Sibelius 2020.3 released with laissez vibrer ties, other fixes


Today Avid released Sibelius 2020.3, the latest update to Sibelius. Building heavily on January’s 2020.1 update, which was a relatively major release in terms of new features and improvements, the 2020.3 update addresses fixes and improvements in the focus areas of that update, such as ties, house styles, accessibility, and automatic staff spacing.

Properly supported open (“laissez vibrer”) ties appear in Sibelius for the first time, with a full range of options controllable via the Inspector, and a number of other issues have been addressed in many aspects of the software, making this update a solid release as the first quarter of 2020 comes to a close.

Separately, we provide information Avid’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak as it pertains to making temporary licenses available for institutional users who must work from home. See the end of this post for further information.

Open (laissez vibrer) ties

Elaine Gould, in Behind Bars, in her music notation reference Behind Bars, describes an open tie as on that “is used to show that a note is sustained beyond its written duration. This is also indicated laissez vibrer.”

Further on, Gould expounds upon the meaning of laissez vibrer a bit more:

This is an instruction not to damp an instrument that has natural sustaining resonance. The instruction applies to sounds that are sustained naturally by an instrument, not held manually, and which are not to be damped until indicated (if at all) … The initial note is best written as a single note-value, as this is easiest to read; l.v. is written after the note. This may be accompanied by an open tie, although l.v. or a tie alone is sufficient.

Achieving a proper open tie in Sibelius has always been a challenge. Simply adding a regular tie to the end of the note may seem easy, but it can be unsightly:


Unsightly open ties in previous versions of Sibelius
Much nicer-looking L.V. ties in Sibelius 2020.3

Not to mention, if your tie went to the end of a system, you’d have vestigial ties appearing on the start of the next system. Furthermore, you might have playback problems if the tie prevents your program from sending a MIDI note-off message.

We covered this conundrum on Scoring Notes way back in 2015, where we recommended Bob Zawalich’s plug-in Add LV Symbols to Notes as the best solution in Sibelius at the time, which makes use of the l.v. symbols that come included in Sibelius, but totally automates what would be a time-consuming process of applying them individually.

In Sibelius 2020.1, the developers introduced ties into notes, and in my interview with Sam Butler at the NAMM 2020 show, he hinted that open ties were coming next. “Now that we’ve done ties into notes,” Sam said, “I’m sure we’ll be able to do a little tie on the other side — a little l.v. [laissez vibrer]… Because we’ve done all this tie work, we can now do more ties. So they’ve moved away from being hard and down towards the easier area. It is something we know exactly how to do now, because Sibelius is much more aware of the notation, thanks to the work we did with multi-edit workflows.”

With the Sibelius 2020.3 update, creating open ties is made easy. You simply add a regular tie to a note, or select previously-entered ones, open the Inspector, and check the L.V. box.

You can optionally define a keyboard shortcut to this and bypass the need to open the Inspector; you’ll find the option in Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Other > Toggle L.V. tie.

If you’re accustomed to working in Dorico, it’s a similar process, except that in Sibelius, you must first add a regular tie, whereas that’s not needed in Dorico:

Back to Sibelius now — the results are quite good and will respect the tie settings in Appearance > House Styles > Engraving Rules. There is a brand new setting in Ties 1 > Tie Styles where you can set the default L.V. tie endpoint to be a certain number of spaces after the notes.

You’ll also need to make sure that your setting in Ties 1 > Tie position rule is set to Optical ties. This won’t be a problem for all but the particularly old scores which were created with an earlier setting.

What’s more, all of these settings — including the tie shoulder, middle, left and right X values, and Y values — can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis in the Inspector, or you can simply drag any L.V. tie with the mouse or adjust it with keyboard shortcuts, just as you’ve always done with ordinary ties.

It is possible to make L.V. ties that are dashed or dotted, should you care to do so, building on the native implementation of that feature in 2020.1, by simply making a selection in the Inspector.

A keyboard toggle has been added to cycle through Solid, Dashed, and Dotted ties (whether they are ordinary ties, ties into notes, or L.V. ties). That shortcut is Alt+Enter (the Enter key on the numeric keypad, not Return), making a trip to the Inspector unnecessary unless fine adjustments are needed.

