Making lyrics something to sing about

Courtesy banlon1964 on Flickr

One of the mature music notation programs recently touted lyrics that “instantly appear exactly as they’ll print out” as one of the major new features of a new version that costs in the region of $150 for their existing users to upgrade. Sibelius users have enjoyed lyrics that look exactly as they will be printed for many years – and Sibelius has other tricks up its sleeve for lyrics that other software simply can’t match. So I thought it was worth taking a look at lyrics in a bit of detail to share some hints and tips over a handful of posts, starting with lyric input.

Easy input

To input lyrics in Sibelius, there are several methods:

  • Type them syllable by syllable, hitting (hyphen) to break a word, and Space to start a new word, hitting or Space multiple times to input a melisma
  • Paste them syllable by syllable from a text file, which doesn’t even need to be hyphenated
  • Flow them into the score from a text file in a single operation

These last two methods are unique to Sibelius. Pasting lyrics syllable by syllable is really simple, as you can see from this video:

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  • First, select the text in your text editor or word processor, and copy it to the clipboard, normally done via Edit > Copy (typical shortcut Ctrl+C on Windows or CommandC on Mac)
  • In Sibelius, select the note on which you want the lyrics to begin, and type Ctrl+L on Windows or CommandL on Mac to start lyrics input
  • Now type Ctrl+V on Windows or CommandV on Mac to paste the first syllable, and hit the shortcut again and again to paste further syllables.
  • When you come to a melisma, simply hit Space or (hyphen) to move on to the next note.

Even easier is flowing the lyrics automatically into the score from a text file, as shown in this second video:

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  • First, select the passage of notes into which you want to flow the music. If the passage contains melismas (places where the same word or syllable is sung to multiple notes), make sure that they are marked with slurs before you begin.
  • Next, choose Create > Text > Lyrics > From Text File.
  • In the dialog that appears, click Browse to choose the text file, then click OK.

Moments later, the lyrics are flowed into the score in a single operation, automatically hyphenated and with all the melismas marked.

Only Sibelius contains these time-saving lyric input techniques with automatic hyphenation. And they always appear on screen exactly as they are going to print out!


  1. Mike Philcox

    I found the whole series of articles on lyrics very helpful and informative, but particularly this first one. I had understood in principle that Sibelius was capable of formatting copied text into lyrics but hadn’t previously got around to actually trying it. However, your tutorial/article on the Sibelius blog prompted me to give it a try and I will now use this feature on a more or less regular basis. Thank you for this very useful information.


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