Avid has released Sibelius 2023.5 for desktop and mobile. In this release, it is possible for the first time in Sibelius to hide individual notes that appear within the same chord in a single voice. Previously, hiding notes in a chord had been an “all or nothing” option.
While hiding a note within a chord may seem like a minor change, in order to preserve accurate notation, when a note is hidden Sibelius needs to execute a number of knock-on adjustments with respect to accidentals, dots, ties, stem direction, note spacing and more.
The end-goal here is to make it possible to create voiced dynamic parts; in other words, two separate parts derived from a single source staff in the score, by selectively hiding notes and other objects as needed.
The new hiding feature is the marquee feature in Sibelius 2023.5, but the release includes other improvements; most notable among them is the ability to export one’s keyboard shortcuts and view them as an HTML document.
Let’s pause for a moment to recall what happened yesterday in Sibelius when you selected a note in a chord, and hid it, using Home > Edit > Hide or Show, or the shortcut Command/Ctrl-Shift-H:
Selecting just a single note would hide the entire chord. Not only that, but all of the chord’s accidentals, ties, and articulations got hidden, too.
Now, in Sibelius 2023.5, hiding that single note has this effect:
As you hide more notes, you’ll see more adjustments:
Removing the hidden items from view, along with a quick re-space, shows the full effect:
Implications for parts
Hiding notes in a score is nice, but when used only in the score it’s not immediately evident why this ability would be broadly useful.
But when you realize that you can hide notes this way in a part without affecting the score — or another part that uses the same staff as a source — then it’s a new ballgame.
If you ever wanted to keep your score and parts in one file, but have a “condensed” score with two players on one staff in the score, but separate each player into its own part, you would have either needed to make complicated use of Show in Part and Hide Empty Staves, like here…
…or, in newer Sibelius versions, use the Focus on Staves feature, introduced in 2020.9 to hide the part staves in the score, like this:
In either instance, creation of additional staves in the file was necessary.
In Sibelius 2023.5, however, you may wish to become accustomed to a new way of working: Making two parts derived from a single staff in the score, and then using the new hiding abilities to selectively hide the player that doesn’t play in that particular part.
Let’s see how this might work in practice.
The old way
Here, I’ve deliberately selected an example from the beginning of Quinn Mason’s Inspiration!, a festive overture for orchestra, which has horn parts that both use multiple voices (bars 2-5) and a single voice with multiple notes (from bar 6 onwards).
In the past, I would have created separate staves for each horn part, and broken them out, for the parts only, like this:
The formatted part looked like this:
The new way
I have created two parts based on the same staff, in Parts > Parts & Score Subsets > New. For this example, I’ve differentiated them from the earlier parts by appending “(new)” to the part name. As you can see here, the selection in the score is the same as that in both parts:
Now for the bold leap: Making a selection and using the Player 2 filter (formerly called Player 2 (for deletion), but now just Player 2), I’ll hide everything selected by the filter:
Other than that quick re-position of the dynamic, everything is exactly as expected.
To make the Horn 2 part, I simply filter Player 1 and hide, in a similar manner.
The score remains unchanged.
The fine print
There’s lots going on here, and this one example didn’t nearly cover all of the possibilities and ramifications.
In this new paradigm, when Sibelius hides all the music in a bar, it will replace it with a bar rest. Previously, the bar would just appear empty. Importantly, Sibelius intelligently considers this an empty bar in a part, and, when appropriate, will automatically consolidate it and any adjacent empty bars into a multirest, as you’ll see here:
But, in order to preserve the appearance of existing files where this behavior didn’t occur, there is a new option in Engraving Rules > Bar Rests > Multirests. It’s called Use bar rests and multirests when all notes and rests in a bar are hidden, and it’s off when you open an existing file, but on for new scores.
Something else to be aware of: Sibelius now ignores hidden notes when note spacing is applied, by default:
This is controlled in Preferences > Note Input > Editing, with an option called Respace includes hidden notes and rests, which is off by default in Sibelius 2023.5.
So, if you like to force the width of a bar by adding hidden notes and rests, check this box, and Sibelius will behave as in previous versions. This preference only applies to instances when Sibelius automatically triggers a respace on the user’s behalf, such as when adding new notes.
Then, if that weren’t enough, you have a new option to Reset All Note Spacing, a new command available via Command Search which will space hidden notes and rests contained within a passage selection, even if the above Preference setting is unchecked. Oh, the possibilities!
Finally, there is a new option in Appearance > House Styles > Engraving Rules > Accidentals and Dots, called Allow hidden notes to update accidentals. Enable this when you’d like the note and accidental to be hidden but then subsequent notes to play back with the chromatic inflection without displaying the accidental. This is disabled by default.
Where to go from here
There is no doubt that the ability to create individually voiced dynamic parts is a huge leap forward for Sibelius, and a terrific achievement for the team to have brought Sibelius this far, especially considering all of the constraints inherent with software that, as of this month, is remarkably entering its fourth decade of existence (yes, the very first version of Sibelius was released April 1993 — was there a 30th birthday cake?).
