Today Avid released Sibelius 8.6, a free update for all 8.x users with an active subscription or support plan. Coming exactly six months since Sibelius 8.5 was released, Sibelius 8.6 is the first significant update of 2017 and the first update of any kind since the 8.5.1 maintenance release was made available in January.
Sibelius 8.6’s new engraving feature is magnetic glissandi lines — lines that snap to both their start and end note, updating their positions if the notes change. A number of changes associated with this feature, as well as minor improvements and fixes, are included in the 8.6 update.
For the first time since 8.1, the Sibelius file format has changed, in order to accommodate the new glissandi lines feature. Exporting from 8.6 to earlier Sibelius versions is possible.
Overall, the update is a solid one. Let’s take a look at the headline feature first and then cover the rest of the update.
Editor’s note: Bob Zawalich contributed to this article.
Creating magnetic glissandi lines
Magnetic glissandi lines are much easier to create and position than what can now be called old-fashioned glissandi lines. Under the hood, they use and build upon the logic of the slide (from the second Keypad layout) to become “magnetic.”
A new gliss. line is actually a property of the origin note, but in most cases it can be treated as if it were a separate Line object. You can create most styles of glissandi lines from the Notations > Lines gallery. They can be filtered by line style in Home > Select > Advanced Filter, and you can create custom glissandi line styles by creating a new line style based on one of the existing line styles. Properties for glissandi lines appear in the Lines pane of the Inspector.
As was the case with the slide in earlier versions, you cannot have both a magnetic gliss. line and a tie starting from the same note.
To create magnetic glissandi lines you must select one or more notes, and then go to Notations > Lines and choose one of the Glissandi line styles from the list. You have three choices of built-in styles, plus any user-defined styles that derived from these line styles:
When you choose the style, a magnetic gliss. line will be drawn from the selected note, nicely spaced to the immediately following note. Here are some examples:
Magnetic glissandi lines are quite intelligent, expanding and contracting to move out of the way of augmentation dots and accidentals. They will even slope in the correct direction between two pitches that share the same space or line:
As mentioned earlier, magnetic glissandi lines share some characteristics with the slide and ties. As is the case with these items, if you change the duration of the origin note, the gliss. line disappears.
Magnetic lines behave properly across system breaks.
In addition to Glissando (wavy), Glissando (straight) and Portamento, there is a fourth standard magnetic gliss., whose style is called Line. You cannot create it from the Lines gallery (which will create a plain line object even if a note is selected), but instead create it as a slide, from the second keypad layout:
The slide icon on the Keypad will be highlighted when other magnetic gliss. line styles are selected, as well.
If you create a line with nothing selected, Sibelius will create a non-magnetic gliss. line, which you can then drag into place. Here is an example of a wavy gliss. line created with no selection, after clicking on a note, followed by a line created when the note was selected first:
You can have a mix of magnetic and non-magnetic lines in a score. To quickly determine the type of line, select it and look at the status bar.
Magnetic gliss. lines will say Edit Note (because the line is a property of its parent note), while non-magnetic lines will say Edit Line:
For chords, as long as the number of notes in the chord is identical at the start and end, Sibelius is smart about gliss. placement:
But if there’s a mismatch in note quantities, you might get strange results:
If you find yourself using a particular gliss. line style frequently, you might consider assigning it a shortcut in File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Line Styles.
Magnetic glissandi lines are always created on a single staff between adjacent notes. Once created, you can drag either end of the gliss. line to any other location. If you do that, though, the line will still follow the movement and playback of the pitches of the original two adjacent notes it was created with, not the notes it is now near.
You cannot create a magnetic gliss. line across staves, or across two staves of a grand staff. There is somewhat of a workaround to this by selecting either the origin note or the destination note and moving the note by choosing Note Input > Cross-staff Notes > Above or Below. You’ll then need to adjust the position of the line as described above.
If you select multiple notes before creating the magnetic gliss. line, a line will be attached to each selected note, making it a snap to add multiple glissandi lines to passages such as this:
Working with magnetic glissandi lines in the Inspector
In the above example, it is quite obvious after the first or second note that the lines represent glissandi. The repeated text clutters the score. Fortunately, you can easily change whether or not text appears on a line.
