computers · Sibelius

Sibelius control-commands

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sibelius 7.1.2 over the past three or four weeks, as I’ve been writing a marching band show for a client. The ribbon used for navigation in Sibelius 7 is a bit more click-intensive than the menus in Sibelius 6, especially if you have a large monitor. I use a Kensington trackball instead of a mouse, but I’m working more on using the Apple bluetooth keypad. As Apple moves more toward merging the iOS interface with the OS X version – see the upcoming Mountain Lion OS X version – the use of gestures will become even more important. However, from the very first, Sibelius has been designed for minimum mouse usage. (I recall a statement in one of the early Sibelius manuals that the application was designed so the user wouldn’t have to move his hands from the keyboard.)

The way to avoid all the mousiness is to use the Control key (on Mac) or Alt (on Windows) to bring up “key tips” – single or two-letter commands that help you move quickly through the tabs on the ribbon and select buttons on them. Unlike most applications, you hit the control key and release it, then strike the letter keys in sequence. For example, to switch to the Layout tab, hit control, then L. If you want to switch to Layout, then invoke the Margins drop-down, use this sequence: Control – L – M – A. (You can also navigate around the ribbon using Tab, Shift-Tab, or the arrow keys; Space, Return or Enter activates the button. (See page 15 in the Sibelius manual for more information.) I was going to include a screen shot, but my screen-grab software can’t seem to get it without the key tip disappearing. So here’s a tiny shot:

I found this on the site. Robert Puff does some great tips and tutorials – I highly recommend his work.

It’s well worth the time spent studying the alternate ways there are to do things in Sibelius. You don’t have to learn them all, of course. I find I only use a few of the control key tips, usually when formatting individual instrument parts. One of the things Sibelius doesn’t seem to do well yet is really produce parts that don’t need any additional formatting work. You can set up one part the way you want it, then use the Copy Part Layout function to copy most of those settings to the others. Still, I find I usually use this sequence on each part:

First, I envoke Command – A to select all bars, then select Unlock Format from the Layout tab. This usually makes the part look really ugly, but it takes out any extraneous system or page breaks that don’t fit that part (but might have fit the one used for the master part).

Second, I usually invoke Auto Breaks. This involves elementary math. Say you have a composition that is 70 bars long. You are using landscape mode like I am (I’m formatting marching band parts) so you know you can usually get anywhere from 6 to 10 bars per system. If you want ten systems, five on each of two pages (which looks pretty good with a staff size around 7 mm), set Auto Breaks to 7 bars. You will have to adjust things later a bit, but I’ll go into that later.

Next, I invoke Reset Space Above and Reset Space Below. These seem to both be needed to clean out any variations in the distance between systems. I’ve not really got the knack of these yet; there seems to be a bit of Sibelius voodoo still there!

I then invoke Optimize. Sometimes I also invoke Appearance > Reset Note Spacing, but that isn’t required on every page. You can usually eyeball it and see if the spacing is odd for some reason.

Finally, I look at the locations of things like metronome markings. Sometimes I adjust the number of bars to keep the layout clearer, using Make Into System and, more rarely, Make Into Page. Often all that is needed is to create a hard system break by selecting the barline and hitting Return.

I also often have to change where the bar numbers are. I tend to use bar numbers for every bar – it’s just faster in rehearsal, and costs nothing. I make them pretty  small.

Very small, but readable, bar numbers

I’ll talk about other time savers another time. So far, I just saved enough time today to write this blog entry!


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