Ever wonder why some objects in Sibelius are colored dark blue when you select them, and others are colored light blue — and other objects may be colored green, orange, pink, purple or even red?
These colors won’t print, of course; they’re merely intended to help you differentiate among certain items. Knowing the color code could help you as you work with your music.
It’s really quite simple:
|Voice or object
|More than one voice
Here’s where it can get a little trickier, but understanding the logic makes it easy:
- Each note can be assigned to one and only one voice, so notes will appear in one of the first four colors when selected. This is also the case with magnetic (note-attached) slurs and the articulations and accidentals that one would ordinarily apply with the Keypad.
- Certain staff-attached objects, such as Expression and Technique text, chord symbols, lyrics, glissando and octave lines, and many symbols like breath marks and mordents can be assigned to a single voice, so you may see them appear in one of the first four colors. However, these items can also be assigned to more than one voice at once. If that’s the case, then these items will appear light blue when selected.
- Other staff-attached objects, like clef changes and instrument changes, always appear light blue when selected, because these items always apply to all voices.
- System objects, such as Tempo and Title text, tempo and ending lines, barlines, time signatures and (usually) key signatures appear purple when selected, to signify that they apply to the entire score, and will typically appear in all the parts. (I said “usually” for key signatures because it is possible to apply a key signature change to one staff only, in which case it will appear light blue, of course – but that’s another article!)
Keep in mind that when it comes to passage selections, a similar logic applies: staff selections are in light blue; system selections are in purple.
If you’ve entered a note or staff-attached object in one voice, but you’d like to change it to another voice, just select the object and then click the voice number in the Keypad, or go to Note Input > Voices > Voice. To do this even faster, use the shortcuts Alt+1/2/3/4 on PC or Option-1/2/3/4 on Mac.
To make text, lines, or symbols apply to all voices, simply select the item(s) and type Alt+5 (PC) or Option-5 (Mac), or click the All button on the Keypad. Note that if you need an object to appear in combination of voices (e.g., voices 1 and 3 only, but not 2 and 4), you must click the buttons on the Keypad with the mouse rather than use the shortcuts.
Assigning objects to certain voices may not seem like a big deal. However, during playback, depending on the instrument, Sibelius will interpret the dynamics on a per-voice basis – but only if they’re assigned correctly. Further, filtering voices by using Home > Filters will return different results depending on how items are assigned.
For example, observe how Sibelius filters voice 2 in this example:
In measure 1, the dynamics are assigned to all voices, so they get included in the filter. In measure 2, the dynamics are assigned only to voice 1, so they are excluded from the filter:
Red-colored objects can signify a potential problem in your score:
- If you have Magnetic Layout switched on, which it is by default (under Layout > Magnetic Layout), and View > Magnetic Layout > Collisions checked, Sibelius will color objects causing collisions (or nearly so) red, whether or not those items are selected. You should attempt to resolve those collisions by moving things around or by optimizing staff spacing.
- Certain slurs may also be colored red when selected. These are uncommon but occasionally useful non-magnetic slurs that can be placed when nothing is selected in your score.
- Notes that are too high or low for a particular instrument’s range will be colored bright red if they are outside of what Sibelius defines as the instrument’s “professional” range; notes that are within this range but deemed “uncomfortable” are colored dark red. These ranges can be modified by editing the instrument in Home > Instruments > Edit Instruments.
- If you type in a chord symbol that Sibelius doesn’t recognize, it will be colored red.
Remember, all of this colorful goodness won’t print; it’s only there to help you decode the many different objects in your score. Should you actually wish to let out your inner Scriabin, you can apply colors to items in your score by going to Home > Color. Also, Bob Zawalich has written many useful plug-ins that work with color, all of which may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 or later at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Color. Users may also install these manually in Sibelius 6 by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.
Customize your color scheme
If all that weren’t enough, as of the Sibelius 2020.6 update, you’re able to customize these colors however you wish. Head over to Preferences > Accessibility where you’ll find a new Color Preset section, and be sure to read all about the possibilities in this Scoring Notes post on the subject.