Avid enters the AI fray with automatic chord symbol completion in Sibelius 2023.6

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Avid has released Sibelius 2023.6 for desktop and mobile. The only new feature in this release is a nascent automatic chord symbol completion model based on built-in AI technology and trained on several data sets of classical music. As you enter chord symbols, Sibelius will suggest the most likely chord based on the surrounding music.

Note that this feature only applies to the Ultimate and Artist tiers on the desktop, and not to Sibelius First, or to any version of Sibelius Mobile.

Other improvements in the Sibelius 2023.6 release are relatively modest.

Auto-completion

The first takeaway from the new auto-completion feature is that, about today’s release, Avid says, “We’re incredibly excited to announce the first in a number of planned AI powered data-driven workflows in Sibelius. We’re starting off with a great way to allow Sibelius to enter chord symbols based on the music in your score…”

From this statement, and the feature’s controls in Sibelius’s Preferences > Other, it’s reasonable to infer that chord symbols are merely one piece of a larger strategy to incorporate more AI-powered workflows into Sibelius in the future.

Notice the wide-open space where Auto-Complete appears, and that Chord symbol suggestions is just one part of it (albeit the only one for now). Avid could have chosen to put this feature in the Chord Symbols section just above it, but they didn’t.

Maybe we’re reading too much into that, but maybe not.

In any event, that’s where you turn on the feature.

Enabling auto-completion of chord symbols

When you install Sibelius 2023.6, auto-completion of chord symbols is turned off by default.

The first time you enter chord symbols (Text > Chord Symbols or Command/Ctrl-K, just as ever), you’ll be prompted to use auto-completion.

If you have no interest in this, check Don’t say this again, click No, and you can go on just as before.

But, assuming you’re curious about how the machines will take over, click Yes. This has the effect of checking the Chord symbol suggestions box in the aforementioned Preferences > Other.

In addition, you can optionally choose for Sibelius to show you how confident it is in its analysis, and moreover whether you would like to see a general range (“High”, “Medium”, and “Low”), or a more detailed percentage confidence report out of 100%. We’re nerds here on Scoring Notes, so of course we’re choosing the as percentage option.

Entering chord symbols

Entering chord symbols with the auto-complete feature is as simple as starting chord symbol input and, just as before, either pressing Space to advance to the next beat or note, or Tab to advance to the beginning of the next bar.

The only difference is that instead of Sibelius patiently waiting for you to enter a chord symbol, it does it for you. Here’s how it fared, in this real-time Space-bar pressing frenzy:

If I literally only had eight seconds to get a series of chord symbols on the page before the next downbeat, this would actually suffice. But let’s see if we can improve on this a bit.

Human in the loop

Avid says:

“You’re probably familiar with AI assisted auto-complete features in your daily life already, whether you see the next word while you write a text message on your phone, or see a possible completion to the sentence you’re writing in an email. These are often referred to as ‘Human in the loop’ workflows. However, the new workflow in Sibelius doesn’t just propose the most common completion for the current context, it suggests multiple plausible completions. This all enables you to be in control and make the artistic decisions, so we’re referring to this as ‘Creator in the loop’.”

Scoring Notes or Scoring News? Both are plausible, actually

Indeed, this implementation feels familiar if you compare it to technologies that many of us have quickly become accustomed to using.

When I exert a bit of control over the chord symbol input by manually deleting the repeated chord symbols, a more reasonable result emerges:

By removing the duplicated symbols, I produced a more readable and cleaner series of chord changes.

Notice how I paused for a moment over the F-sharp on the eighth note of the syllable “i” of the second bar, when Sibelius returned a Am7/C chord symbol with only 54% confidence. (This is where the range option of “High”, “Medium”, and “Low” would probably be a more helpful visual indicator to use.) No doubt it was thrown by the anticipatory F-sharp, where the melody moved an eighth note before the accompaniment, which didn’t change harmony until beat 3. Because the harmony didn’t change, I rightly opted to delete the chord symbol and keep moving on.

That brings us to the Bm7 in the third bar. Here, as shown by the four dots above the chord symbol, Sibelius thinks there could be four possible options here. I want to explore more, so I’ll press Command/Ctrl-K again to cycle through the options. (Note that this feels superficially similar to the existing feature of Equivalent Chord Text, but it’s actually quite different — here, Sibelius is returning options that are harmonically different from one another.)