This is one of many items controlled in the Inspector. If a magnetic gliss. line or its parent note is selected, the following panel will appear in the Inspector:
Slide text is where you can toggle the appearance of text on a magnetic gliss. line. (This option only appears for gliss. lines containing text — if your line doesn’t contain text, you won’t see this option.) The choices are:
- Auto: The text will appear if there if the width of the line is sufficient to accommodate the text
- On: The text will always appear regardless of the width of the line; probably only useful in limited instances
- Off: The text will never appear
For our example above, I would select the second through fourth bars and choose Off:
If you’ve moved the position of your magnetic gliss. line by dragging either end from its default position, those values will be represented in the Slide ends offset values. You can, of course, work the other way around by setting values in the Inspector to have these reflected in the score. If your line has gone astray and you need to set its position to the default, choose the line and invoke Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Position.
You can also easily toggle the style of a magnetic gliss. line by changing its Slide style. The default options will appear here, as well as any other glissandi lines you’ve created by duplicating an existing style.
The playback properties of these lines are controlled in the Inspector, too — even for slides (a change which will be welcomed by guitarists). Choose among many options depending on the instrument and desired behavior.
However, the selection for the curve type of gliss. (Linear/Early/Late) does not appear to have any effect, as has been the case with earlier Sibelius versions as well.
To silence a magnetic gliss. line, set the Gliss / Rit / Accel to None. Do not turn off Play on pass for the line or the parent note will be silenced as well.
Magnetic glissandi lines and conversions to other score formats
When exporting a Sibelius 8.6 score to an earlier version:
- The Line style of magnetic glissandi lines are converted to a slide
- Other magnetic glissandi lines are converted to ordinary glissandi
When opening a Sibelius score created in a version prior to 8.6, glissandi and slides are unchanged. No conversion to magnetic glissandi lines occurs, but new ones may be created.
In his post on the official Avid blog today, senior product manager Sam Butler said:
The new Magnetic Glissandi lines feature was borne out of an overall improvement and better support for MusicXML. It’s a long-term project that we will chip away at for a while. When we started to work on adding support for importing glissandi lines, we needed a way to position these nicely to notes. As such, we rewrote how these lines are handled so there is now very minimal cleanup to do after importing MusicXML files.
Reading between the lines here, it appears that conversion of magnetic glissandi lines to and from MusicXML is still a work-in-progress. Certain cases work rather well, such as creating some styles of gliss. lines in Finale, exporting them as MusicXML, and importing them as Sibelius files, but the reverse process is not as reliable. I tried various MusicXML importing and exporting scenarios to/from Dorico and Finale, and the results were quite inconsistent. Hopefully this will improve in time.
Interactions with magnetic glissandi lines and plug-ins
In Sibelius 8.6, plug-ins have very little access to the properties of magnetic glissandi lines, and they are unable to select these lines separate from their parent notes. While a plug-in cannot filter magnetic glissandi lines, the “notes with Slides” option of the Filter Other plug-in will filter notes that initiate magnetic glissandi lines. When such notes are selected you will be able to change the lines’ properties in the Inspector.
Most shipping plug-ins in Sibelius 8.6 and later have been changed to retain the Slide style, but downloadable plug-ins have likely not been updated as of the date of this release. Many plug-ins change notes by deleting a note and adding a new one, then restoring the original note properties, and if not updated, any magnetic glissandi lines will be turned into slides. You can change the Slide style in the Inspector later if this happens.
Line Between Notes, which is likely not going to be needed much, will still create only non-magnetic lines when you create glissando lines. Harp Gliss and Harp Gliss Playback will work if you select exactly two notes, but you will have to silence the magnetic glissandi lines manually in the Inspector.
The Replace Line Style plug-in will not work with magnetic glissandi lines (although the Inspector provides that function as described earlier).
Magnetic glissandi lines will be lost if you use the shipping plug-ins Retrograde or Retrograde Pitches, which have never supported slide, and still do not.
ManuScript adds a new read/write
SlideStyleId variable representing the Line style state of the note, allowing you to change the style of a magnetic gliss. line as you can do in the Inspector.
