Norfolk is a free Sibelius-compatible version of the Bravura music font

News

Two of the early products from the Steinberg team’s efforts to develop new music notation software have been the advent of an open standard for music fonts, called the Standard Music Font Layout, or SMuFL, and the creation of its first compatible font, named Bravura.

In May 2013 Daniel Spreadbury announced both SMuFL and Bravura on his blog, and over the course of a year, both have been developed and refined into stable versions. Daniel’s blog post provides an excellent overview of the history of music fonts, and a post from the Finale blog provides additional insight into the early days of music font creation leading up to Finale 1.0. Over time, Daniel says, “As hundreds of new symbols were added to these font families, and new families were added, there was no standardization at all. The Opus family, for example, now has hundreds of glyphs spread over 18 different fonts, but there is almost no overlap with how many of the same symbols are laid out in, say, Maestro or Engraver, the two font families most commonly-used in Finale.”

Having made the case to develop the new SMuFL standard, Bravura was created as its flagship font. It is described as having a “bolder and more substantial look than most other music fonts: thin strokes are slightly thicker than in other fonts, improving the overall ‘blackness’ of the font and its legibility when read at a distance.”

Bravura’s basic glyphs are modeled after the Not-a-set dry transfer system, which itself was based on a set of engraving punches used by Schott, in turn based on the punches used by Breitkopf & Härtel. Bravura’s closest cousin in the world of music fonts, interestingly, is the Finale default font Maestro, which is also a digital version of Not-a-set, according to MakeMusic’s Mark Adler.

A Not-a-set dry transfer sheet, from the Music Printing History web site
A Not-a-set dry transfer sheet, from the Music Printing History web site

Perhaps future versions of Finale, Sibelius, or other applications will utilize the SMuFL standard. When asked about it last year, Sibelius’s technical lead Michael Ost said, “I’m agnostic on this issue. I don’t see the big win at present, but I’m interested to see what develops.”

For the time being, then, Sibelius users who wish to use Bravura need a compatible version that is mapped to Sibelius in the same way that the Opus family of fonts is. This is where Norfolk comes in.

Norfolk

The Norfolk family of fonts is a derivative of Bravura that is expressly reconfigured to work within Sibelius. This is an effort that is sponsored by my company, NYC Music Services, and is now available to download and use from a special page on that web site. Matthew Maslanka of Maslanka Music Prep ported the glyphs from Bravura, and fine-tuned them to work in Sibelius.

Norfolk is intended as a drop-in for Opus, but for practical reasons, it was not possible to faithfully reproduce every symbol in Norfolk. Many of Sibelius’s symbols are actually composite symbols with intricate and tightly integrated positioning. We did, however, try very hard to reproduce the most commonly used glyphs into the following fonts, with the corresponding Opus analog:

  • Norfolk Std
  • Norfolk Text Std
  • Norfolk Special Std
  • Norfolk Special Extra Std
  • Norfolk Ornaments Std
  • Norfolk Metronome Std (in progress as of this writing)

There is also an additional font called Norfolk Special II Std, which is an additional font containing Bravura characters not found or easily replaced in Opus.

Norfolk in use in Sibelius 7.5
Norfolk in use in a part in Sibelius 7.5.1

Still, Bravura in many ways is fundamentally different from Opus. To accommodate its idiosyncrasies, we developed a house style based on the Sibelius default Standard Opus (Plantin) that is tailored to Norfolk, which is included in the download package. Use of the house style is recommended if you’re starting a new document from scratch (or if you’re working with a file that is using the Standard Opus (Plantin) settings, but if you already have a customized house style, you may wish to simply replace the music and music text fonts, and make further adjustments only as needed. Included is some documentation to this end and a list of known issues at this time.

Norfolk derives its name from Norfolk, Connecticut, home of the Norfolk Music Festival, where Jean Sibelius conducted the premiere of his work The Oceanides during his only visit to the United States in 1914.

