Reliably flip beamed groups and force stem direction in Sibelius


Usually in Sibelius you can flip an item by pressing the X key. This works well for single notes, but when it comes to beamed groups, things get a little tricky.

Take this example. Try flipping one of these groups by selecting either the first note in the group or the beam itself, and pressing X:

The Sibelius Reference documentation hints at the conundrum:

Reversing beams

To move a beam from above a group of notes to below it—that is, to flip the stem-directions of all the notes along the beam—select any note in the group (just one note will do) and flip it by choosing Edit > Flip (shortcut X); 4.26 Stems and leger lines if you’re not clear how. To restore the stem direction, flip the same note back, or select the group of notes and choose Appearance > Reset > Stems and Beam Positions.

If Home > Edit > Flip doesn’t seem to work on a beamed note, select all the notes along the beam and choose Appearance > Reset > Stems and Beam Positions, then flip the note furthest from the beam.

Hmm. I just want to flip something. And I’m getting flippin’ upset!

I wasn’t the only one:

Our living spirit guide, Bob Zawalich, took this up as a challenge. The result is the venerable plug-in Flip Selected Notes. You’ll find it in the Notes and Rests category when you visit File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins:

Flip Selected Notes will always be able to change note stem direction for beamed or unbeamed notes, except for cross-staff notes, which will never flip, and for grace notes, which the plug-in skips.

With this plug-in you can select any one or more notes in a beam group, or make a passage selection of beamed notes, and the plug-in will correctly flip the beam group.

A nice byproduct of this plug-in is that we now have a way to force stem direction on a passage in Sibelius, something that was never possible without changing the settings for the entire instrument.

How it works

Let’s use this simple passage as our source. By default, all of the stems in the first system are up, and all of the stems in the second system are down. In each scenario, I’m operating on this source material.

Scenario 1: X (doesn’t) mark the spot

Here, I’ve selected the passage and pressed X. Notice how the first three groups in the second system don’t flip.

Result of pressing X on source

Scenario 2: Flip stem direction using plug-in

Here, I’ve used the first plug-in setting Flip stem direction on the source material. Notice how all the beamed groups are flipped (the reverse direction from where they were in the source material).

Result of using the Flip stem direction setting

Scenario 3: Force stems up using plug-in

Here, I’ve forced all the Stems up.

Result of using the Stems up setting

Scenario 4: Force stems down using plug-in

Here, I’ve forced all the Stems down.

Result of using the Stems down setting

The plug-in’s Reset to unflipped setting will return all of the stems to their default state. It returns the same result as using Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Design, except it is more narrowly focused on stem settings, so that you don’t unnecessarily reset the design of other elements in your score.


The easiest way to install Flip Selected Notes is directly through Sibelius via File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins, in the Notes and Rests category. If you like to get your hands dirty, you can install it manually.

More information

The concept behind this plug-in is straightforward. But if a solution was easy to implement, it would have been done a long time ago. The plug-in code for Flip Selected Notes runs nearly 2000 lines. Kudos to Bob Zawalich for taking this challenge on and making a very elegant and easy-to-use tool.

If you want to learn more about the plug-in and how it works, Bob has published a more lengthy document, available from his web site. Thanks, Bob!


  1. Bob Zawalich

    The procedure to flip beams is pretty simple, once I figured out how to do it, It is a bit tedious, so it works nicely in a plugin, but it is certainly more work for a user than clicking on a note and typing X.

    It is not *that* much more work, though, and this will always reliably flip a group of notes if you have all the notes in the beamed group selected.

    1. Select all the notes in the beamed group and unflip them. (click the Inspector Flip checkbox until it is totally unset (white) or use Reset Design or Reset Stems and Beam Positions). The Inspector Flip checkbox will now be unchecked.
    2. Starting from the leftmost note in the group, flip it, and see if the beam group flips. If it flips, stop.
    3. If it does not flip, reflip the note so it is unflipped, and try the second note. Continue until the beam group flips (it always will). With this procedure, when the beam group flips, exactly one note in the group will be flipped.

    Most of the code in the plugin is dedicated to figuring out which notes are in a beamed group, which can cross bars, which is awkward. Fortunately I had worked out most of that for the “Find” class of plugins, so a lot of the hard problems were already figured out.

    I am not sure that a new plugin can be “venerable”, though. “Bad-ass”, maybe. Thanks for promoting this, Philip.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Bob, you are reading this from the future. So it is venerable! (Plus I was working with the protoype for a while…)

    2. Derek Williams

      That’s brilliant, thanks Bob! I have now remapped the keyboard shortcut X to bring up your flip plugin instead of the Sibelius standard flip on X. Using it means one extra step, but worth the hassle it saves in the long run because now I can be confident there are no ‘strays’.

      1. Philip Rothman

        Derek, just remember that X flips other items as well, such as slurs, tuplet brackets, articulations, and the curvature of ties, so you’ll lose the ability to use the X shortcut for those (going through the Ribbon will still work, of course).

        1. Derek Williams

          Ah, thanks for that Philip! I’ll create a new, separate shortcut for Bob’s plugin.

    3. Engela

      This is very useful, thank you Bob for the plugin and Philip for this post!

  2. Benny Rietveld

    I’m just another grateful user, thanks to Mr. Zawalich and to the good folks at Scoring Notes once again!



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