Other improvements and fixes in Sibelius 8.6
As mentioned earlier, work is being done to better support MusicXML. Changes in 8.6 in that regard include:
- Better support for small staves from MusicXML files
- Sibelius now imports page margin values correctly. Before, margins from odd pages were applied onto even pages, and vice versa
- Ties are now no longer missing in chords over barlines
- The direction of ties is respected (over or under)
- Sibelius 8.6 is now less prone to crashing or failing in some way when opening malformed MusicXML files
Avid says that Sibelius startup is improved by more than 10% in 8.6 compared to previous versions. Results may vary depending on your computer and operating system. On my late 2013 Mac Pro running macOS Sierra 10.12.5, the time from launch to the Quick Start window in Sibelius 8.5.1 was 13.6 seconds, and in Sibelius 8.6.0 it was 10.4 seconds — a noticeable improvement of more than 20%, so the claim is well-founded.
The bug which we reported on earlier, where the position of rests in parts with multiple voices was not retained upon opening files created in earlier versions, has been fixed. We’d still like to see a proper acknowledgment of the behavior of magnetic rests upon opening earlier files, but this is welcome news nevertheless.
A long-standing bug where Sibelius crashed when invoking Paste as Cue followed by Undo has been fixed. This one dated back to 2011 in Sibelius 7 and only ever occurred when pasting incorrectly across time signatures that differed from the source.
- Auto-saving works more reliably
- When sliding notes from one page to the next, your selection is now followed so it’s clearer to see what’s happening
- Annotating when the Inspector is open is smoother (this had regressed when the new Inspector was introduced in 8.5)
- The Inspector now resizes vertically when undocked, and the tab sequence is corrected (these had also regressed when the new Inspector was introduced in 8.5)
- Improvements to the licensing engine, which should result in fewer error messages
- A rare crash on Windows involving Sibelius and Pro Tools has been fixed
- The overall handling of audio devices on Windows is improved, whereby Sibelius initializes the audio engine even if minor errors come from the audio device driver
- On Mac, characters created with Shift-Option-<number> shortcuts are no longer doubled (a bug introduced in 8.5)
- On Mac, when editing text in the score, in File > Info, or in dialog boxes, Shift-Option-Left/Right Arrow no longer deletes text (a behavior introduced in 8.5 and symptoms of a bug in the Sierra OS)
- On Mac, Sibelius will no longer hang when attempting to play back to a disconnected audio device
- MP3 export works again on Mac OS 10.9 (Mavericks)
- Avid’s Application Manager has been updated to 17.5 and allows you to open Sibelius directly from the app, along with a few fixes
Installation and updating
The Sibelius 8.6 update is a good one, with the magnetic glissandi feature sure to be a boon to productivity and a welcome improvement to engraving capabilities. In many respects, it matches or outpaces what had long been achievable in Finale (attaching to notes across staves a noticeable exception). The bug fixes are overdue but welcome in any case.
If you have any Sibelius 8.x version, you should update to 8.6. If you own 7.5.1 or earlier, the introduction of magnetic glissandi lines in 8.6 along with engraving improvements in the other 8.x releases make this a worthwhile upgrade, too.
Many users had expected more frequent updates under the subscription model. This is an entirely reasonable expectation. At the same time, new features in a mature program like Sibelius must be done with care and planning. Hopefully Avid will, at the very least, not go so long the next time around to address bug fixes. A Sibelius 8.5.2 would have been helpful several months ago while waiting for the more robust 8.6 update.
Sibelius 8.6 will overwrite any 8.x version you have on your computer, but will leave other versions intact, unless you tell the installer to uninstall those versions. You also have the separate option of copying supporting files from Sibelius 7.5, if you’re upgrading from that version.
As mentioned earlier, Sibelius 8.6 uses a new file format. You can open any earlier Sibelius file in 8.6, but you will not be able to open files saved with 8.6 in earlier versions, unless you export them first, in File > Export > Previous Version.
If you have Sibelius 8.5 or earlier, you will be prompted to update to Sibelius 8.6 by the Application Manager. It’s free for most users of 8.x unless you bought a monthly subscription plan that has already expired.
Sibelius 8.6 will run on any 64-bit system running Windows 7 or later or Mac OS 10.9 or later. Various purchase options, including subscriptions, perpetual licenses, and upgrades are available from Avid’s online store and other resellers such as Amazon and Sweetwater.
Sibelius First has been updated to 8.6. Sibelius First now also has the ability to create magnetic gliss. lines, but the options to change their appearance are only available in Sibelius’s Inspector and not in Sibelius First.