Hide bar numbers for a region in Sibelius using the tilde


Sibelius offers quite a few options for numbering bars, which are found at Appearance > House Style > Engraving Rules > Bar Numbers. If you don’t want bar numbers to appear anywhere in your score, you can select the No bar numbers option.


This, however, affects your entire score; in fact, if you select this option, you’ll notice that most of the other options in this dialog become greyed out and unable to be selected. (After all, if you don’t need bar numbers, you don’t need options to control them.)

But what if you wish to have bar numbers for certain regions of your score but not for others? You might correctly think to go to the Bar Numbering Change at Text > Numbering. Although Sibelius makes it easy to add a new region of bar numbers by choosing New bar number, and it does provide an option to have no bar number for one bar at a time, by selecting No bar number (and don’t count bar), it doesn’t offer a method to hide an entire region of bar numbers.

The solution, then, was deftly provided by expert user Laurence Payne in a recent post on the chat forum. It involved a clever use of the humble tilde or “twiddle” (~) character, which is ordinarily used to hide MIDI controller messages.

A brief diversion and explanation: You may know that any text written after a tilde is automatically hidden by Sibelius and won’t print. This allows you to program control messages such as ~C10,0 to set the pan of a channel to absolute left. Certain plug-ins like Harmonics Playback (found in Play > Plug-ins) or Harp Gliss use note-on and note-off MIDI messages preceded by a tilde to play notes that don’t actually appear in the score.

But the tilde is not exclusively reserved for MIDI messages. You can use them to fine-tune tempo marks. Try placing the tempo Largo in the score. This text is pre-defined in Play > Interpretation > Playback Dictionary to play back at quarter note = 50.


But if you want the tempo to be just a hair faster without seeming outwardly fussy about it, you could type Largo ~q=51 and Sibelius will respect that new tempo. Players will still see “Largo” but you’ll hear Sibelius play it back as you wish.


Oh yes, we were talking about bar numbers, weren’t we?!

It turns out you can use the tilde in a bar number change and it will work the same way. Obviously bar numbers don’t have any playback effect, but any bar number preceded by a tilde will be hidden.

So, just select the bar at which you wish to begin a region with no bar numbers. Then, go to Text > Numbering > Bar Number Change to create a bar number change.

You can select either New bar number or Follow previous bar numbers depending on how you wish to keep track of the bars for yourself. In either case, check Add text and type the tilde (~) character, ensuring that before bar numbers is selected from the drop-down menu.


Click OK, and you’ll see that in your score, all bar numbers have been hidden from the point at which you placed the bar number change.


If you wish to show bar numbers again at a later point in your score, simply apply another bar number change in the manner above, but don’t display the tilde before the bar numbers.

Thanks, Laurence, for this ingenious solution!


  1. Melinda Yin

    Not sure where I would use this myself, but truly admire the elegance of this approach!

  2. Derek Williams

    Love it!

  3. Patrick

    Perfect! I was just trying to figure out how to do this because I have a piece that alternates between metered and free/unmetered sections, and I don’t want bar numbers in the free sections.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *