Adding headers for multi-movement works in Sibelius [updated]


Update: As of Sibelius 2022.5, the workaround described below is no longer necessary; the preferred method instead is to use the Repeat until next section end option in Text > Edit Text Styles > Repeat.

For songbooks, musical theater pieces, certain multi-movement works and other projects with multiple sections, it’s often helpful to have these contained in one file to minimize the effort expended in maintaining multiple files. Within each of these works, it’s customary to display the song or section title as a header on the top of each page, per song or section.

This is not as easy as it may first seem in Sibelius. To apply a header, you would typically select the first bar of the section, then add your header by going to Text > Styles and selecting the header of your choice. The header appears at the top of the page (unless you’ve changed the settings in the text style).

The problem is that Sibelius will display that header forevermore until the very last page of the file. There is no way to specify a page range or bar number range for a header — only the starting bar.

Let’s say we are using the Header text style as is included in a default Sibelius document. The header for the first section looks fine:

The second one, not so much:

And by the time we’ve applied the third header, we’ve got a mess:

You may think that switching on Erase background in Edit Text Styles > Header > Border > Shape will solve the problem:

But no such luck:

However, you’re on the right track — switching on Erase background is important, but a few more steps are needed.

You’ll need to make use of Sibelius’s sophisticated ability to set the drawing order of objects — the way one does in a graphics program. You can set up to 32 separate positions in the drawing order, in Appearance > Order. Simply sending an object to the front or back of the order is fine enough for most circumstances, but here we need to be more specific.

It’s important to know that a smaller number means a lesser priority in the order (back), and a larger number means a greater priority (front). Thus, 1 is the lowest and 32 is the highest.

This means that generally the order number of each header should correspond to its sequence in your file. Thus, set your first header to 1:

Your second header to 2:

Your third header to 3:

And so on. But, as you can readily see, there’s still a problem. Erase background only extends as far as the text will go.

The final step, then, is to choose Use fixed-text size frame — this is set in Edit Text Styles > Header > Border > Default Frame Size. You might experiment with settings that work for your house style, but for this example I’ve set the width at 100 mm and the height at 4 mm. It’s a good idea to select Vertical alignment > Center to make certain that bits of text don’t peek out from the top or bottom of the frame.

Finally, select your headers and choose Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Position to have any existing headers inherit these new settings (headers created afterwards will possess these settings upon creation).

What if you have more than 32 sections? That’s beyond the scope of this post! Until or unless Sibelius incorporates this feature in a more straightforward fashion (say, by setting the bar number range of a header), there are some clever workarounds offered over at this thread on the Sibelius chat forum, which is where the inspiration for this post originated.

One final bit of advice: If you ever need to determine to which bar a header is assigned, simply click on it and look in the status bar. In this case, I’ve selected the third header. It’s attached to the 191st bar in the piece, to which I’ve applied a bar number change, so it appears as 1 in the score. That’s why the status bar reads Bar 1 (191).


  1. Douwe Eisenga

    Nice one !! Thank you !!

  2. Rex Thomas

    Good to know!!

  3. Bob Zawalich

    Thanks for writing this up so clearly. It would be great if Sibelius actually supported multiple headers, but this is the first mechanism I have seen that actually works well.

    I note that if you were using Sibelius 6 or earlier you have to do things differently, but it can still be done. I wrote up how to do that in the post on the Sibelius tech-support page that you link to.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Bob, thanks for that additional info!

  4. David Ocker

    Thanks very much. This appears just when I need it.

  5. sam

    how add mordent # in sibelius??

  6. Mark Arnest

    Very helpful – thanks!

  7. Phil Shaw

    Excellent summary. For me the problem is the limit of 32. My multi-section works are music theater pieces with more than 32 numbers. It seems like it would be very easy for Sibelius to provide this capability by simply specifying that each Header overrides all preceding headers, as is done in all word processors (that I know of). A more elaborate enhancement would then be to provide a facility for generating a TOC for multi-section works, listing the page number of each Header (or Title). I think these would be very localized enhancement that wouldn’t require much knowledge of the rest of the product.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Phil, for bringing this up. I hope that some such solution is implemented in the future.

    2. Kerwin

      Not an easy in app solution to the multi-section score “book” problem (combining many numbers into one book with a TOC), but there are a handful of utilities out there (incl. a couple of free ones) that will take a directory of PDFs and put them into book form with a TOC. I tend to lay my books together with InDesign (Adobe), but that solution is a bit more time consuming and far from an in-app solution. This can produce very clean results, but the lack of automation can make it tedious when creating books for all the individual player parts.

  8. Glen

    Thank you, for the most part this works fine. But the first page of my second movement uses the Subtitle text style, and needs to go in front of those running headers, which seems to be impossible- changing the stacking order has no effect and the running headers are in front. Spending my time wrestling with software instead of composing music…

    1. Glen

      One solution to the problem I described might be to export the PDFs and move the text objects in Acrobat after the fact. I already do that with the bass clef in part names, since they sit very low. Tedious as that is with score and many parts, it’s still probably faster than trying to have Sibelius be all things when it clearly does not have this simple capability.

  9. Philip Rothman

    For anyone following this post, there is finally a better way of doing this in Sibelius, starting with Sibelius 2022.5.

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