In Sibelius, when creating a new score, by default Sibelius places a brace on the glockenspiel and vibraphone. This looks really funny since these are single-staff instruments. Moreover, the bracket — which one would expect to ordinarily group the percussion instruments together — doesn’t apply to these instruments, and the barline between the staves (a “barline join”, in Sibelius parlance) is broken.
As a former percussionist, this looks really strange to me — I have never seen a glockenspiel or vibraphone part with a brace (save for the occasional multi-mallet vibes part written on a grand staff). Was I missing something? Apparently I wasn’t the only one puzzled by this.
It’s always bothered me, but because the fix is simple enough, I never looked into why this happened. (To fix this manually: Select the braces and press Delete, then drag the bottom end of the percussion bracket down through the percussion, and finally drag the barline join down through the percussion, as described in another blog post about barline joins.)
Recently, though, I decided to get to the bottom of this. I started by selecting the glockenspiel staff, then going to Home > Instruments > Edit Instruments > Edit Instrument… (click Yes if you get a pop-up dialog here). This brought me straight into the Edit Instrument dialog for the Glockenspiel instrument (because I first selected it in the score).
Way down in the bottom left corner of the dialog, there’s a pop-up list called Bracket with. Wait…the glockenspiel is bracketed with the Keyboards?
Well, sure, it’s a “keyboard” percussion instrument, but “percussion” is the most important feature here (have you ever played a glockenspiel with your fingers?). I inspected the vibraphone: same deal — as was the case for some of the other glockenspiel variants in Sibelius’s instrument list, like soprano and alto glockenspiels and orchestral bells — but not other keyboard percussion instruments like the xylophone and marimba (treble staff), which were properly grouped with the percussion.
(Further muddying the picture here is that the Bracket with setting is strictly supposed to determine which family Sibelius groups the instrument with, but, according to the Reference, “does not determine the order in which your instruments will be created in the score, which is instead determined by the order of the instruments within families and, in turn, families within the ensemble” — which is why Sibelius puts these instruments in the correct order by default, but doesn’t bracket them together.)
Whether the decision to group these instruments with keyboard instruments was a conscious decision or an oversight is something that only the developers of another program may know at this point in time, but it’s that Keyboards setting that causes Sibelius to draw the brace and break up the percussion group.
To correct this once and for all, change the Bracket with setting for the glockenspiel and vibraphone to Percussion, and OK and Close the dialogs.
This won’t affect your current score — you’ll still have to make the manual changes described earlier. But if you export this as a house style (Appearance > House Style > Export) and use that house style when setting up your next score, everything will look correct out of the gate.
Have you ever wondered about this? Or do you have a fix for a longtime curiosity that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.