Thanks to Matthew for all of his hard work, to Daniel Spreadbury for creating a beautiful font (and for choosing to make it freely available under an open font license), and to Avid’s Sam Butler for allowing us to use the structure of the Opus fonts as a starting point for our work.

Try it out and see what you think. It’s officially in beta at the moment, although it should be quite usable. The intention behind this effort is to have the Norfolk family be a viable and widely-distributed option for users seeking an alternative to the fonts included with Sibelius. To that end, your comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome and encouraged. Feel free to comment here or send me a message.

Like Bravura, the Norfolk fonts are made available under the SIL Open Font License, which means that the fonts are free to download, use, embed, redistribute with other software (including commercial software) or to create derivative versions. However, please consider allowing others in the community to benefit from any improvements you make by allowing NYC Music Services to improve the core fonts, rather than choosing to create a derivative font.

Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Nicholas Freestone

    This is wonderful, Philip. Many thanks. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with it!

  2. Justin Tokke

    This is very cool and exciting! One thing though: I tried to install it but the house style only works with Sibelius 7.5 but I use 7.1.3. Can a version be made for the latter?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Justin, I’ve updated the .zip file to include Sibelius 7 and Sibelius 6 compatible versions of the house style. Let me know if those work for you.

      1. Alistair Burton

        Hi Philip,

        I’m having the same problem and I can only see two versions in the zip file, one for 7.5 and one for 8? Let me know if I’m doing something wrong.

        1. Philip Rothman

          Hi Alistair. As of the current version (Dec. 2018) we are only including one for 7.5 (7.5 through 8.5.1) and one for 2018.11 (8.6 through 2019.1). It’s too much work supporting older versions. Sorry!

  3. Abraham Lee

    Just curious, but why not just use Taneyev? Looks like it was created for Sibelius over a year and a half ago (based on the comment time-stamp from Daniel Spreadbury’s Making Notes blog where he introduced Bravura). Here’s the link:

    http://blog.steinberg.net/2013/05/introducing-bravura-music-font/#comment-528

    Don’t get me wrong. What you’ve done is wonderful. It just seems a pity that this wheel be re-invented unnecessarily.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Abraham: If you look at the fontlog, you’ll see that Taneyev is based on a very early version of Bravura (0.2) from July 2013, and, to my knowledge, has not been developed further. Norfolk is based on the latest version of Bravura (1.02) from June 2014 and includes support not only for the main, text and Special fonts, but also Special Extra, Ornaments and (soon) Metronome. Taneyev and Norfolk may look superficially similar, but there are many differences once you get into the details. We’ve also developed a house style to help get the most of the font.

      But you’re point is well-taken — if Taneyev was being actively developed, I surely would not have gone down this road!

      1. Philip Rothman

        Over the weekend we’ve made some fixes to the font, mostly affecting Windows users, but good for everyone, so please install and try out the latest beta.

  4. Cory Davis

    THANK YOU! This is amazing.

  5. Kenton Scott

    Hi,

    I was unable to figure out how to copy the .lib file. On my Window 8 laptop, I don’t find the folder that was specified.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Kenton: I’m not on Windows so unfortunately I can’t check to see if Windows 8 stores the information in a different location. Can you post your question to the chat page at this thread and see if a Windows user can help?

  6. Paolo

    Thank you very much! It is a very beautiful font, that would serve very well when transcribing music of that period (end of XIX-first half of XX centuries).

  7. Andrew Moschou

    I haven’t been developing Taneyev. It’s wonderful that Norfolk is available.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Andrew, for your early work on this.

  8. Martin

    Sibelius is so much more useful and transparent than Finale!

  9. Jeff Sawada

    Is there an updated version of Norfolk that includes some of the missing features from the one posted originally on this thread (e.g., metronome symbols and other extended symbols)? Thank you so much for your work on this. A thousand thanks!

    1. Jeff Sawada

      Nm… I see that the link provided above has an updated version of the font.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *