Guitar tab can be fun in the Sibelius 2022.7 update

News

Avid has released Sibelius 2022.7 for desktop and mobile. This update adds a brand-new feature: dynamic guitar staves, which, as the name implies, dynamically link a guitar notation staff with a guitar tab staff in the score at the same time, while selectively filtering information to keep the score’s appearance uncluttered.

Other new items in Sibelius 2022.7 include some new and updated instruments, new manuscript papers, and a number of other improvements and fixes.

Dynamic guitar staves

The history

Guitar tablature is nothing new to Sibelius, nor is the ability to fairly easily use both notation and tab in the same document. (Yes, we know that tablature is a form of notation, but you know what we mean when we say “notation”.)

Music from notation staves can be copied to a tab staff, and vice versa. Sibelius turns the music into one form or the other, and you can edit the music as needed.

However, with this method, if you make a change to one staff, Sibelius does not rewrite the music on the other staff. For all intents and purposes, it is like copying music to another instrument. Like when copying music to a staff with a different transposition or clef, the music displays in the correct format for the destination instrument, and the copied material is identical to its source at the time the copy was made, but after that, you’re on your own.

It should be noted, though, that behind the scenes, Sibelius has always been capable of more than meets the eye. Ever try applying a tab instrument change on a notation part, and dragging the instrument rectangle around? Watch the music change before your very eyes:

Likewise, you can create a dynamic part for a notation staff and apply a tab instrument change in the part, and any changes made to the score will be reflected in the part, all while retaining the respective independent nature of the notation and tab staves.

What’s new in 2022.7

So, what’s new in Sibelius 2022.7?

This update takes this existing technology and applies it to two staves in the score at the same time. Such a concept isn’t new to notation software — remember Finale’s Mirror tool?

More recently, Dorico added such a feature specifically aimed at the guitar use case. Upon the release of Dorico 3, Steinberg said that “One unique advantage that Dorico provides in this area over other notation software is that the music can be shown on a regular notation staff and in tablature at the same time, and an edit in one representation then automatically affects the other.” This is done by selecting a Notation and Tab option, where rhythmic information is left off the tabs.

In Sibelius 2022.7, the concept is similar. By giving the user the ability to add a staff below an existing staff, making edits in one staff will affect the other. The same example we had used in our Dorico 3 review can now be easily created in Sibelius:

Effectively, when Sibelius adds a dynamic guitar staff, it is adding a copy of the existing staff that is grouped with it and with a different instrument — in this case, a guitar tab staff with no rhythms. There are a few distinctions: when you add a dynamic guitar staff, Sibelius filters items like dynamics, expressions, playing techniques, hairpins and other lines, which can only be entered on the notation staff. Slurs can be entered on either staff.

There are some additional subtleties, such as the appearance of tied-to notes. By default, the tied-to note will be hidden. But if you want this second note bracketed, simply add the bracket and Sibelius will unhide the note.

There is a new Solo Guitar template in the Quick Start, which is an easy way to get started using this feature; or, you can add a dynamic guitar staff from Command Search in the manner shown above. You can also add a new instrument to your score via Add or Change Instruments, i.e. “Acoustic Guitar [notation & tab]” is a new option in Sibelius 2022.7, which will add a pair of dynamically linked staves.

If you want to show one staff smaller than the other, you can do this as well via the Add or Change Instruments:

Showing either just the notation staff or just the tab staff in the score can be done via Layout > Staff Visibility > Focus on Staves. You can use Panorama to display both focused and unfocused staves, if this option is checked in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Staves. This would be an ideal workflow if you compose in notation but only want the tab staff to appear in your score.

Although if you do this, you will probably want to apply an instrument change to the tab staff so that it shows the rhythms, which is possible:

Limitations

Avid says that “Dynamic guitar staves are based on the same technology [as dynamic parts], whereby the musical information on one staff is then replicated on the other staff,” and that is true. Unlike dynamic parts, though, it is not possible to make positioning adjustments to items in one staff without it affecting the other. This is mostly a non-issue, since a dynamic guitar staff removes most of those items anyway. But slurs are one element that are shown on both staves, and there is no way to unlink their position or design, like you can in a part, or hide an element in one staff while showing it in the other:

There are a couple of improvements in the way that Sibelius deals with unplayable notes and tied notes; these are described in greater detail in the official Avid post announcing today’s release. But generally, any limitations you might have encountered in working with guitar music in previous versions of Sibelius are still present in this update.

Finally, although the end result of having options to show the guitar music as notation and tab, tab, and tab with no rhythms is comparable to what Dorico can achieve in this area, there is no one-click way to freely switch among these options; it must be done using the various tools such as instrument changes and Focus on Staves, and must be re-done each time you wish to switch.

Dynamic possibilities

Now here is where it gets interesting — even if you’ve never written a “lick” of guitar music in your life.

You can add more than one dynamic guitar staff to a single staff, although that might not be very useful.

More useful, perhaps, is changing the instrument of a dynamic guitar staff to something else entirely. Want to show a B-flat clarinet and A clarinet transposition at the same time, for instance?

Before you get too excited here, or start tricking out this feature in ways it wasn’t intended, perhaps a note of caution: This is called a “dynamic guitar staff” for a reason — it’s specifically designed for guitar. If using this feature in other ways besides guitar has occurred to me, it’s probably occurred to you, and probably the Sibelius team, too — so let’s wait and see where they might take this new capability in a more official capacity before gaming out extensive workarounds for this new feature.

For now, do have a thorough read of the official Avid post announcing today’s release, where many more details and examples are given about how dynamic guitar staves work, particularly with respect to changing the tab tuning and type of dynamic guitar staff; using dynamic guitar staves on mobile; changes to unplayable notes on guitar tab; and changes to tied notes.

Other new features and improvements

Dynamic guitar staves is the headline feature, but there are some additional items of interest in Sibelius 2022.7.

New instruments

Sibelius 2022.7 adds some new instruments to the mix:

  • Suspended cymbal: This is a 1-line instrument with 3, 4, and 5-line tremolo set up, along with a buzz roll to trigger a suspended cymbal sound if your sound libraries in your playback configuration support it
  • Complete set of horn transpositions
  • Transposing double bass instrument for solo double bass players called “Contrabass (solo, F#BEA tuning)”. A solo contrabass is a transposing instrument up a minor 7th from sounding pitch.
  • Bass Clarinet in A and its B-flat counterpart has variations for octave transposition and with a bass clef at concert pitch and treble when transposed
  • Octave transpositions for Basso horns are fixed, allowing you to copy/paste music between the different instruments and it retains the correct octave
  • Kengong is now correctly called Kenong
  • Mallet Percussion is now consistently grouped with other percussion staves (fixing the long-standing issue we wrote about in 2017 here)
  • Several ranges for the family of recorders have been corrected
  • In the German translations, “Kontrabassklarinette in B” and “Kontraaltklarinette in Es” now have a hyphen followed by a capital letter
  • In addition, all instruments are now accessible on the mobile version of Sibelius, via a simple toggle to switch between Common Instruments and All Instruments. Previously, only the common instruments were available on Sibelius for Mobile.

New manuscript papers

In addition to the aforementioned Solo Guitar manuscript paper, there are also these new manuscript papers in Sibelius 2022.7:

  • Jazz Lead Sheet
  • Reduced SATB Choir with Piano
  • Reduced SATB Choir a cappella

Other improvements

  • Special characters in wildcards are now correctly displaying once more after deselecting text
  • When editing a wildcard within the score (introduced in Sibelius 2022.5), it is now possible to add formatting tags
  • There’s a new preference in File > Preferences > Other to turn off KeyTips. These are the letters that appear over the Ribbon, providing keyboard access to all features. This is on by default, so users who are used to this won’t be affected. However, those who find they sometimes get distracted by the KeyTips when tapping Alt on Windows and Ctrl on Mac can now take advantage of the new preference
There is now an option to disable KeyTips
  • The Latest News feed in the Quick Start is now getting its news from www.avid.com/resource-center rather than the soon to be retired avidblogs.com site
  • Sibelius Cloud Sharing has had several improvements to make it more reliable and responsive on both Windows and Mac
  • Fixed a bug that was causing various issues with paper sizes and orientations on Windows machines, such as A3 pages in landscape orientation
  • Problems extracting parts have been resolved
  • The new shortcuts introduced in Sibelius 2022.5 for extending a selection to the start or end of a score have been added to all default shortcut sets. The feature has made it to the Command Search on mobile, too
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when closing several scores using the X’s on the score and parts tabs
  • Fonts with marked and/or zero advanced width characters display correctly once more (this restores the correct positioning of the Norfolk and Pori angled slash chord symbol (ASC) fonts, which suffered a regression in the 2022.3 update)
This collision problem, introduced in Sibelius 2022.3, is fixed in 2022.7

File format change

One other important change: The dynamic guitar staves feature required a change to the Sibelius file format, which had remained stable since 2020.3. This means that any files saved in Sibelius 2022.7 will need to be exported to a previous version of Sibelius to be shared and opened by anyone who hasn’t updated to Sibelius 2022.7. This can be done in File > Export > Previous Version.

Of course, those earlier versions won’t know what to make of dynamic guitar staves. If your score uses that feature, these will be converted into two non-dynamic guitar staves and text lines and other objects that have been dynamically hidden in the new staves will reappear.

Availability

The Sibelius 2022.7 desktop update is free for all Sibelius users with active subscriptions and upgrade plans. The updated installers for desktop are available through users’ Avid accounts and through Avid Link.

The Sibelius 2022.7 iOS/iPadOS update is available in the usual way, and will be delivered automatically, or, if you’ve disabled automatic updates, you can manually update the app on your device.

A reminder that if you’re an existing Sibelius customer with an active support plan or subscription, you get the mobile version at the same tier at no extra charge. If you have a subscription to Sibelius Artist (mid-tier) on your Mac or PC, that will carry over to Sibelius Artist for Mobile, and the same for Sibelius Ultimate — a Mac or PC subscription allows you full access to Sibelius Ultimate on iPhone and iPad.

Learn more

For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.

Avid also has a “What’s New in Sibelius” page highlighting the features in recent Sibelius updates.

Comments

  1. Charles Gaskell

    Are the new instruments supported with NotePerformer without the user having to do anything, or do we have to take active action to get them to sound right?

    1. Justin Tokke

      Good question. We didn’t directly test with Note Performer, but the new instruments use the same sound IDs as similar ones that already existed (i.e. Bass Clarinet in A is using the same sound ID as Bass Clarinet in Bb; all the horns use the same sound ID etc.) So it should work out of the box. If it doesn’t, let us know and we’ll smooth that out.

  2. Dave

    Hi Phil & Co,

    This is a welcome option indeed.

    Something to be aware of and perhaps notify to Avid…if you’re entering individual notes via the floating guitar fret-board window, you need to select the linked trad notation staff above, not the TAB staff. If you select the Tab staff, it only works for entering the first note. It will let you enter chords when the option is switched on in the guitar fretboard window, but not sequences of individual notes – this is only possible when the linked trad-notation staff is the selected staff (or something within it is selected).

    It might be a by-product of how it has to work, so may or may not be changeable, but worth pointing out I think.

    Now, if they could also change the playback engine so guitar bends actually play the way guitar players usually play them by default (ie: NOT striking the note again once the bend is complete), we’ll be well on the way! ;-)

    Cheers!

  3. Bob Zawalich

    One interesting side effect of what was done for dynamic tab is that it is no longer possible to put 2 or more notes on the same string. Sibelius will now not let you drag a note onto an occupied strings, and if you add notes in a notation staff that could be on the same string the notes will always be set to separate strings.

    This was not previously the case. The now obsolete (yay) plugin Fix TAB Collisions was written to correct such problems. The best way to fix a problem is to ensure it can never happen…

  4. Michael Koschorreck

    Thank you so much Philip for this very helpful introduction and the explanations of the update.
    I seem to have noticed a bug in the new version and would like to know if others can duplicate the symptom:
    When chosing “roman numerals” for notating fretboard positions for guitar it shows an unwanted small sharp accidental as soon as I hit the X key. So I cannot create the position for any fret number that is either X, or IX and XV.
    Workaround:
    If I choose the same menu path ctrl+click > text > more text > Nashville chord numbers instead, I get the correct number IX. It would be great to have this problem solved but I couldn’t find an adress for bug reports an the AVID side. Maybe you could pass on my observation through your network – that is if my observation is correct and not based upon a misunderstanding of mine. Kind regards, Michael

  5. guitarteacher

    from 22.7 on, I can’t find a way to create guitar tab only. My workflow is to create guitar sheet music (notation + tab) in Sibelius and then export it in musicxml, and import it in Soundslice. But now tab doesn’t show up in Soundslice.
    anyone suggestions? Did search the internet, can’t find a solution
    +

Leave a Comment

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