computers · marching band · Sibelius

More about Sibelius 7

The last few days I’ve been working with Sibelius 7 almost all day, entering a marching band arrangement into a Sibelius file that I wrote back in the 70s. (Believe it or not, the wind parts still work pretty well; I wrote new percussion parts because today most percussionists are considerably more technically accomplished than their counterparts a generation ago.)

I’ve got some new reactions to this version:

First, I still say that the Microsoft Office ribbon-influenced interface is ugly. However, it makes moving from one function to another pretty fast. Where a user had to select something on the menu bar, then pull it down and make a selection, and then maybe move to another submenu, navigation was getting pretty complicated as the app developed through the last couple of versions.

For example, I seem to always have to do some part reformatting. It involves going to Layout > Unlock Format, then Appearance > Reset Note Spacing, then back to Layout > Auto Breaks. It takes a six clicks, but it used to take more with the pull-down menus. Everything is visible at the top of the display.

Another advantage is the new Export function in the File menu. I tend to send my charts as pdfs most of the time, and instead of having to print parts to pdfs and then put them together in Acrobat, Sibelius actually has a selection for printing all parts as individual files, as one file, or as one file with score and parts. It is also pretty fast on my MacBook Pro, but remember that it’s a pretty new machine and therefore pretty fast. Your mileage may vary.

The “smart” placement of items like dynamics and articulations is better implemented. I used to have to tweak individual parts a lot, and now most of those are OK right out of the box. I still format one part the way I want it, then use the Parts > Copy Parts Layout selection to transfer the formatting to all the others. It even works pretty well on percussion parts.

The Sibelius 7 sound set is also pretty good. It’s certainly an improvement. The drumline sound samples are really nice. They are a subset of the Tapspace set but they are pretty usable as they are. If I was writing a competitive, high-end high school or DCI show’s battery parts I would spring for the whole set. The parts I wrote are pretty basic to be played by the “average” high school group, so the sounds that are available are fine.

Even the woodwind trills are better. They sound like real woodwinds, not like samples played by a MIDI keyboard.

I know Sibelius is pricey, but it’s a really deep application. It is extremely feature-rich. I bought the paper version of the manual to make it easier to look things up when I need to. It helps a lot.

I can use the touchpad on the MacBook just fine, and the two-finger click as a substitute for right-click or control-click is a big help. I also use the LMP Bluetooth numeric keypad. It maps all of the functions correctly, unlike all of the USB keypads I’ve bought over the years. Again, it’s more expensive but it’s worth it. Trying to work with Sibelius without a numeric keypad is almost impossible.

More as I continue to work with it. So far, so good.

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