Sibelius comes to Android and Chromebook

News

Avid today released Sibelius for mobile on Android and Chromebook. Announced in January of this year and previewed at The NAMM 2024 Show, among other places, the Android and Chromebook version of Sibelius has been available to beta testers to try out for several months.

As is the case with Sibelius for desktop (Mac and PC) and for iOS and iPadOS, Sibelius for mobile on Android and Chromebook is free to download. You can obtain it from the Google Play store and install it on your device. From there, you can work with the limited Sibelius First tier to view and play back any Sibelius file, and create scores with up to four staves. The mid-tier Sibelius Artist ($99 annual subscription) allows for creation of scores up to 16 staves and some more notation features, while the top-tier Sibelius Ultimate ($199 annual subscription) permits creating scores of any size, and unlocks the full complement of features available on Sibelius for mobile.

Subscribers to a Sibelius tier have access to the same tier across any device, desktop or mobile, as do perpetual license-holders of a Sibelius tier with an active update and support plan.

A now-familiar experience on a new platform

Sibelius on Android works much the same as it already does on iOS and iPadOS. You move the score by dragging the paper, and zoom in and out with the pinch gesture. The padlock icon in the upper right-hand corner toggles Review Mode — with it on, you’re locked out of from making accidental changes while navigating.

To select an object in the score, tap it with your finger. To deselect, simply tap on an empty space in your score. To make a lasso selection, tap, hold, and drag. To select a whole bar, tap the middle of it once and double tap to select the whole system. Triple tap to select the whole instrument within the score.

 

Touch gestures are supported for note input: First, select where you would like to enter the note in the score by tapping. Then drag up and down on the Keypad to choose the pitch. The input caret line moves onto the next beat, ready for you to enter the next note. When entering a note, slide left to add a flat or slide right to add a sharp.

If you have a stylus, its compatibility with Sibelius on Android will depend on what features the stylus supports. Avid says the following about stylus support:

  • Touch only – these mimic the same interactions you’re able to do with your finger or a mouse pointer. You’ll be able to swipe left, right, up, and down when entering and editing notes on the Keypad, but pressure sensitivity and tilt won’t work.
  • Pressure sensitivity only – these devices will support tapping and dragging objects as well as features that are triggered when gently leaning into the screen with your stylus to enter note input. These don’t always support the tilt gesture.
  • Tilt capabilities – it’s likely these styluses will support pressure sensitivity too, so while you’re in note input, tilt up to change a note’s accidental, and tilt left and right to change the note duration.

Sibelius for mobile has a Create menu that’s different than the one on the desktop app, but the experience is consistent among the iOS, iPadOS, and the new Android version. It’s where you create clefs, key signatures, lines, and more.

A long journey

Sibelius on a mobile device — the iPad — first appeared in July 2021. Its development was shrouded in secrecy, and, with the unexpected drama of an iPad version of Dorico released just 24 hours earlier, made quite a splash during the usual summer doldrums. Although Sibelius and Dorico were hardly the first notation applications to appear on iPad, their entries into the mobile market with remarkably full-featured versions of their powerful desktop products marked a new era for those wishing to create music notation away from the traditional computing setup while retaining the ability to use the same file format and basic workflow of their favorite software.

Where Sibelius’s approach diverged from Dorico was its take on the mobile environment and the reimagining of the user interface. Although Dorico had to make some adjustments to bring its software to iPad (the building out of palettes to supplement popovers, for instance, which then made its way back to the desktop), Dorico on iPad looks and operates very similarly to its desktop counterpart — for instance the large iPad canvas can accommodate a great many buttons and controls, working much the same way you’d expect they do on the computer.

Sibelius, by contrast, took a very different path, stripping away the Ribbon and nearly all on-screen controls, along with the hierarchy of features one would see on the desktop in favor of just a handful of touch-enabled menus such as a Create menu. The Keypad was still present, but it could be minimized into a floating button for the first time (a feature that was eventually ported back to the desktop), and Command Search, the method of finding and executing Sibelius actions, became essential to run more advanced features that weren’t otherwise accessible via traditional dialogs or menus. Sibelius on iPad introduced new touch and pencil gestures, especially important when working without a connected keyboard or mouse — usually the case when you’re on the go.

The products also diverged in the way customers could access the apps. Dorico for iPad is a separate subscription or purchase from the desktop app; Sibelius allows existing subscribers to its desktop product access to the same premium version of the mobile app to which they are already subscribed.

This strategy — with respect to both the app and access to it — is what enabled Sibelius to roll out an iPhone version in October 2021 on the heels of the iPad release. Because the user interface was already minimalist, it was able to fit on a small screen, and the same Sibelius subscription that entitled you on desktop and iPad unlocked the iPhone version as well.

