Change symbols to articulations with Sibelius plug-in


When applying articulations in Sibelius, the vast majority of the time the articulation will be one of the three most common: accent, staccato, or tenuto. Fortunately, these articulations appear on the first Keypad layout for all to see:


It’s easy enough to tell that those articulations correspond to the top row of your numeric keypad, and you apply them in that manner. Articulations in Sibelius are incredibly convenient: they are automatically positioned; they shift positions to allow room for new ones and remain in the correct order; remain outside the staff and/or flip to the note side if defined that way in Appearance > Engraving Rules; and affect playback.

As a music copyist who often works with other users’ files, I notice that just about every Sibelius user has no problem with these three most common articulations. Yet I’m often surprised that many people don’t seem to realize that there are a lot more articulations that Sibelius offers — they’re just tucked away on the fourth keypad layout, which you can get to by hitting the + key on your keypad several times, or by pressing F10.


Indeed, the Sibelius reference even says that “you may not be familiar with the following articulation marks:”

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Let’s face it, most people are quite familiar with these marks, thank you very much. What I find, though, is that many users aren’t aware that they can be placed as articulations, with all the benefits and privileges appertaining thereto, so to speak.

Instead, many people use Notations > Symbols to place these marks. They may look similar at first glance, but symbols are not nearly as intelligent, shall we say, as articulations. Often I’ll get a file with a whole lot of up-bows, down-bows and fermatas placed as symbols. Other than the ability to place a bowing mark mid-bar (which you can’t do with an articulation), there’s little benefit to placing articulations as symbols.

Until recently, if I wanted to fix this in a file I was working in, I had to grin and bear it and change all of the markings individually by deleting the symbol and applying the articulation.

Fortunately, as he does so often, Bob Zawalich created a plug-in to automate this tedious task. Replace Articulation Symbols will replace articulations entered as symbols from the Articulations row of the  Symbols dialog with the corresponding articulation for any such symbols whose position matches that or a note. It also replaces jazz scoops and falls.

It saves me loads of time when working with such a file, and although it’s been available since January of this year, I’m sorry I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it until now.

Replace Articulation Symbols may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 and higher at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Engravers’ Tools. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6 or higher by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.

Incidentally, a similar plug-in which has been around for quite some time is Replace Arpeggio Lines, which looks for “old-style” pre-Sibelius 6 arpeggio lines and replaces them with a new note-attached arpeggio attached to the nearest following note or chord. This one’s found directly through Sibelius 7 and higher at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Lines. You can probably bet that a file with symbol-style articulations has arpeggio lines that need to be cleaned up in this manner as well.


  1. Peter

    Philip, I’m using Sibelius 7.0. Is El Capitan compatible with it yet? I also use an Epson XP-410 printer. I’m thinking about upgrading, but I’m always hesitant when a new upgrade comes out.

    1. Caleb

      I’ve been using Sibelius 7 on El Capitan for a while, since right around when it came out. No problems at all.

  2. betsy blakeslee

    Is there a quick way to add diacriticals to lyrics? EG Ž ž

    1. Richard Walsh

      Yes, there is a pull down menu that you can access while your lyric cursor is blinking, at the same time, press the “control” key (on a mac).

      1. betsy blakeslee

        Thanks for the reply. When I’m tying lyrics, I see a blinking cursor, but not a pull-down menu. How do I make it appear?

        1. Robin Walker

          During lyric entry, right-click, or Ctrl-click.

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