Four types of selection in Sibelius

Three of the four types of selection: multiple, passage, and system passage

A couple of days ago, I wrote that one of the axioms of efficient use of Sibelius is: “Copy, don’t reinput.” With that in mind, I thought it was worth reinforcing one of the corollaries of that axiom, concerning the four types of selection in Sibelius.

Those four types are as follows: single selection, where only one object (e.g. a note, or a bit of text) is selected; multiple selection, where more than one object is selected, and they appear highlighted in the score in their voice or selection colour; passage selection, where a continuous range of music and other objects attached to one or more staves is selected, and surrounded by a light blue box; and system passage selection, where a continuous range of music and other objects across all staves in the system is selected, and surrounded by a double purple box.

To make the best use of the different types of selection, remember the following simple rule:

Multiple selections merge, passage selections overwrite, and system passage selections insert.

Expanding on this a little:

  • When you paste a multiple selection, it will be merged with whatever is already there, overwriting notes in the same voice but otherwise doing its best to fit in to the existing material at its destination. This means multiple selections are very good, for example, for pasting objects like dynamics onto existing music, or to paste music in one voice into an existing passage using another.
  • When you paste a passage selection, the destination music is completely overwritten. This is the normal kind of copy and paste operation you will do. Just remember that a regular passage selection, even one that spans all staves, won’t include system-attached objects like time signatures, key signatures, rehearsal marks, Tempo text, and the like.
  • When you paste a system passage selection, new bars are inserted at the point you pasted. This kind of copy and paste operation is most useful for inserting whole chunks of music, and naturally a system passage selection will include system objects like time signatures, key signatures and so on that are not included when copying a regular passage selection.

If you remember this simple rule and apply it well, you will cut hours off your score preparation time, by making efficient use of the copy and paste methods that Sibelius provides.


  1. Bob Zawalich

    Thanks for this, Daniel!

    I want to point out that when you use filters, they will produce a multiple selection. Thus, if you want to merge some notes into some existing notes (of a different voice), filtering the notes first is a good way to set them up for the merge.

    As you mention, even this type of selection will overwrite notes in the same voice, but it is great for adding notes in a different voice.

  2. Peter Roos, San Francisco

    To add to this, be precise in what you select, whether it is an individual note, a passage or a system. That can be a little confusing for people who are new to Sibelius. To select a system you click inside the measure without hitting a note; to do so, you may have to enlarge the view somewhat.

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