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Guest Blog Series – Sibelius 6: Ready, Set, Compose, Part 2

Only published comments... Aug 23 2010, 02:41 PM by Taryn Unruh

The below post is part two of Avid's exclusive four-part blog series from guest author and musician Martin J F Smith. Part one can be read here.


I started composing music long before computers were available and, like many others, I labored over manuscript pads, endless crossing outs, re-writes, part-writing, late nights, etc. As such, it's no surprise my first encounter with Sibelius software was a revelation. Now I can create music quickly and efficiently, and always be certain my finished piece will be a perfect presentation.


Sibelius 6 takes all of the drudgery and chore out of producing musical scores-ultimately leaving the composer more time to concentrate on the music itself. A number of features allow this to happen:


  • Note Input

For the most part I favor flexi-time input as the quickest way to get the notes down in Sibelius-especially as I mainly use a Macbook for my work. Aiding this is a useful set of flexi-time options allowing "non rubato" (to guard against spurious note values appearing, if your timing is a bit out), "record into one voice" (multiple voices available), and setting the minimum duration of note values to, say, a quaver (8th note).


While pianists, like me, may prefer to play the music for it to populate, another quick way of inputting notes into Sibelius 6 is via the numeric keypad of your computer's keyboard. The floating virtual keypad on the screen corresponds exactly with the numeric keypad on full-size keyboards and, with familiarity, this can be used very efficiently. Laptop users can select "Notebook Shortcuts" in preferences, which will enable you to use the numeric keys along the top of the laptop's keyboard in lieu of a numeric keypad. Ultimately though, it will come down to personal preference.


  • Magnetic Layout

When inputting notes and other score events, there are times when a lot of information needs to be placed in a tight space. Rehearsal marks, tempo, lyrics and chord symbols can often overlap. Sibelius 6's Magnetic Layout takes care of this automatically by cleverly moving objects around whenever a clash is likely. I found this to work extremely well in practice, and it saves hours in the editing stage.


  • Chord Symbols

Using the provided Lead Sheet manuscript paper, I can quickly set out the melody, lyrics and chord symbols of songs. When it comes to chords, I prefer not to simplify for the sake of time and at the expense of the intended sound. And fortunately, with Sibelius 6, I don't have to. By simply selecting chord symbol mode (Cmd - K) I can play any chord on my MIDI keyboard and Sibelius will notate it perfectly, using the correct chord symbol. It will even display it as a guitar tab if you prefer! This is one of my favorite features of Sibelius 6 and has saved me a great deal of time and brain power.


  • Comments

I often need to make a note of something at a certain point in a score-some alternative idea, a line of a lyric or a note about structure or form. The new comments feature in Sibelius 6 provides a useful way of doing just that. A bit like putting a sticky note on a paper score, comments allow users to add reminders to themselves, or if submitting the score to someone else, explanations about some aspect of the music. This has proved to be very useful in education.


  • Versions

The new versions feature in Sibelius 6 provides a great way of keeping track of all your previous drafts. At any point in score writing or editing, users can save a version and continue to work from that point. This allows you to easily refer back to earlier ideas and see how each alteration affects the piece. And if you aren't satisfied, you can always go back to your original idea.


  • Parts

The most tedious element of any composer or arranger's work is copying out parts from the master score, but with Sibelius 6 this all happens automatically. At any time during composition users can view and print any of the individual instrumental parts. No need to worry about transposing instruments either-Sibelius automatically notates the music to the appropriate key so that all parts and the full score agree. Such a time-saver!


**Are you an educator or student? Check back for part three of Martin's blog series here on Avid Industry Buzz. Next, he'll dive into the specific classroom and educational benefits of Sibelius software.**

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About Taryn Unruh

Taryn works for Formula PR. As a former Avid employee, Taryn remains passionate about the craft of storytelling, and tracks stories on related industry news, Avid customers and products.

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