Modify the default position of lines, and create new ones


When preparing an edition where it’s important to show that dynamics are implied, but not present in the composer’s original manuscript, you may need to create a hairpins enclosed in round brackets, or parentheses. I was recently working on such a project in Finale and I worked up a solution that I shared with my colleague Robert Puff, who wrote up a nice post about it on his blog.

Fortunately, Sibelius includes bracketed hairpins by default; you can select them from the Ribbon by going to Notations > Lines and finding them in the Hairpins section.


But there’s a wrinkle. You may notice that Sibelius places those brackets awfully close to the right barline, especially on the crescendo:


That’s because the default positions of the bracketed hairpins are the same as their ordinary non-bracketed ancestors. Sure, if you only have a handful of these, you can just manually nudge them into place. But if you have a great many of these, you’ll want to tinker with their default positions. You can find these settings by going to Appearance > Design and Position > Default Positions (click the downwards-pointing arrow), clicking the Lines radio button, and finding Bracketed crescendo and Bracketed diminuendo in the list:


Change the “Horizontal position of right hand end” to a greater negative value, like around -1.25 sp for the Bracketed crescendo and -1.00 sp for the Bracketed diminuendo. Newly created bracketed hairpins will have a bit more room between their end and the barline.

Changing settings in Default Positions won’t change the position of objects already created, but you can easily filter these by going to Home > Select > Filters and choosing Hairpins, and then choosing to Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Position. (Or, to specifically operate on bracketed hairpins only, use the Advanced Filter.)

Now that you’ve discovered the Default Positions dialog and know how it works, try experimenting with some of the other settings to your liking. You’ll find it’s quite powerful and customizable.

A final tip: Need square brackets around your hairpins instead of parentheses? Sibelius doesn’t include a set by default, but you can create them. It’s a bit tedious to set them up, but once you do so, you can use them just as easily as the other lines.

First, you’ll need to set up the square brackets as symbols:

  • Go to Notations > Symbols > Edit Symbols (click the downwards-pointing arrow)
  • Click Music Fonts…
  • Select Common symbols and click New Text Style…
  • Click Yes when asked if you are sure that you want to define a new text style
  • Your new text style will be named Common symbols (2). Change it if you like, or not
  • Choose, e.g., Times for your Font, and set both the size in the score and parts to 12.0 pt
  • OK and Close
  • You should be back in the Edit Symbol dialog. Scroll down to the User-defined area
  • Click the first empty box and click Edit…
  • Name your new symbol, e.g., Left bracket
  • For Music font, choose Common symbols (2) or whatever the name of your new text style was
  • Find the left bracket and select it (it’s slot 91)
  • Move it down -0.56 sp so that it’s centered vertically
  • Click OK and repeat a similar process for the right bracket (slot 93)


Now, create your new lines:

  • Go to Notations > Lines > Edit Lines (click the downwards-pointing arrow)
  • Choose the Bracketed crescendo from the dialog
  • Click New… and click Yes when asked if you are sure that you want to define a new line
  • Name your new line, e.g., Square bracketed crescendo
  • In the Start section, where it says Symbol, choose Select…
  • Find your newly-created Left bracket symbol, select it and click OK
  • You may have to set spaces right to around -0.75
  • In the End section, where it says Symbol, choose Select…
  • Find your newly-created Right bracket symbol, select it and click OK
  • Click OK and repeat a similar process for the diminuendo


It seems a little complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you can have custom hairpins behaving and positioned just the way you like.


  1. Bob Zawalich

    Great stuff as usual, Philip. Thanks for working through the details!

    It occurred to me that when you make these changes they will only apply to the current score. You can of course export a House Style and then import that into other scores, or bases a new score on that House Style.

    That always seems a bit tedious to me, so when I have something I use a lot (like not showing guitar chord diagrams for guitars), I import the house style into Manuscript Papers I use a lot. You can do this manually, by creating a new score from an MS paper, importing the house style, saving and naming the score (maybe you don’t need to do this part in Sib 7)and then exporting as Manuscript Paper.

    I wrote the downloadable plugin Import House Style To Manuscript Paper, (, category layout), to get around having to remember these details, and it has the additional benefit that it just imports the house style into the MS Paper Score and saves the result in the appropriate location without truncating the MS Paper, as Export as Manuscript Paper can do.

    The other thing I always try to remember with hairpins is that if you want then to cover an entire bar, select the first and last notes in the bar, rather than the bar itself. If you do not do this, the lines leak over into the following bar, and you will probably want to drag them back.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Another useful time-saving plug-in, Bob – thanks for reminding us of it.

      Regarding hairpins on entire bars leaking over into the entire bar: What you describe used to happend, I think, until Sibelius 6, but it’s no longer the case. In fact, didn’t you write the Retract Line Ends plug-in for the purpose of updating those older scores that had this defect?

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Well, you are right about hairpins. Even Sib 5 seems to keep hairpins in the bar if you select the full bar. But other lines, like 1st endings, trills, and octave lines will leak over into the next bar if you select the entire bar. The Retract Lines plugin works for those lines, and you can avoid the problem by selecting the notes rather than the entire bar.

    I wonder why they fixed that for hairpins but not other lines? Maybe there is a reason to have lines extend over to the next bar, but I have not found it yet.

  3. Neil Sands

    Bob, you may be used, as a dyed-in-the-wool object-oriented programmer, to the idea that all lines should normally behave the way, but that’s not always the case. We’ve discovered that hairpins don’t overspill the bar they’re applied to, even if the entire bar is selected, while for example trills do. But there are other lines that behave differently from both of those two. Slurs (magnetic ones anyway) always snap to the first and last notes in the bar (or in the voice at least), and only leak into the next bar if your bar only has one note, in other words if the first and last notes are the same entity. Guitar bends behave like slurs. And brackets (e.g. ‘bracket above’, ‘bracket below’), which I think are the base class of tuplet brackets, overspill by more even than trills do, encompassing the first note of the next bar. So, there is certainly scope for lines to behave in their own individual ways and it seems that in some cases a lot of thought has gone into their behaviour, but I wonder if the ones that just overspill the bar by a little bit, like trills & first time bars, have been left that way by accident.

  4. Bob Zawalich

    (For Neil) Yes, I agree that there are often reasons for special behaviors, and slurs are an excellent example. I have also learned many times that there are reasons for certain behaviors that are not obvious except in certain contexts, and in that situation it becomes obvious why they have to behave that way.

    I am still not sure when there might be a benefit in having first and second endings. octave lines, and trills go past the end of a bar when a bar is selected. Personally I always have to drag them back. But I don’t know what the design was, and the designers have left us, so we are unlikely to get an explanation.

    At any rate, for those kinds of lines, the suggestion of selecting notes rather than the bar itself does prevent them from leaking over.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Indeed, this seems to be the top feature request on the IdeaScale site.

  5. Vera Kleinhenz

    I am having trouble moving the staffs in Sibelius. When I try to drag them apart they snap back. How can I fix this?

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