Sibelius plug-in: Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text


This post is written by Ed Hirschman, a composer, arranger and co-founder of Art of Sound Music. Art of Sound Music is a sheet music publisher and retailer based in Princeton, New Jersey, representing the music of over 75 composers and arrangers worldwide. Read on to learn about Ed’s new plug-in, Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text.

Art of Sound Music publishes music from over 75 arrangers/composers and about half of them are Finale users. Since we are a Sibelius “shop”, we take MusicXML files exported from Finale and import them into Sibelius where we apply our company house style, engraving standards and make general improvements to the engraving. While working with these MusicXML files, I noticed that the font size of the tempo and metronome markings were coming in incredibly small, to the point of being nearly invisible. These tiny items were quite easy to overlook and with numerous tempo changes in a score, became a burden to correct.

To see if other had experienced or fixed the problem, I searched the Sibelius Tech Support Forum and found the thread entitled “Advanced XML import from PWGL (comparison with Finale)

Here I learned that the issue is related to Sibelius MusicXML import, not Finale MusicXML export. In fact, if you export MusicXML from Sibelius and immediately import it, the problem appears. Former Product Manager Daniel Spreadbury commented on that thread on May 11, 2012 that “I can’t make any specific commitment … but we do certainly hope to improve MusicXML import and export further in future versions.” However, as of writing this post and Sibelius version 7.5.1, this bug still exists.

Here’s the before and after screen shots of how the import bug is addressed:

As importedAfter running plug-in
Imported Tempo text appeared as size .8 (nearly invisible)
Tempo text reset to the legible size of 8.5
Font set to Times New RomanFont set to user choice, in this case Opus Text

I created the Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text plug-in to do much more than address the import bug. It also allows you to specify the music font for the Beats Per Minute (metronome mark) characters in Tempo text and Metronome mark text (e.g. q = 120), with options to format associated equal signs, dashes and parentheses. Features include the ability to:

  • Specify the font for the note and numbers that collectively specify the beats per minute (metronome mark) text, including tempo ranges and “circa” tempos
  • Maintain, add or remove spaces next to the equal sign and/or dashes in metronome mark text
  • Maintain, add or remove spaces after the left parenthesis and before the right parenthesis in metronome mark text
  • Maintain, add or remove parenthesis around metronome mark text.  When the “Add Parenthesis” option is selected, parenthesis are only added when there is text before the metronome mark. For example, it will change “Moderato q = 100” to “Moderato (q = 100)”, but doesn’t change q=100 to “(q=100)”.
  • Removes leading spaces before the text and lagging spaces after the text
  • Option to replace multiple spaces with single space

Here is a screenshot of the plug-in’s dialog box and various options:


Here is an example of what it can do in terms of formatting tempo and metronome mark text:

Before running plug-inAfter running plug-in
Extra spaces after “Moderato”Extra spaces after “Moderato” removed
No parenthesis around metronome mark textParenthesis added at user request
No spaces around equals signSpaces added around equals sign at user request
Inconsistent spacing around dashConsistent spacing around dash
Metronome mark font is Plantin MT StandardMetronome mark set to Opus Text

The plugin supports the music fonts includes with Sibelius for metronome mark text: Opus, Reprise, Inkpen2, and Helsinki. If you require others fonts, the technically inclined can add those choices by modifying the variable “_lstNamedFonts” in the data section of the plug-in IDE.

There is one caution I need to give to those using this plug in. Any custom editing you have done to pieces of tempo text or metronome mark text will be lost (although you can always “undo” if you don’t like the results). If there is demand for the plug-in to handle such cases, I may be able to accommodate that in the future.

Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 or 7.5 at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Text. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6, 7 or 7.5 by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.


  1. Chloe Jones

    Switch from Finale to Sibelius using xml??!!! I have just bought Finale and done the opposite!! Every time I add a slur, change note heads etc Sibelius loses my note spacing. I cannot copy my passage of irregular bars- Sibelius overwrites and ruins it. I cannot re-space notes or move a single bar line without every other note swinging around all over. In Finale, I move something and it moves – it doesn’t insult my intelligence by moving everything else! I hope Sibelius fixes these problems because it is clear and easy to use in many other ways. I just can’t help but reply to the expected use of xml to switch to Sibelius! Wish I’d never heard of Sibelius – I’ve ended up spending hours over many days rewriting my work. Technical support could not help me. When I finally learnt how to cope with plainchant on the Sibelius forum, it turned out I had to redo most of my work – this would not have been necessary if I had used Finale.

  2. Sam Butler

    Hi Chloe,

    From the cases I can see (hope I found the right Chloe!), we were able to help you with everything you contacted us about.

    I’d be interested to see what happened so please contact me directly with your experiences and we’ll work on helping you to get the most out of Sibelius.


  3. Bob Zawalich

    Nice post, Ed.

    With a plugin whose interface is as elaborate as this,it is very helpful to see why you would want to use it, when you would want to use it, and what it can accomplish. It seems to be able to do a good job of tidying, and I can see this saving hours of tedious work, especially for engravers and copyists who might be dealing with a lot of scores they did not create in the fist place.

    Very nice. Thanks for the gift!

  4. Robert Puff

    Thanks for the plugin and for your post, Ed. This looks like it could be a useful addition to any professional music copyist’s toolbox.

  5. Ed Hirschman

    Thanks to everyone for feedback. I’ve made a few enhancements and bug fixes, and submitted that version for posting to the Sibelius team.

  6. Al Johnston

    Any chance that there is or will be a plug-in available to filter metronome marks in Sibelius; to filter them in toto or by Beats Per Minute, to replace them in toto or by Beats Per Minute, etc.? I use scads of them to achieve more realistic playback.

  7. Jacques Bailhé

    Thanks for the plug-in, but I can;t figure out how to specify the spaces between elements. I like them with the spaces set to half the font size. So, if the mark is written in 8pt, I like 4pt spaces. Is there a way to control the size of the spaces independent of the font size?

    1. Ed Hirschman

      Hi Jacques. I’m afraid that capability is not available in the plug-in. However, you may do any edits after the plug-in runs that you wish.

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