computers · Sibelius

More on using Sibelius 6…

I’ve been working on an arrangement of the bossa nova “Black Orpheus,” for about a grade 2-1/2 jazz ensemble. It’s taken me longer than usual because I switched to Sibelius 6 in the middle, and there are some things about the new version of the software than make things a whole lot better.

I tend to use bar numbers for every bar, on every part – it makes rehearsals go a lot better. (I even do this if I use rehearsal letters.) I usually center them in each bar, below the staff. This makes them collide with dynamic markings and other non-note marks. No more: the new Magnetic Layout feature automatically fixes those collisions, and if it thinks it did so in a manner so that the page looks bad, it marks the offending symbols in red so you can adjust them by hand.

This is a huge time saver. I was used to spending about a half hour per part, fixing collisions and adjusting things. Now each one takes about five minutes, and that’s if I really want to tweak the number of staves per page.

The program is faster, as advertised, on my PowerBook G4, my iMac G5, and the Toshiba tablet at school. The new sounds used for playback are good enough right out of the box that I no longer use the Garritan libraries I have fought with for two years.

It still displays ugly on a Windows machine (I’m still on XP), even on a 19-inch monitor, but I think that’s Windows. It looks gorgeous on the Macs. (I just use the Windows machine when I’m doing stuff at work because the monitor is usually hooked up to it.)

The new one and two-bar repeats and welcome (they even play back correctly) but glitchy – I’m trying to use them on a 5-line drum staff, a one-line shaker staff and a two-line conga staff, and the diagonals are always too high and have to be moved down by hand.

The key to working quickly on Sibelius is learning the keyboard commands so you can stay away from the mouse. I can’t quite do that completely as yet, but I’m getting better at it. I bought a keyboard cover from kbcovers that has all the equivalents on them. The print is small but it’s there. (I use the Mac ultra-thin keyboard at home.)

I also recommend paying the extra 30 bucks and getting the printed manual. It really is helpful and I hate to switch to a pdf manual when I’m working. $ 30 for that manual is not expensive – it’s over 600 pages!

While I was typing this it printed all the parts and the score so I can read through it with my jazz band in a couple of days. It’s truly an amazing tool! I can’t imagine arranging or composing old-school (without it) any longer!


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