2015: A year in review


2015-tupletIt’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone — indeed, with the weather in my home of New York feeling more summery than wintry, the only indication around here that it’s the end of December is the archive of blog posts from the past twelve months.

The steady diet of news, interviews, tips, tutorials and more is surely healthier than the usual fare offered this time of year. So don’t be shy; whether it’s the first time you’re reading these articles or you’re coming back for seconds, enjoy the feast.

A special thanks to all readers, contributors, supporters, and subscribers to the blog this year. Also, be sure to read Bob Zawalich’s year-in-review for Sibelius plug-ins. Looking forward to 2016!

Industry news

Daniel Spreadbury previews Steinberg software in New York. Nearly three years after beginning work on a new music notation program, Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury gave local music publishers and engravers a preview of its capabilities.

Avid ramping up Sibelius development with new Montreal office. In a sign of a renewed focus on development, Avid announced a Montreal office devoted exclusively to Sibelius.

MakeMusic and Steinberg transfer development of MusicXML and SMuFL to web community group. MakeMusic and Steinberg announced that they will be transferring development of their respective standard formats of MusicXML and SMuFL to the new Music Notation Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and subsequently announced short-term and long-term projects.

MakeMusic acquires Weezic; web-based SmartMusic planned. MakeMusic, the company that makes Finale and SmartMusic, acquired Paris-based startup Weezic over the summer, in order to incorporate its web-based interactive learning music software into the SmartMusic product line, and to open a European outpost.

Creating new versions of Appalachian Spring using Sibelius and Norfolk. Delving into the process of producing new versions of both the suite and a complete ballet of Aaron Copland’s masterpiece Appalachian Spring, using Sibelius and the Norfolk fonts.

Next Sibelius release to feature UI updates, new licensing options. Avid moved to a subscription-based licensing plan in 2015 and announced plans for Sibelius 8 at that time.

Avid unveils Sibelius Cloud Publishing. Sibelius senior product manager Sam Butler and product designer Joe Pearson talk about a new cloud publishing technology based on Sibelius to replace Scorch.

Avid re-listed on NASDAQ; company to ring opening trading bell. Nearly a year after being delisted from the NASDAQ exchange, Avid celebrated its re-listing by ringing the opening trading bell in New York in January 2015.


An interview with Ben Finn, co-founder of Sibelius [Part 1 of 2]. In part 1 of a two-part interview, Sibelius co-founder Ben Finn speaks to us about the early days of Sibelius, evolving the software, and growing the company into the market leader.

An interview with Ben Finn, co-founder of Sibelius [Part 2 of 2]. In part 2, Ben Finn speaks to us about selling Sibelius to Avid, events after the sale, marketplace developments, and the state of the field today.

An interview with Daniel Spreadbury. An extensive interview with Daniel Spreadbury about Steinberg’s scoring program, technology, music engraving, the state of the field, and more.

Following up with Gear Fisher, MakeMusic CEO. More than a year after taking the helm of MakeMusic, and shortly after its latest software release of Finale 2014.5, I caught up with CEO Gear Fisher about the company’s products, its progress, and future.

An interview with Thomas Bonte on the release of MuseScore 2.0. Coinciding with March’s official release of MuseScore 2.0, we had a roundup of the program’s new features as well as a lengthy interview with MuseScore’s co-founder and CEO Thomas Bonte.

An interview with David William Hearn, creator of StaffPad. Learn more about the inspiration behind StaffPad in this interview with its creator, David William Hearn.

Technology and products

StaffPad is a music handwriting app that’s real — and it’s spectacular. This comprehensive review of StaffPad, the breakthrough music notation app for Windows tablets, broke all records for single-day blog traffic and continues to be the blog’s most popular post some nine months later.

StaffPad for Windows 10 released with new features. Completely redesigned for Windows 10, the latest version of StaffPad is a free update for existing users and boasts impressive new features like partial bar selection, swing playback, handwritten dynamics recognition, sketch layer colors, and a new voice activated smart assistant.

Sibelius 8 is here: The new Sibelius looks a lot like the old one. The “new” Sibelius became available in June alongside new perpetual and subscription license plans. The version number is Sibelius 8.0, but how does it compare to major releases of years past, and should you upgrade? Also see: Sibelius 8.0.1 update available.

Neuratron releases PhotoScore 8, including NotateMe for desktops. Neuratron released PhotoScore & NotateMe Ultimate 8, an upgrade to its music scanning and recognition software that brings the NotateMe handwriting app to the desktop for the first time.

Finale 2014.5 released. Falling somewhere in between an upgrade and an update, the latest iteration of Finale was released in November with a slew of bug fixes, interface changes, a few new features — and some promised performance improvements that are worth exploring for a closer look.

NotePerformer 1.5 and NotateMe 3. The latest updates to the NotePerformer playback product and the NotateMe handwriting app were covered in this joint post from June.

Mastering MuseScore, the user-friendly guide to MuseScore. A new guidebook for MuseScore is a thorough and logically written reference for those using the notation software for the first time or for those seeking to expand their knowledge.

MuseScore 2.0 released. Included in the interview with Thomas Bonte was an overview of MuseScore 2.0’s new features, as answered by CTO Nicolas Froment.

Touch Notation by Kawai: A promising music handwriting app for iOS. In April, Kawai released the English-language version of Touch Notation, a modestly priced and remarkably full-featured music handwriting and gesture-based app for iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone.

A 37-key addition to the Xkey MIDI keyboard family. Hands-on with the Xkey 37, an excellent addition to CME’s lineup of slim, portable, and sophisticated MIDI keyboards that work well with music software on tablets and PCs.

Duet turns your iPad into a second computer display. Use your iPad as a second display with Duet, an app designed by former Apple engineers.