I didn’t even mention many of the other items that Sibelius deals with in the course of making this new feature work, such as the appearance of augmentation dots, Magnetic Layout, accidental re-ordering, and more, that are all handled appropriately so that the feature is practical.
And yet, as I have said many times in the course of Sibelius’s more rapid release cycle, the first iteration of a new feature is rarely the final say on the matter, and I hope that’s the case here. Creating parts in this way is a major improvement, but it’s still a manual process that will be best done in small batches, part by part. Things like cues, markings like “1.”, “2.”, and “a2” must be treated with care. And — a must — if you apply expressions and other items that will be filtered later, these must be assigned to the correct voice, whether they be voice 1, voice 2, or all voices, a.k.a. “voice 5”, as appropriate.
It also needs to be mentioned that this process is a one-way street, at least for now, meaning that the business of hiding items would really only practically occur during the part-making process. If you change most things in your score, you’ll need to go to the part to see that the appropriate item has been correctly hidden. Moving or transposing notes should cause the hidden state to persist, but for everything else, you’ll need to round-trip into the parts to finish the job.
In time, the natural hope is that this process gets automated to the point where none of that is necessary, and you’ll magically see the music from one staff split into separate parts, as is done with Finale, or the music taken from separate staves and automatically condensed, like in Dorico. Those programs are far from perfect in their respective methods, though, and they each come with their own sets of caveats and workarounds. So perhaps Sibelius’s approach is sensible: one step at a time, giving us usable tools that may be rough around the edges at first, but become more refined with time, to the point where it’s hard to imagine the way it was done before.
Exporting keyboard shortcuts
If you have your keyboard shortcuts customized to the hilt, or endeavor to do so, this next item will be a nice surprise: It’s now possible to export a list of your shortcuts in a nicely formatted HTML that is saved to your computer.
In Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts, you’ll see a new Export Shortcut List button, along with options to group by category and sort by shortcut or feature:
The result is a clean-looking HTML document that shows the Sibelius version, the name of the feature set, and the date on which it was exported:
Before, there was really no practical way of knowing what all of your shortcuts were, other than navigating among each item in the list, and taking note of each one.
If you use a custom keyboard shortcut profile, this makes it much easier to literally see what’s at your fingertips. If you use Notation Express, the custom Stream Deck and Stream Deck XL profiles for Sibelius that we sell over at Notation Central, you can easily use this new feature to see all of the shortcuts in the Notation Express profile.
On our wish list for the future: A way to see unused shortcuts would complement this feature nicely.
Support for a new (old) music font: Lelandia
If you look carefully at the examples in this review, you might have noticed a music font that you’ve never seen before in Sibelius — but you may recognize it, nonetheless.
It’s called Lelandia, and it’s available now from Notation Central. It’s been migrated from Leland, which is the default music font used in newer versions of MuseScore. Leland is inspired by the look of the SCORE engraving program, created by Leland Smith.
Support for Lelandia is built-in beginning with Sibelius 2023.5, you should see Lelandia Std as an option in Preferences > Music Fonts, like so:
We’ll have much more to say about Lelandia in the next Scoring Notes post, so keep your eyes peeled! In the meantime, you can download Lelandia from Notation Central now (donations gratefully accepted) and begin working with it. There’s even a nice simple Sibelius file included with the Lelandia fonts which is tuned to make the most of it, from which you can export a house style and import into your other documents.
Other improvements and fixes
There are some more improvements and fixes in Sibelius 2023.5. Among them are improvements to dynamic guitar staves, the feature first added in 2022.7 and updated since, new example scores, and more. For other items as well as the official take on this release, consult the Avid post announcing this release.
Compatibility, conclusions, and availability
A note about compatibility: Sibelius 2023.5 changes the file format yet again, which means that files saved directly in 2023.5 will not be able to be opened in an earlier version of Sibelius without first exporting them in File > Export > Previous Version. There was also a file format change for 2023.2, 2022.12, and 2022.7, so if you’re collaborating with someone else that’s using a previous version, be sure to find out what version they’re using. (Yes, for all of you rocking Mac OS 8.6, it is still possible to export to Sibelius 2; no guarantee those hidden notes will work properly, though.)
If you never work with larger scores that have “condensed” staves with more than one player on a staff, or don’t ever work with parts at all, this update will do little to excite you or change how you work.
But for those of us in the business of creating scores and parts for orchestras and other larger ensembles, it is a game changer. Having been accustomed to the Show in Parts / Hide Empty Staves method of working for so long, in the way my good friend John Hinchey documented in 2012, getting accustomed to the Focus on Staves method was a shift for me, but one I quickly embraced in 2020.
This new method is another shift, and it’s one I expect to embrace with more and more scores. The challenge will be adapting the workflow so that all of the edge cases are accounted for, but that’s nothing new. In time, I hope for more automation in this area, but even so, as you saw from the examples here, as it stands now it will be a time saver.
The Sibelius 2023.5 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 2023.5 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.
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.