One note about playback: L.V. ties don’t have any playback effect. Furthermore, the “LV” and “L.V.” entries in the Play > Interpretation > Playback Dictionary are gone in Sibelius 2020.3. This is a good move because those entries were often the source of mysterious held notes. Instead, you’ll need to manually use the Live duration field in the Playback area of the Inspector to adjust any notes that you wish to extend for longer than their notated duration (keeping in mind that this field is measured in ticks, which are equivalent to 1/256th of a quarter note).

Finally — and this is important — in order to support the new L.V. tie feature, the Sibelius file format has been updated for 2020.3, and any files saved in this version will not be able to be opened in earlier Sibelius versions without first being exported via File > Export. When doing so, Sibelius will replace the L.V. ties with small non-magnetic slurs that approximate the look of the ties.

This is an overdue but welcome feature, and while you still may wish to keep Bob’s venerable plug-in around, you should find that the new L.V. tie abilities in Sibelius 2020.3 fit the bill for most any situation that requires this type of notation.

Other fixes and improvements

Quite a few other items are in the Sibelius 2020.3 release.


The automatic staff spacing feature introduced in Sibelius 2020.1 known as Auto-Optimize sees a few refinements in the latest release:

  • Reset Position for system text now triggers Auto-Optimize
  • Remove all articulations (pressing 0 on the 4th Keypad layout) now triggers Auto-Optimize
  • Auto-Optimize is now triggered correctly when moving a note down between one system to another
  • Adding highlights no longer trigger Auto-Optimize
  • The space between systems is now properly auto-optimized after deleting a clef
  • The left and right Staff Rulers now display correct values once again
  • The logic for handling clef changes has been improved: If you move a clef, only the bars that the clef moved over will be auto-optimized. If you add a clef without having made any selection, then Sibelius will only auto-optimize the bars up until the next clef change (or until the end of the score if there’s no other clef change)

Cautionary accidentals

There is a new option in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Accidentals and Dots > Cautionary Accidentals. The option Respace score after updating Cautionary Accidental rules is on by default, but it can now be disabled to prevent you from losing any manual note spacing you’d made in the score.

The rest

  • In his post on the official Avid blog, senior principal product manager Sam Butler details the remainder of the updates, in the areas of:
  • Fixes for the new House Styles and Manuscript Papers introduced in Sibelius 2020.1
  • Accessibility
  • ManuScript support for Auto-Optimize and L.V. ties
  • MusicXML
  • Add Brass Fingering plug-in options for horn (did you know that there was a Horn people Facebook Group with 17,000 members?)
  • Bug fixes and stability issues


The Sibelius 2020.3 update is free for all Sibelius users with active subscriptions and upgrade plans. The updated installers are available through users’ Avid accounts and through Avid Link. Be aware that this version, as with the 2020.1 release before it, is only supported on macOS 10.12 and higher and on Windows 10.

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 licenses for qualified customers affected by COVID-19

Beginning March 16, 2020 and continuing at least through Friday, April 17, Avid is providing temporary 90-day licenses of its creative tools, free of charge, to qualified media enterprise and educational customers, including Media Composer Ultimate, Pro Tools, Pro Tools Ultimate and Sibelius Ultimate.

Qualified customers include users who must work remotely because their facility has been closed as well as any student of an institution who uses our products and can no longer attend school and/or access school facilities.

This does not pertain to users with an individual license, but rather specifically users who ordinarily access Avid products at work or school through an institutional license. Companies and schools need to make the request on behalf of their employees or students.

To read the full instructions about how to obtain a temporary license, please see this document.


  1. Laurent Levesque

    Again Philip, thanks for your great details about this update !

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Laurent!

  2. Quetzal Marchiori

    Did they fix the quicklook problem on Mac? I really need this one.

    Sibelius Ultimate, Mac OS 14.6

  3. Richard Hubbard

    I’ve tried entering a normal tie and going to he Inspector, but the LV box is always greyed out…

  4. Eduardo Diez

    Hey Philip,

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m having some issues with the toggle L.V. tie you described. When I go to the inspector the L.V. checkbox is grayed out, so clicking on it doesn’t do anything. I also tried the command search, but no luck either!

    Any ideas?


    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Eduardo,

      The “Optical ties” setting must be selected in Engraving Rules > Ties 1 > Tie position rule in order for L.V. ties to be available.

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