With Sibelius running on iPad and iPhone, it wasn’t too difficult — conceptually — to imagine it on Android. Very soon after of the iPad release, users began asking about it. It’s another thing, however, to go from developing for Apple’s “walled garden” of software and relatively limited hardware offerings to the literally tens of thousands of different products running Android OS, made by many different manufacturers. So while it took just three months to go from iPad to iPhone, it took nearly three years to get to Android.

The impact here, then, is very different: Sibelius on Android looks much the same as it does on iPad and iPhone, not unlike other cross-platform apps, and the surprise of the iPad launch is replaced with a very public pre-release process this time around. The “wow” factor, instead, is the technical achievement that led to a viable Android offering, along with the ongoing investment in support that Avid will need to make in order to keep Sibelius running in the huge, diverse Android ecosystem. No doubt this was the reason for the extensive open beta testing period; unless a boatload of devices was going to overwhelm Sibelius’s offices, Avid needed beta testers to report back using as many different products and versions of Android as possible.

Supported devices and operating systems

To that last point, here’s what Avid has said Sibelius will run on:

  • Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks
  • Android 10 and later
  • Arm 64-bit
  • Intel x86-64 bit

Here is what is currently not supported:

  • Android 9 and earlier
  • Arm 32-bit
  • Intel x86 (32-bit)

Further: Avid says, “Be sure to look up your exact model, as we’ve found some devices may be called the same but have different (and sometimes incompatible) components.”

Availability

Sibelius for mobile on Android and Chromebook is available now on the Google Play Store. It is free to download; from there, you can work with the limited Sibelius First tier to view and play back any Sibelius file, and create scores with up to four staves. The mid-tier Sibelius Artist ($99 annual subscription) allows for creation of scores up to 16 staves and some more notation features, while the top-tier Sibelius Ultimate ($199 annual subscription) permits creating scores of any size, and unlocks the full complement of features available on Sibelius for mobile.

Subscribers to a Sibelius tier have access to the same tier across any device, desktop or mobile, as do perpetual license-holders of a Sibelius tier with an active update and support plan.

One note for users who may have subscribed to Sibelius on iOS via an in-app purchase via the iOS App Store, instead of directly from Avid and wish to use premium features on Android too: Avid recommends that you end your subscription on iOS to avoid being charged twice, and instead subscribe to Sibelius via avid.com/sibelius. This will give you access to the same tier of Sibelius across all devices, including the Mac and Windows desktop apps.

Closing thoughts

When I spoke with Sam Butler, Avid’s director of product management, at The NAMM 2024 Show earlier this year, he said this about the development of the Android version of Sibelius: “This is really exciting. It’s been a multi-year project to get Sibelius running on all devices that we could mainly conceive of. And that means iOS and Android. We released our iOS app in July, 2021. That’s had great success. It’s really key in education, though, for people to be able to bring their own devices. Ideally we would have had this before the pandemic, and then everybody would be able to take any device home and carry on. But we’re really there now. It’s going to be key to allow a school to have a trolley of Chromebooks or iPads or whatever; we don’t want the technology to get in the way. You just want to write music and here’s Sibelius — go for it. So now people have got a choice.”

The education market — not to mention expanded access to the product more generally — is important to Sibelius’s long-term viability, especially with a crowded space and a variety of options, both paid and free, available to today’s music notation user.

Are you using Sibelius on Android or Chromebook? Let us know in the comments.

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, along with a post announcing this release.

Comments

  1. Bill

    The email from Avid called this v2024.5. Does that mean there’s an update to the desktop version as well?

  2. Justin Tokke

    Not this time. There will be a new desktop version soon.

  3. Timothy Land

    Is NotePerformer v4.x available with these Sibelius offerings for iOS and Android? A related question is whether there are any quality VST libraries available for these platforms that can be integrated with Sibelius for playback (e.g, similar to the Iconica Sketch Orchestral sound library supported by Dorico on iPad)?

    1. Jorge Grundman

      At the moment, NotePerformer is not available outside of Windows or Mac. But it’s one thing to write music and another to play the music you are writing. I agree with you that the day that NotePerformer or another AI or Graphical MIDI Tools comes along with these developments to all operating systems will be a big step.

      But in my humble opinion, and talking about Sibelius, a previous step is that Sibelius plugins can also be used on portable devices.

      1. Justin Tokke

        Indeed, plugins are a big thing we want to deliver for the mobile versions. All in good time.

  4. Wendolien Krul

    The android app is something I’ve been waiting for for quite some time. I really hope I’ll be able to use it during commutes to rehearsals.
    However, I tried the app for about an hour, but I cannot seem to open any Sibelius file on which I was working on desktop (PC). So at the moment, the app is totally useless to me.
    And another thing which bugs (pun intended) me, is that I cannot review the app in the Google Play Store. So at the moment, I will not give it another look, until a next update.

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