Ultimately, I’ve decided that the E in the melody is an appoggiatura which resolves to the D chord tone in beat 4, so despite only being 62% confident, Sibelius was correct here. One for the robot!

The limited data set and the results

News about AI is all over the place this year. If you’ve heard anything about it, you may know that AI is only as good (or bad) as the data and algorithms that humans use to train it, leading to biases.

There’s no exception to that here, and Avid has readily acknowledged the limited data, and limitations of this first foray into the world of AI:

“The AI model driving this has been specially trained from several datasets of public domain music. These include music by Beethoven, Haydn, Bach and Mozart, with smaller sets with music by Reger, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. We’ve duly credited the authors of all the sources in the About box. As the model is limited to a specific set of corpora, vocabulary of chords, and annotations provided in each of the datasets, the model doesn’t know about every chord yet. For now, Sibelius won’t know about anything outside of these confines, so don’t expect it to know every chord. This is why we’ve added the confidence values, as shown above, to help guide and inform you to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the underlying data model. As you can likely appreciate, some musical contexts are ambiguous, and by referring to the confidence of the AI model’s suggestion, it’s possible to better understand why the model may, or may not, be suggesting the expected chord. We have plans to expand this in the future, of course, so watch this space!”

I don’t think I have ever seen a published Mozart or Tchaikovsky score with chord symbols, so you’re right to be puzzled why this type of music was chosen for the data set. Part of the reason is that Avid is only relying on music in the public domain. In the US at least, most music published in 1928 or later is still protected by copyright, which excludes large swathes of jazz and popular music, where you’re far more likely to want to use chord symbols.

The results that you see are also limited in this initial release. The chord symbols returned are drawn from the following possibilities:

  • major triad
  • minor triad
  • augmented triad
  • diminished triad
  • dominant seventh
  • major seventh
  • minor seventh
  • half-diminished seventh
  • fully diminished seventh
  • augmented sixth
  • augmented major seventh

This excludes lots of harmonies, like “sus” chords, “add2” or “add9” chords, minor/major seventh chords, “stacked” chords, and anything with a 9th or higher. Avid says “We expect to overcome these limitations in future releases.”

Not yet mentioned here, but worth noting, is that the AI model is installed with Sibelius 2023.6 and runs locally on your computer. It doesn’t require internet access, and it is not sending information to Avid in the process. This is means that your music stays on your computer, which is good for both privacy- and copyright-minded reasons.

Other apps

Sibelius is not alone when it comes to automatic chord symbol analysis. Most relevant to Scoring Notes readers is the feature, introduced in Dorico 4, that generates chord symbols from a selection of music — not to mention the complementary feature which arrived in Dorico 4.3 that went the other way, generating musical content from chord symbols. These features, while offering sophisticated options and controls, are not, strictly speaking, AI-powered.

Chord Symbols from Selection options in Dorico

In case you’re wondering: owing to the limitations of the 24-hour day and the very non-robot human need for sleep, no, I did not have time to compare Sibelius’s results with Dorico’s. You, loyal Scoring Notes reader, are of course very welcome to do so, and let us know all about it in the comments!

There are also programs and apps such as Moises, which are powered by AI and, in addition to being able to isolate vocals and instruments from a single audio file, can also return analyses of chord progressions.

The Chord Finder in Moises

Sibelius’s approach, though, is very Sibelius-like, and that is intended as a compliment. If you already use Sibelius, you barely have to learn anything new to take advantage of this feature, and if you don’t already use Sibelius, it’s no more difficult to use than entering human-powered chord symbols.

More to the story

Presently this feature is in a fairly rudimentary stage, owing mostly to the limited data set and the results that the AI is permitted to return. The utility of this auto-completed chord symbols in the longer term will depend on how much, and how well, the model expands in both areas, as well as what else Avid may have up their sleeves in the area of AI.

For now, if you’d like to learn about this at a deeper level, in addition to the general post about today’s release, Avid has published an interesting article by Joe Plazak and Néstor Nápoles López, describing in great detail some of the academic theory and technical aspects of this feature.

Other improvements and fixes

There are a few improvements and fixes in Sibelius 2023.6. My favorite is a long-awaited fix for a long-standing issue that affected the placement of slides that crossed a barline to a chord that contained backnotes. For other items as well as the official take on this release, consult the Avid post announcing this release.

