Parenthesize notes in Sibelius


Buried near the bottom of on page 401 of the Sibelius Reference is the following item:

“You can add parentheses (round brackets) to any notehead (including grace notes) using the button on the second Keypad layout (shortcut F8). The parentheses will automatically adjust to enclose accidentals, etc.”

And that is all that is said on the matter. No notation example, no cheeky humor, no shouting from the rooftops.

You’re forgiven if you’ve skipped that short paragraph or if you’ve skated right over that button (officially Bracket notehead), located on the 1 key and nestled among other forgotten elements of music notation such as the 512th note and the triple dot:

When the need arises to parenthesize notes, I’ve seen users resort to unsatisfying methods such as manually placing text or symbols. What they — and you — may not know, is that placing notes in parentheses in Sibelius is easy and downright fun. (If only everything were so!)

Placing parentheses around a note is as simple as selecting it and pressing the 1 key on the second Keypad layout.

Ho-hum, you might say. OK, let’s add another note a third above our original one.

Sibelius automatically adjusts the parentheses. More interested now? Shall we continue?

Let’s remove the parentheses from every other note.

Or every third note.

How about we add a few accidentals…

…and then separate the voices.

In fact, all that’s needed to turn this multi-selection into a parenthetical panoply is one tap of the 1 key:

About the only thing you can’t do with these parentheses is move or adjust them. They don’t appear in any engraving setting that I’m aware of, so you if you don’t like what Sibelius does automatically, you’ll have to resort to another method. Sibelius is drawing these parentheses as a curve (like a tie or a slur) with pre-determined settings, as opposed to relying on a font.

Still, the results are generally excellent, so bracket away!


  1. michele maggiani

    You know, you can “bracket” accidentals only, too. A bit less easier but you can.
    Of course, that does not modify the pitch of the note

  2. Sergei

    Try to build chords not just by thirds, but fourths. For instance, C-E-G is OK. But try C-F-A. Doesn’t work: two separate brackets (for С and for F and A). At least in Sibelius 7.5.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Sergei. Yes, that’s true. But I think that’s a reasonable approach to have separate parentheses when the interval is a fourth or more. As mentioned, ideally there would be more engraving rules to specify desired behavior, but it appears you have to either accept Sibelius’s decision here or use a more manual method such as placing a text or symbol.

      1. Sergei

        OK, thank you for clarification Philip.

      2. Michele

        If there can be a huge parentheses that spans the whole staff as you showed in one of the chords, why then the interval of a fourth should be too big for a single parentheses? It doesn’t make sense …

        1. Philip Rothman

          I guess. Well, it’s the way the feature is designed, is the best I can say, for better or worse. I’m not sure that there is a hard and fast rule on the subject.

    2. PenguinDragonTS

      A potential workaround is to: (1) add note(s) between the larger interval, (2) then change the added notes to a custom note type that is headless and doesn’t play. [Note that custom note types are not available to all versions (first, student, ultimate, or whatever.)] This workaround is less than ideal; many scenarios will require a hand drawn stem and there is a slight extra width to account for the invisible 2ed. But the plus side is it can work in a pinch allowing you to mess with nasty noterests and lines rather than messing with nasty text styles of typed “()”.
      [As others suggested, the best solution would be if they made that button a line style with settings that could be adjusted.]

      1. Philip Rothman

        Good idea!

  3. Derek Williams

    Until I read this, I had no idea parentheses could be fun.

    1. Philip Rothman

      The Reference should be updated to reflect this. After all, if Tab can be fun, why not parentheses? :-)

  4. Alexander Plötz

    Say, what’s the final excerpt from?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Do you recognize it?

      1. Alexander Plötz


        1. Philip Rothman

          It’s a bit of a contrived example, but it’s somewhat based upon a song from the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen”.

  5. Dave Christi

    Good info on parentheses… BTW, is there a way to wrap parentheses around 2 adjacent notes? I have 2 (grand staff) bars that repeat. The treble staff is empty except there are two (pick-up) 16th notes that should only be played after the repeat is activated. Typically, I would encase these notes in parentheses… Thanks!

    1. Dave Christi

      I figured (at least one way) it out. Under the Notation tab, go to Symbols and under the “General” section there is a set of individual parentheses one can use to bracket an adjacent pair of notes…. BTW – is it possible to rearrange the sections ? i.e. it would be nice to place General at the top … Thanks.

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