2015 holiday shopping guide, from the Sibelius blog. Ho ho ho, the 2015 holiday shopping guide is out for music nerds and those who love them, with some new goodies and some old favorites to stuff your stocking and lighten your wallet.


Working with instrument names in Sibelius. If instrument names don’t appear correctly in the score, how will anyone know what to play? Learn how to get those items to look just right by reading this series of helpful tips.

Reduce file size by pruning unneeded versions and parts. Sibelius files are typically compact. If your files are growing undesirably large, here are a couple of common causes and remedies.

Harp support in Sibelius. Bob Zawalich gives us a helpful roundup of the variety of tips and plug-ins to help the notation and playback of harp passages in Sibelius.

Use the Bravura font in Logic Pro X. A little-noticed update to Logic Pro X 10.1 allows for the use of Bravura in the sequencer’s notation view.

What’s with those strange-looking accidentals? Here’s how to correct the occasional strange accidental symbol making mischief in your score.

On the margins: Headers, footers, and footnotes in Sibelius. An important part of printed music is the text that doesn’t appear within the staff lines at all, but rather three types of text you’re likely to encounter on the margins of the page.

All keyed up: Going keyless in your score. A brief set of tips on when, why and how to use open key signatures as opposed to C major, in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore.

All keyed up: Keyless instruments in a keyed score. Along with a bit of history behind the convention, the how and why to use and create instruments that don’t display a key signature in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore.

Hide bar numbers for a region in Sibelius using the tilde. You may know that the tilde can be used to hide staff or system text in Sibelius, but here’s a clever way of using it to hide bar numbers for only a partial region of a score.

Laissez (les bon temps) vibrer. Let the good times roll with these tips on how to more easily place laissez vibrer symbols in Sibelius and Finale.

Print and make PDFs using Sibelius’s view options. Sibelius gives you the ability to highlight passages of your music, make comments, and, in Sibelius 8, draw freehand annotations. But what if you want to share those markings with non-Sibelius users? Here’s how.

Lines between notes in Sibelius. Drawing lines between notes in Sibelius, like glissandi or portamenti, can be tedious. Here are some ways to make the task less of a chore by using a plug-in and tab slides.

A matter of status. Yes, the lowly status bar in Sibelius is more useful than it first appears, and it’s time it gets its due. Learn a few things it’s capable of that you may not have known about.


There It Is! A plug-in designed to aid blind and vision-impaired people in navigating Sibelius can be helpful to sighted users too.

New plug-in: Scale Notehead Sizes. A new plug-in easily resizes noteheads in Sibelius — making quick work of what was previously a time-consuming task.

Correct voice positioning problems with Narrow Two Voices plug-in. If you work with music that uses two voices and have been stymied by Sibelius’s stubborn positioning defaults, you need this longtime plug-in staple in your toolbox.

Three new plug-ins from Kenneth Gaw will make your life easier. With three new Sibelius plug-ins and an updated fourth, developer Kenneth Gaw has once again found solutions to save you time, keystrokes and mouse-clicks so that you can produce better results more quickly.

Plug-in Developer’s Notebook: The Colored Notehead Style Project. Bob Zawalich takes us inside the process of creating a way to color individual noteheads within a chord, eventually resulting in the development of the Colored Notehead Styles plug-in suite.

Change symbols to articulations with Sibelius plug-in. Ever wish you could convert a whole lot of free-floating symbols to smarter articulations in Sibelius? Now you can, thanks to a handy plug-in that makes the task easy and fast.

New plug-ins: Save and Export and Save With Previous Version. Save a Sibelius file as both the current version and an earlier version of the software, along with PDF and MusicXML formats, in just one step by using these new plug-ins from Bob Zawalich.

Stretching the limits of notehead styles and plug-ins in Sibelius. In this post geared towards Sibelius power users, Bob Zawalich describes the rather generous limitations of the numbers of notehead styles and plug-ins Sibelius can support at a given time, and how to get around those limitations, if needed.

Using the Style Sheet plug-in in Sibelius. The new Style Sheet plug-in is an advanced way to display which text styles, line styles, symbols, and notehead styles are being used in a score. Its creator Bob Zawalich gives us an in-depth tutorial on how to take full advantage of its power.

Changing default dialog settings in Sibelius plug-ins. Bob Zawalich, the plug-in developer’s developer, explains how to use Sibelius’s dialog editor to change plug-in dialog default values, should you wish to tailor certain plug-ins to suit your workflow.


Route Sibelius or Finale MIDI to Logic via IAC bus. Did you know that, with just a little bit of effort, you can route your MIDI from Sibelius or Finale through Logic Pro? This tutorial will walk you through the steps.

User folders and user-editable files in Sibelius. Explore along with guest author Bob Zawalich as he takes us through the inner workings of Sibelius’s user folders and user-editable files, what their purposes are, where to find them, and how to modify them.

Create a centered group name in Sibelius. In Sibelius it’s technically impossible to center a group name between two staves and also individually name each staff. Here’s a clever workaround to the problem, along with a video tutorial explaining the concept.

Differentiating staff text, system text, and lyrics in Sibelius. In this guest post, Bob Zawalich explains the differences among the types of text used in Sibelius, such as staff text, system text, and lyrics, and covers some tips and plug-ins for changing one type of text to another.

Get Started Fast with Sibelius for Educators video tutorials. An eight-part video tutorial series is designed to help teachers understand and learn some of the many educational features in Sibelius.

Tacet parts in Finale and Sibelius. Tacet parts are useful in performance and recording contexts, to let a player know that their part has been accounted for even if they aren’t playing. Learn how to make these parts in Finale and Sibelius.


  1. Mike Philcox

    Thanks, Philip, for the great work you do in keeping you readers up-to-date respecting music notation! Wishing you a great 2016!

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