Compatibility and availability

Sibelius 2023.6 uses the same file format as Sibelius 2023.5.1, so you can share files among collaborators using either version. File saved directly in 2023.6 will not be able to be opened in an earlier version of Sibelius prior to 2023.5 without first exporting them in File > Export > Previous Version. If you’re collaborating with someone else that’s using a previous version, be sure to find out what version they’re using.

The Sibelius 2023.6 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 2023.6 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. As previously mentioned in this article, the auto-completion feature only applies to the Ultimate and Artist tiers on the desktop, and is not available on Sibelius Mobile for iOS/iPad.

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.

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.

Comments

  1. Derek Williams

    Thanks for this detailed updaste blog, which I’ll check out asap. Chords in Sibelius have always been a PITA for me, ever since they dumped the pop-up menu with common chord symbols.

    Meanwhile, I downloaded Sibelius 2023.6 and it opens ok on my MacBook Pro running Ventura, but it is dead in the water on my old Mac Pro 2012.5 running High Sierra 10.13.6, despite being listed as a compatible macOS and device.

    Anyone else had problems opening this?

    1. Martin Bosmart

      Same here. I wrote to Avid’s technical support. Waiting for a response.

      1. Derek Williams

        Reply from Avid:

        Hi Derek,

        Thank you for contacting Sibelius Technical Support. This is Angelo and I will be handling your case.

        Sibelius 2023.6 introduces new features that use a local AI model to perform harmonic analysis on your music to provide chord symbol suggestions. This new innovation relies on a third party component, ONYX, that only runs on macOS 10.15 and later.

        If you’re running Sibelius on an older version of macOS (10.14 or earlier), you are recommended to either update your version of macOS to 10.15 or later, or to remain on Sibelius 2023.5.1, which you can download from here:

        https://cdn.avid.com/Sibelius/Sibelius/2023.5.1/2YMUZ7FE/Sibelius_2023.5.1_Mac.dmg

        The Sibelius team are investigating the issue and we will update this Knowledgebase article with news. To be kept up to date, you are recommended to subscribe to this article.

        I hope this is clear.

        Best regards,

        Angelo
        Avid Customer Care

        1. Martin Bosmart

          I guess that’s the end of Sibelius road for the Mac Pros 2010-2012.

          1. Derek Williams

            Perhaps they’ll release a version without AI for users of legacy hardware, and progressively orphan us, but for now, let’s wait and see what their solution is as Justin says below.

            Meanwhile, I’m not keen on buying new hardware that doesn’t offer features and performance anywhere near commensurate with the price. To replace just the Mac rig I currently own with equivalent hardware will cost me at least £25,000 – simply to replace my existing setup that already does everything I need; moreover, £25k doesn’t even buy me top-of-the-line.

    2. Justin Tokke

      We’re aware of the issues on older versions of MacOS. We’re looking into a solution ASAP. More news as we have it.

      1. Derek Williams

        Thank you, Justin. I have discovered that files saved under 2023.6 are opening for me on 2023.5. In responses to the tech support ticket raised above, I have been told that’s expected behaviour for versions close to each other in number. I still hope this can be resolved though.

    3. Ben

      A new Mac Mini Pro will only set you back a few grand, and can trounce most 2019 Mac Pros for CPU. Granted, if you’re doing high-end animation as well, you might need something else; or if you have internal PCI cards that can’t be replaced with external boxes.

      1. Derek Williams

        Thanks, Ben. I have considered this, however this would involve a complete rebuild of my studio, which uses PCIe cards in the Mac Pro slots. I suppose the day has to come, but I’d like it to be a personal choice!
        Meanwhile, a lifeline has been thrown:
        https://avid.secure.force.com/pkb/articles/en_US/Knowledge/Unable-to-run-Sibelius-2023-6-on-older-versions-of-macOS
        This links to a special version that allows AI to run on legacy Macs, but 2023.6 is now the last version that will run on High Sierra 10.13.6.

  2. HCE

    Good stuff. Noticed on MacOS ‘zoom out’ by holding opt with zoom tool not working here. thanks

  3. HCE

    Also the brilliant export graphics as SVG feature, renders standard text in italics for some reason

    1. HCE

      …sorry my mistake – was just MacOS preview doing that. Working fine

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