A “Lightning Sibelius” tour of Europe


My YouTube tutorial series, Lightning Sibelius, is dedicated to helping you maximize the potential of Sibelius. Recently, I took the “Lightning” approach on tour in Europe. Before we embark on this journey, let’s take a moment to explain what the “Lightning Sibelius” tutorial series is all about, why it’s named “Lightning,” and the significance of the 80% you see in the photo below.

As orchestrators and copyists, time is a constant factor in our work. We often find ourselves in a perpetual race against the clock, whether it’s meeting deadlines for client orders or engaging in the creative processes of composition, arrangement, or orchestration. The significance of time in our work is underscored by a thought-provoking Scoring Notes podcast episode featuring Tim Davies, hosted by NYC Music Service. I highly recommend listening to this insightful discussion, where Tim shares a perspective that resonates with my own thoughts.

One key realization in working with any software, whether it’s Sibelius or another platform, is the importance of understanding its underlying logic. This comprehension empowers us to seamlessly integrate our personal workflow into the software, unlocking its maximum potential. As a result, we minimize the time spent on technical issues, allowing us to concentrate solely on the artistic aspects of our work.

This is precisely where the ‘Lightning’ mentality comes into play.

Three years ago, I embarked on a journey to share my personal experiences, methods, and workflow tricks with audiences worldwide. The series garnered significant attention, accompanied by positive feedback from numerous users. With each passing day, my subscriber base continues to grow, and I have exciting topics and videos in the pipeline.

If we delve into why a user needs to adopt the “Lightning” approach, one might question whether it’s possible to work at a slower pace. The answer, of course, is yes. However, adopting the “Lightning” mentality can be likened to playing a musical instrument. Take, for example, a pianist who is well aware that lifting their fingers too much from the keyboard results in a cumulative loss of time and energy, potentially leading to not just technical issues but a significant array of artistic problems.

Indeed, on the Scoring Notes podcast, David MacDonald has often said that learning notation software is like learning to play the piano. Just like no one is born knowing how to play the piano, no one is born knowing how to use notation software. Although some aspects of each can be discovered, to achieve top proficiency, each must be studied and practiced.

In a similar vein, we can apply this principle to the use of the Sibelius (or any other) notation software. The goal is to achieve the maximum output with the minimum required effort and movement. Essentially, we are adopting a method of software usage with a super easy learning curve for users of all kinds. This approach not only optimizes the efficiency of the software, but also trains our brains and muscles to collaborate seamlessly. As a result, a task that might typically take 8 hours can be accomplished in less than half that time: around 3 hours. You might think, “Oh, you’re exaggerating,” but let’s break it down with a simple mathematical calculation.

One of the crucial elements in an engraved score is the inclusion of expression text. In Sibelius, adding them involves three simple steps: Ctrl (Cmd)+E; typing the expression text (e.g., p, pp, mp, mf, etc.), and then hitting Esc. This entire process, when executed at a normal working speed, takes a mere 2 seconds. Now, consider a scenario in a large orchestral project where numerous dynamic texts need to be entered — let’s say 1,000 dynamics. Through a simple mathematical calculation: 1,000 dynamics x 2 sec. = 2,000 seconds. When converted to minutes (2000/60), it amounts to more than 33 minutes!

This example emphasizes that the process of incorporating various dynamics not only consumes a significant amount of time but also induces user fatigue during prolonged hours at the computer. This situation is just one of numerous instances where substantial working time, energy, and concentration can be conserved.

The solution is simple: transition to a “Lightning” approach to working with a single keystroke, taking less than a second. All modern notation software, include Sibelius, empowers users to streamline their workflow and achieve heightened efficiency.

Furthermore, this approach is not exclusively dependent on the native tools provided by the software itself. With this in mind, I’m providing a link to Notation Express, a powerful time-saving tool for the Stream Deck, made by Elgato and sold separately. It simplifies the lives of Sibelius and Dorico users, allowing you to manage dynamics and more with just one step. This tool stands out as one of my most frequently utilized gadgets on my work desk.

In my YouTube tutorial series, I discuss another way for how to implement the solution mentioned above and explore other incredibly time-saving tips and tricks. This also explains the 80% figure you just saw above.


Now that we have understood the entire story behind the “Lightning” approach, let’s delve into my Europe Masterclass Tour. I work as a copyist for one of the greatest jazz artists in all of Europe, Riccardo del Fra. He is also the director of the Jazz Department at the prestigious music conservatory CNSMDP (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris).

Recently, I had the privilege of being invited by Riccardo to the CNSMDP for a two-day, intense Lightning Sibelius masterclass on October 20 and 21, 2023, totaling 12 hours of vigorous brainstorming. It was an incredible experience! The level of questions from the students was fantastic. The more I discussed the Lightning philosophy and its usage, the more they posed interesting questions, and the Lightning method continued to evolve right there in the classroom.

While relishing those moments, I received a delightful invitation from Vytautas Magnus University – Kaunas/Lithuania. They expressed keen interest in my ‘Lightning’ approach for their students, particularly for beginners using the Sibelius notation software. Recognizing this as a fantastic real-time opportunity to showcase the method’s true power, I promptly traveled to Lithuania, specifically to Kaunas.  The masterclass spanned 4 hours on October 27, 2023, and the outcomes were remarkable.

And finally, I received another invitation for my “Lightning Sibelius” masterclass from the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Italy, located in Rome. The seminar involved a profound exchange of ideas among users of all skill levels on November 9, 2023. Although the seminar was conducted in Italian, the underlying concept remained consistent. I felt an additional sense of pride for yet another reason, as Ennio Morricone, one of my most favorite composers, graduated from this very conservatory. The seminar was streamed online in real-time, and the participation exceeded 50 individuals in total.

I hope you’ve found this philosophy intriguing. Please don’t hesitate to make a comment below or direct message me if you have any questions or if anything isn’t clear. Exciting developments are on the horizon for the “Lightning Sibelius” tutorial series, including a wealth of new time-saving tips and videos in the pipeline. A tour in Turkey is currently in the works, and in 2024, an Italian tour is on the horizon, alongside numerous webinars. Stay tuned!

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