Create attacca on the bottom staff in Sibelius


Elaine Gould, on pages 486-487 of her music notation reference Behind Bars, defines “attacca” as a marking which “indicates that the next movement follows on immediately, without a pause. This marking can be applied to both a new movement that runs continuously (but where this may not be apparent to all performers) and, also, at a final double barline when there would otherwise be a definite musical break between movements.”

The attacca notation is placed at the end of the first movement, as Gould says, “below the stave or system if room, otherwise above.”

From page 487 of Behind Bars

Let’s say you’re working in Sibelius and would like to honor her preference to place the attacca below the system. Sibelius doesn’t exactly make it obvious or easy to do so, but it is possible. Here’s how.

Create the text style

You’ll first want to create the text style for your attacca marking. In Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles, choose another system text style such as Plain system text or Tempo, and click New Text Style… to create your new text style based on this existing style, and click Yes when prompted to do so.

Rename the style Attacca. By default, Based on will show “Plain text”, but if you would like to inherit the properties of another style such as the “Tempo” style, choose it here, and adjust the font to your liking. In this example, I’ve matched Gould’s non-bold, italic style.

Click the Horizontal posn tab. Click Align to note, and Right.

We’ll come back here later, but for now, click OK to exit the dialog.

Place the attacca in your score

Let’s get the attacca marking in the score. Select in the score where you’d like to place the attacca (most likely, the last note of the last bar of a movement), and, in Text > Styles, choose your newly-created Attacca style from the gallery. You can search to find it, to make your life easier.

Type in “attacca” and position it at the end of the bar. You’ll find that it’s likely showing on the top staff and perhaps other system object positions as well, which is not what we ultimately want.

Change the System Object Position of the text styles

Let’s go back to Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles and choose the Attacca style.

Click the Vertical posn tab, and, in Multiple system object positions, uncheck everything except for Bottom staff.

Click OK. Curiously, you may find that your attacca marking has totally disappeared from the score.

If that happens, go to Appearance > System Object Positions, and deselect Below bottom staff — yes, this is not obvious. Click OK.

Nothing will have appeared to have happened, so go right back to this same dialog again. You’ll find that Below bottom staff has been re-enabled. Click OK again. You should now find that the attacca is displayed on the bottom staff of your score.

I can’t think of a surefire reason why this works the way it does; it may be a Sibelius glitch, or, it may be Sibelius’s way of preventing users from displaying tempo marks and other system objects on the bottom staff — which is usually undesired — even if this option is selected.

Indeed, you’ll probably find that you now have your tempo marks and other system objects like rehearsal marks showing on the bottom staff:

Presuming this is not desired, go once again to Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles, and, for each of the text styles that are in your score that may be affected (such as Tempo, Metronome mark, Rehearsal marks, etc.), click Edit… and go to the Vertical posn tab, and, in Multiple system object positions, uncheck Bottom staff.

Repeat that process for every affected text style, and Click OK once you’re done. This should make everything display correctly in your score.

Make the adjustment in the parts

If you switch over to one of the parts, you may find that the attacca marking is not displaying. You’ll need to do the same two-step in Appearance > System Object Positions, that you previously did in the score. Deselect Below bottom staff; Click OK.

Go right back to this same dialog again to find that Below bottom staff has been re-enabled; Click OK again. You should now find that the attacca is displayed on the bottom staff of your part.

You’ll need to do this for every part. If you have a large score with many parts, it will be easier to export your house style for the part in which you’ve already made the previous adjustment, and then import it back into all of your other parts, presuming that the house style for all of your parts is otherwise identical.

To do this, while viewing the part, go to Appearance > House Style > Export. Give your house style a suitable name. Then, in Parts > Layout > Part Appearance, choose All Parts.

In the Multiple Part Appearance dialog, click the House Style tab, and click Import House Style….

Choose the newly created style that you’ve exported from the previous step, and click OK.


There’s one other thing to keep in mind: If you have a multirest at the end of a movement, the attacca will break the multirest, which is undesired.

The workaround where I can reliably get this to display correctly is to hide the attacca in the part and then place another attacca marking at the first bar of the last multirest. This alternative marking will need to be hidden the score and all other parts where it would not apply…

…and only shown in the part(s) where it coincides with the beginning of the multirest. Depending upon your music, this could mean requiring several such attacca marks placed in your score.

Final thoughts

Of course, you can use this method to place other system text that needs to be displayed below the bottom staff at the end of a movement. I used it recently on a collection of short pieces where the composer wished to show the completion date of each piece.

This is definitely one of those items that could use some streamlining to make it easier for the average user, but with a little patience, you can achieve satisfactory results.


  1. Wolfram

    Thank you so much, Philip! Your blog ever is and will be a real treasure trove!
    Don’t you know Bob Zawalich personally? Perhaps he can create a plugin based on this guide (or you yourself).
    Take care!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Wolfram! Bob is indeed a genius, but this is something I think would benefit from Sibelius supporting natively, instead of via a plug-in.

      1. Bob Zawalich

        And there are a bunch of things here that plugins can’t do, such as creating new text styles, and I suspect that the multirest breaking fix would be tricky to implement. I always check whether a plugin could implement Philip’s amazing and intricate workarounds, but I don’t really see a way to do this one.

        As Philip says, it would be better is there were native support for something like this, but it could be a very long time before one would see such a feature, so his procedure here may be a good way to accomplish this.

  2. Waldbaer

    I just found this and I’d need this very often, actually. The implementation is as ridiculous as it can be, though, seems more like a bug than a feature… my compliments for figuring this out, but even with your step by step (and the same step again, lol) guide it’s so much work I ask myself if that’s really worth it. Maybe I’ll add it to my template for future arrangements… ;-)

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