Input many different time signatures easily with plug-in


Time signatures are easy enough to create in Sibelius, but if you find yourself entering music with constantly alternating meter, even the relatively quick work of pressing T and selecting your desired time signature can get tedious.

If you know what your meter changes are in advance, you’ll want Andrew Moschou‘s handy plug-in Insert Bars with Different Time Signatures. You can insert many consecutive bars with different time signatures in one go by typing out some simple shorthand.


(Note a minor inconsistency: within Sibelius itself, the plug-in is called Insert bars with multiple time signatures, instead of “Insert Bars with Different Time Signatures” as it appears on the plug-in download page.)

Simply type your desired meter changes as follows:

  • Use the format 6/8 for time signatures
  • If your denominator (bottom note) is 4, you can omit it, as it will be assumed
  • Type c for the common time symbol and a for the cut time (alla breve) symbols
  • Separate each time signature change with a space (multiple spaces may be used for clarity, but have the same effect as using one space)
  • To indicate that a time signature holds for more than one bar, write an asterisk (*) with the number of bars immediately after the time signature, e.g., 3 consecutive bars of 6/8 would be entered as 6/8*3
  • Additive time signatures (e.g., 2+2+3/8) are not supported
  • An option is included to allow cautionary time signatures (recommended unless there is a good reason not to do so)
  • Repeating patterns are supported by setting the Insert bars _ times option to more than 1

New York-based composer Shafer Mahoney has composed an inventive new orchestral piece entitled Echo Variations for the Lamont Symphony Orchestra at the University of Denver, to be premiered in March 2014. Featuring many colorful changes of orchestration and style, Shafer makes use of meter changes quite often in his composition, which he has meticulously sketched out in short score, as shown in this example:

Section "D" from Shafer Mahoney's new compostion for the Lamont Symphony Orchestra (click for large version). Courtesy Shafer Mahoney
Section “D” from Shafer Mahoney’s Echo Variations for the Lamont Symphony Orchestra (click for large version). Courtesy: Shafer Mahoney

Fortunately, transferring Shafer’s music to Sibelius is made easier with use of the plug-in. To enter the meter changes in this example, one would type:

7/8*2 4 3 7/8 4 3/8 4 3 4*2 3 7/8*2 4 3*4 4 7/8 3*3 7/8 3 4*2 2 7/8 3 2 3 7/8 6/8 4

The plug-in will insert the bars before a passage selection or at the end of the score if there is no passage selection. Note that the time signature at the insertion point is restored at the end of the inserted bars, which is designed behavior but may not always be desirable, as it could lead to a duplicate time signature at the end of your passage, so check this carefully (and simply select and delete the duplicate time signature if necessary).

Insert Bars with Different Time Signatures may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Other. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6 or 7 by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure.

Update: The same day this post was published, the industrious Jari Williamsson added a feature to his JW Meter & Rhythm plug-in for Finale, which works in a very similar way:

jw-meterJari said that a later update to this plug-in will include support for composite time signatures and “a couple of other things.” Bravo, Jari!

Updated December 13, 2013 with the information about the JW Meter & Rhythm plug-in for Finale.

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