Adjust grace note stem lengths with Sibelius plug-in


Grace notes in music are fiendishly difficult to define. Slashed or unslashed? How many beams or flags? How fast to play them? Before or on the beat? Slurred or unslurred?

If you came here seeking uh, graceful answers to all of those questions, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Today we’re focused only on the narrow case of the appearance of the single slashed grace note (the acciaccatura), and more specifically, the length of its stem in Sibelius.

Let’s consult Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars, where we find some guidance on the matter: “Ensure that a grace note on ledger lines has a sufficiently long stem for the diagonal stroke not to obscure a ledger line.”

So, how does Sibelius do by default?


In fact, the results as a whole are generally unappealing:

Default grace notes in Sibelius

To be fair, of the four major desktop notation platforms, only Dorico gets this part correct without further intervention required:

Default grace notes in Dorico
Default grace notes in Finale
Default grace notes in Musescore

Fortunately, as we’ve been often been accustomed to, Bob Zawalich comes to the rescue here, this time with a huge assist from engraver Matthew Maslanka. The tool to rectify this situation in Sibelius is a plug-in called, appropriately, Adjust Grace Note Stem Lengths. You’ll find it available to download within Sibelius in File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Engravers’ Tools.

Simply make a selection and run the plug-in. You’ll get a message showing you how many grace notes were adjusted:

When you click OK, your grace notes will look a lot better.

Grace notes in Sibelius after running the plug-in

There are options to adjust slashed, unslashed, or all grace notes, and different settings for the Opus, Helsinki, and Norfolk music fonts. I usually use Norfolk and am much happier after I run Adjust Grace Note Stem Lengths:

Default grace notes in Sibelius using the Norfolk font
Grace notes in Sibelius using the Norfolk font after running the Adjust Grace Note Stem Lengths plug-in

Until, or unless, these results are achieved automatically in Sibelius, I hope you’ll find some grace using this plug-in. Thanks, Bob and Matthew!


  1. Mats

    In Sibelius 6 I get a message that I will need Neil Sands “Stem Direction” to run the Plug-in. I can´t find that plug-in anywhere.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    The plugin has been updated, and the plugin StemDirectionSib6 (category Notes and Rests) has been published. If you install the updated plugin and StemDirectionSib6, the plugin should work in Sib 6.

    1. Mats

      Superb Bob! Thank you.

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