Grace notes at the end of a bar in Sibelius

Tips

Update: Bob Zawalich has created a plug-in called Create Trailing Pseudo-Grace Notes to automate the process described in this post.

It is not unusual to encounter grace notes at the end of a bar — that is, before the barline — in certain editions of music, like in the pickup to the first bar of the Toreador Song from Bizet’s opera Carmen:

 

Entering this variety of grace note in Sibelius is a chore, to say the very least. Don’t take my word for it; the Avid Knowledge Base article on the subject begins with: “It is difficult to insert a grace-note if it is not followed by a note or rest. The problem here is that grace-notes attach to the following note/rest, so if the grace-note is, for example, at the very end of a system, then there’s nothing for it to attach to.”

The “official” workaround given here is to put the grace-note before the final note/rest in the bar and edit the X parameter in the Inspector, which is somewhat at odds with the solution given in the Reference documentation, which says to “enter a note in the next bar and create the grace note(s) before this note” before editing the X parameter in the Inspector. In either case you must only use the Inspector, and not the mouse or arrow keys, to move the grace note thereafter, “or the grace note may reattach to a different note.”

Blecch. There are other workarounds, such as one that places the grace notes in another voice, but each of them have their own caveats and limitations.

Create grace notes at the end of a bar using tuplets

In thinking about this “ungraceful” problem I’ve uncovered yet another approach which involves using tuplets to place the grace notes at the end of the bar. It is indeed another workaround, but I’ve found it to be useful (albeit with its own caveats).

Ready to learn more? Allons! En garde!

(Oh yes, doing this in other software is much easier, I know. I’ll cover that at the end of this post.)

Let’s look at our example again.

Determine how many grace notes are needed, and their duration

Be warned: some simple math is involved here. Let’s first determine the number of grace notes needed and call it “G”. Here, I need 6 grace notes, so G=6.

I also need to know the “duration” of each grace note. Here, they are 32nd notes. This comes in handy in the next step!

Figure out a “tuplet” using the preceding note and the grace notes

OK — I’m working with 32nd notes. I want to know how many of the grace note duration are in the duration of the preceding note. In this case the preceding note is a quarter note, which equals 8 32nd notes. Let’s call this “M”, so M=8.

Add “M” to “G”. This becomes “N”, which is 14 in this example. We will want to create a N:M tuplet in the next step.

Create a N:M tuplet

Let’s create a N:M tuplet using these values — a 14:8 tuplet, using 32nd notes. In other words, 14 32nd notes in the space of 8.

This is done easily enough by entering a 32nd note or rest and going to Note Input > Note Input > Triplets > Other and creating a 14:8 tuplet.

(You could also use the plug-in Create N by M Tuplet.)

Once you’re confident in this approach you can select None and No bracket, but I’ll display these items for the time being to illustrate what’s happening.

Enter the notes and tidy up

Now, enter in all of the notes as if they were all regular notes, not grace notes.

Make the “grace notes” cue-size notes by going to the second Keypad layout and choosing the cue note toggle.

Add any other articulations or markings, and, if necessary, flip any items (shortcut: X). Hide the tuplet by selecting it and going to Home > Edit > Hide or Show > Hide or Show (shortcut: Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+H), or you can set the tuplet to not display at all by going to the Inspector (shortcut: Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I) and in the Tuplet section select None and No bracket. L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!

Benefits to this approach

This is actually a true representation of what happens musically. By playing grace notes, you take away value from the preceding note. The tuplet is a mathematically correct way of showing the relationship of the notes.

For this reason, the music should generally space correctly, both in a single part and in relation to other instruments. Playback should also be reasonably accurate.

There is no need to fiddle with custom positions in the Inspector or use another voice.

Here are a couple of other examples which worked well. For reference, you can see the hidden tuplet:

Drawbacks to this approach

These are not “real” grace notes, so you can’t filter for them in Home > Filters > Grace Notes.

In Appearance > Engraving Rules > Notes and Tremolos, you have to set the values for Grace note size and Cue note size to be the same percentage, or at least reasonably close to each other.

Slashed single notes are not possible with this method, unless you manually fake it by placing a line or symbol.

I haven’t extensively tried every possible combination of tuplet ratios, so there may be some situations where it doesn’t work as well. In addition, if your music is spaced unconventionally, you may get unsatisfactory results.

Other software

As mentioned earlier, this is easier in other software.

In Finale, first enter the grace notes as regular notes in Speedy Entry and disable, at least temporarily, Jump to Next Measure and Check for Extra Notes in the Speedy menu. Then convert the regular notes to grace notes using the usual semicolon (;) shortcut.

In Dorico, select the grace notes whose position relative to barlines you want to change. You can do this in Write mode and Engrave mode. Then, in the Properties panel, activate Grace note before barline in the Grace Notes group.

Have you gracefully applied this notation in your scores? Or do you have another approach that works well? Let us know!

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Comments

  1. Enrique Sanchez-Muñoz

    Brilliant explanation. Thank you for the education.

