(By the way, don’t be fooled by SibeliusForum.com: although there are a couple of experienced users hanging out there and providing answers to people who post questions, this site is not affiliated with Avid or Sibelius and I can’t personally recommend it.)

Mailing list

If you don’t like the vibe of a web forum, you might prefer the Sibelius mailing list. While unofficial, I have been a member of this list for almost as long as I have been working on Sibelius, so it’s a good place to ask questions.

Like the forum on the web site, there’s a community of expert Sibelius users on this list, and although the signal-to-noise ratio is much lower than the forum (as you might expect from a largely unmoderated mailing list), it’s still a friendly place to hang out, and you’ll learn lots of things, both about Sibelius and music in general.

Tutorial videos

There are plenty of free tutorial videos available for Sibelius. The most viewed post on this blog (by some margin!) is for my friend James Humberstone’s excellent series that will help you to learn Sibelius in one hour. Other videos you should check out:

You can also buy tutorial videos from various third parties, including for your iPhone.

…and this blog

I do my best to post useful and helpful tips and tutorials on this blog as often as I can. We’ve even had the odd guest post, so if you’re itching to share your secret Sibelius expertise with the world, get in touch! To be sure you don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe to the blog (you can choose to receive each post by email when it’s added, or to receive a monthly digest).

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Philcox August 6, 2010 at 2:10 AM

Daniel,

I want to start by saying thank you for your assistance to me and myriad other Sibelius users on the Sibeliusblog website. As well, it is fair to acknowledge the high standard reference guide included with Sibelius in electronic format only, a guide that might well act as a standard to which others can aspire. Further, your present article is a comprehensive, well-written guide to how Sibelius users can solve many problems without the assistance of paid employees of Avid.

In spite of these positives, though, I am offended that with the exception of a token “freebie”, Avid has chosen to withdraw professional support for software it sells for more than $600 and for which it does not even provide a printed manual. Indeed, the shift away from serving customer needs is what makes it scary when larger companies like Avid take over smaller operations like Sibelius.

Mike Philcox

Peter Roos, San Francisco August 6, 2010 at 4:01 AM

I agree with Mike – the Sibelius forum is brilliant. Avid better leave that alone!

As to tech support, it should really be free, and it should be limited to technical issues; for any tips & tricks on how to better use Sibelius, or even musical tips & tricks, the tech support should refer to the Sibelius forum, or any of the abovementioned books.

That is how it is done by major professional software vendors (like Native Instruments, Eastwest Quantumleap, and so on) and that’s the way it should be.

Greg Sinibaldi August 6, 2010 at 9:26 AM

I really dig the forum, it really is an invaluable resource. However it would be nice if Avid spent a little time updating the forums software/implementation. I find searching it slow and cumbersome. Maybe some categories to search through, pin FAQs, etc… something a little more web 2.0.

I always find great information there but i tend to just post something new rather than deal with the cumbersome keyword search process.

Tom Gutnick August 6, 2010 at 2:24 PM

This seems a bit disheartening. Maybe my needs are esoteric, but I’ve frequently e-mailed Sibelius Support because I was not able to find an answer in either the manual or the online knowledge base. (And frequently the response indicated that I had found a deficiency or bug in Sibelius.) When I buy a $600 software package, I think it’s reasonable to expect support from knowledgeable vendor staff.

Daniel Spreadbury August 6, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Without wishing lots more emails on myself, you can always drop me a line directly, Tom, if you think you’ve found a bug in the program. Or simply post on the user-to-user forum, where I’ll read your message anyway.

Evam August 17, 2010 at 1:41 PM

What about this one?

Daniel Spreadbury August 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Yes, that’s the new version of Marc Schonbrun’s existing book, not yet available. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes out!

Alastair November 21, 2013 at 4:10 AM

I have been using Sibelius 7 for about 2 years and yesterday decided to update to Sibelius 7.1.3 – free download. The worst mistake I could have made. After downloading I was instructed to ACTIVATE but in spite of following the instructions and using the system ID and Activation ID’s given, I am blocked. The message which comes up is “…not connected to the internet”. Now I can’t use Sibelius at all!!!

Alastair November 21, 2013 at 4:12 AM

Can someone please advise me what to do – help would be very appreciated!

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