Keep tempo text aligned to time signatures in Sibelius


This tip comes from master engraver Jeremy Hughes, who discovered it and posted about it on the Sibelius chat forum. Jeremy gave us permission to re-post his tip here, and we’ve added a few illustrations. The tip describes a better-than-usual way to keep tempo text aligned to time signatures in Sibelius, as is the custom described in references like Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars:


I have recently come across an interesting quirk in Sibelius to do with the alignment of tempo text and time signatures.


In general, Tempo text aligns to the music at the beat where it’s attached (usually with a default offset found in Appearance > Design and Position > Default Positions). This means that the placement compared to the barline differs depending on the content and spacing of the music at the position it’s attached to.


This is annoying as you need to make manual adjustments to the alignment in some of the parts (sometimes most of them).

But there’s a way to avoid having to do this. I tried it in Sibelius 6 and 8, and it works in both.

The cool thing

This works with all system text objects that I’ve tried, but it’s most useful for tempo text.

Select the time signature and the tempo text (Command+click on Mac or Ctrl+click on PC to select just the two objects) and then choose Appearance > Align > Align in a Column. The tempo text will move its attachment point, and slightly change its location.


Make any necessary adjustments to the text’s alignment without allowing the attachment point to change by clicking the tempo mark, holding down Alt, and dragging it (see this post for more information about constraining attachment points). You can also use the Home > Inspector to change the item’s X position.


Now, the text won’t move if you were to change the music in the bar, e.g., by dragging the first note of the bar to the right, or adding a series of grace notes before beat 1.

It turns out that the time signature can later be deleted and the text will still stay aligned relative to the barline. So, if you want to align text to a barline where you don’t have a time signature, you can temporarily add one, perform the alignment trick, and then delete the time signature. Remember not to rewrite the music when adding (or, especially, deleting) the time signature, as the rewrite seems to undo the trick.

I think this is rather useful, and I haven’t yet found any problems with it. Let us know if it doesn’t seem to be working, or if you find a problem with it.


  1. Gareth Glyn

    Great idea, Jeremy, and extremely useful. Thanks.

  2. Hannes Vanlancker

    Great! I work with offset position in different situations now, but I still have a lot of manual adjustments to make in the parts. Like this, it should be solved! Thank you Jeremy!

  3. Chris Hinkins

    Ingenious, Jeremy. I would never have thought of that. I recently did a set of opera parts for large orchestra with tempo marksv every few bars. This trick would have saved me hours!

  4. Jeremy Hughes

    Thanks guys. Glad it seems useful.

    We’re all grownups, I know, but nevertheless I should have included the usual caveat: this falls into the class of UBU (Unsanctioned But Useful) features, and it has not been tested, so use at own risk and beware of crashes.

    A couple of extra things: I’d like to pass on here Mark Johnson’s discovery that it also works with system lines, and should be particularly useful for the start of 1st/2nd ending lines.

    Secondly, I noticed that you can use a rehearsal mark instead of a time signature. This is far quicker if there isn’t a time signature in place where you want to fix a system object to a barline: Add rehearsal mark, align the two objects, delete the rehearsal mark.


  5. Judith Markovich

    You saved us from hand cramps. Thank you!

  6. Christos

    For some reason the trick describes moves the time signature to the left along with the Tempo text itself. This does not happen every time, so I wonder if it’s a bug. I’ve looked into default positions and horizontal alligning and experimented a bit, but no tremendous luck. Using Sibelius 7.5 on Windows 7. Thank you

  7. Cristopher Bonn

    I can’t believe they haven’t fixed this yet. Tempo texts should be aligned to time signatures by default, like in Dorico. I find it hard to believe it’s that complicated, programming-wise.

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