  2. Peter Roos

    That’s clever … thanks for sharing.

  3. Lu

    I have a question: from the standpoint of performance, that is, of how it actually would sound, would there be a difference between what is written and placing the grace notes in the next measure before the first note? Theoretically, should it sound different? I guess I will try writing them both ways to see what Sibelius will do. But if a musician performed it either of those ways, would he or she actually play them any differently?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Lu, it is often the case that the finishing notes of a trill or tremolo are written as grace notes and placed before the barline. Sometimes it is done so in other examples or editions, as well, so that the first beat is not pushed too far from the barline. But the performance is the same. More info, Gould, p. 127.

      1. Lu

        Thanks. I thought so. In which case this is really a matter of preferring to write the hard way in Sibelius or the easy way. ;-)

  4. Bernie Cossentino

    Philip,

    I will see your G, N and M…and raise you an A+ !
    This is pretty neat. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks!

  5. Alex

    Thank you, it works. How about this example?
    https://sun9-12.userapi.com/c847122/v847122249/1d5f21/O2mYX5aVBBI.jpg

    Can we use this method with tuplets in this case, or will you recommend another method?

    1. Philip Rothman

      In your example, you will have to use a combination of tuplets and hidden rests. There are multiple voices so you’ll have to place the “grace notes” in a second voice.

      1. Alex

        Thank you! Strange, I didn’t receive E-mail notification about your answer (I checked only option “Notify me of follow-up comments by email”). And I’m glad, that I did exactly, how you described this (before I saw your comment just now). I tried three ways:
        1) Cue size notes, using tuplet method from this article;
        2) Same as above, but using French ties (I’m not sure I call it correctly in English);
        3) Grace notes (Appoggiatura from the Keypad). I made it in the next bar, and then manually moved it with the mouse to the desired bar. I like the method with tuplets from this article more.

        Here is a screenshot of my versions:
        https://sun9-52.userapi.com/c857524/v857524079/9ef5b/TfjTUHnV_ng.jpg

        P.S. I’d like to read about French ties in Sibelius. Never seen materials about it. I’m not sure I’m doing them right using my way.

  6. Derek Williams

    Handy tip, thanks Philip, so long as it is a tuplet ratio that Sibelius can handle!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Derek. That’s where the Create N by M tuplet plug-in can come in handy, for tuplet ratios that fall outside of Sibelius’s limits.

  7. Jeremy Borum

    I have never tried it this way, only with the X-value offsets, but I’m about to. Many thanks for the new workaround.

  8. Tom Smekens

    I’m pleased to say that this is natively supported in MuseScore. For all variants (acciaccatura, 8th, 16th, etc) there are two types available in the palette: before the note and after the note. It suffices to select these latter ones and apply them to the last note in a given bar. On the other hand, I’ve found that clef changes between the grace note and its anchor are not natively supported…

  9. Bob Zawalich

    Sibelius has an undocumented mechanism that allows grace notes to be attached to the end of a bar (effectively at the right-end barline), rather than to a note. There are some limitations and issues with this, but it really works better for most purposes than any other supported mechanism. This has been available since at least Sibelius 6.2.

    Start by entering a set of grace notes as normal to the *left* of the final note in a bar. ***Using your mouse***,
    drag the rightmost grace note to the right past its main note, until the status bar reports the beat position as “end of bar”. This indicates that the grace note is now attached to the end of the bar, and not to a note.

    Drag each of the remaining grace note right, being careful not to change the pitch. Drag each note just to the left of the previously dragged note, and the dragged notes should beam together. Don’t worry if they are jumbled together, just ensure they are still in the same relative left-to-right order.

    When you are done, use Appearance>Reset Notes>Reset Note Spacing, and you should find all the notes placed where you want then, and they will not change position if you reset note spacing again.

    This is really great for positioning, but I have found 2 problems with this mechanism:

    1. Playback. The grace notes will not play back unless there is a note immediately following the end of the bar. The grace notes will take their playback time out of that note.

    You might be able to hide the new main note or put it in another voice, but there will be no way to have the grace notes play unless there is a note to give up some time. You may have to add notes in a hidden staff, or hidden notes in a different voice to get playback to work. You may also want to reduce the played duration of the note that the grace notes were originally attached to by adjusting their Live Playback start position and duration data.

    2. Moving the notes. You need to actually change the attachment point of the grace notes, not just the horizontal offset from the original attachment point, so you cannot use the arrow keys or the X position in the Inspector to get the notes to attach to the end of the bar. Also you can’t copy and paste a set of grace notes to the end of a bar (though you can correctly paste a set of notes in front of a note). The only consistently successful way I have found to attach grace notes to the end of a bar is to mouse-drag them one at a time.

    This is really not all that hard, though, and certainly no harder than moving the notes with the arrow keys or Inspector, and unlike those mechanisms, the notes attached to the end of a bar are not moved back to the left of a note by Reset Note Position.

    And they are still grace notes, and are the proper size.

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