Sibelius 5: your musical classroom assistant, times five!


Today was the first day of BETT 2009, the UK’s biggest education technology and training show, which runs until Saturday at London Olympia. You can find Sibelius on the Avid in Education stand, Stand B30, together with Pro Tools 8, Pinnacle Studio, a wide range of M-Audio products, and more.

I gave a demo today about how Sibelius 5 can be used in the secondary classroom. Rather cutely, I lumbered my presentation with the moniker “Sibelius 5: your musical classroom assistant, times five!” I thought it might be interesting to share my notes for this presentation. Please excuse the fact that not everything below is in perfect English!

My aim was to demonstrate some of the unique features — some new to Sibelius 5, some already in the program from previous versions — that make it such a success in secondary education, especially here in the UK (where it is now used in more than 75% of secondary schools). I demonstrated three simple music lessons that could be taught at GCSE level, how Sibelius can save time in lesson, rehearsal and concert preparation, and how Sibelius’s fast, smart and easy design make it the ideal musical classroom assistant.

Sibelius 5: your musical classroom assistant, times five!

Sibelius 5 is the latest version of the world’s best-selling music notation program, and it’s the best yet: it’s the winner of four Editor’s Choice awards from the specialist press. The same award-winning software that’s used by Oscar-winning composers such as Dario Marianelli and leading publishers such as Faber Music, Boosey & Hawkes and Music Sales is simple enough that it can be used by teachers, both specialist and non-specialist, and students as young as 8 or 9 years old.

In this presentation, I would like to tell you why Sibelius 5 is your ideal musical classroom assistant, times five. I’ll show you how simple it is to teach musical concepts with the software: we’ll look at demonstrating a simple blues form using the Ideas Hub, instrumental techniques using Sibelius’s high-quality built-in sounds, and composing to picture using its built-in digital video support. Finally, I’ll show you how Sibelius saves you time in other aspects of your teaching, and how its intuitive design makes it your ideal choice for music and music technology from Year 7 right up to AS and A Level.

1: Teaching the blues with the Ideas Hub

  • Ideas Hub contains more than 2,000 ready-made Ideas, in a wide variety of styles and genres
  • Think of them as “notation loops” that can be combined together in interesting ways
  • For students who don’t yet know everything about notation, Ideas allow them to see how different kinds of music is written down, especially complex things like drum parts
  • Open the Ideas window and just explore, e.g. type “drum kit” and you’ll see dozens of drum patterns, or type “latin piano” to see dozens of piano loops; even try typing “happy” or “melancholy” or “fast”
  • Simply click and hold the mouse button to hear them; they loop automatically
  • To use an Idea in the score, simply select it, copy it (Ctrl+C), select the bar where you want it to go, and paste it (Ctrl+V)
  • Notice how the same coloured highlight that appears in the Ideas window appears in the score
  • Use R to repeat the Idea to e.g. make an 8-bar pattern
  • Create your own Ideas by selecting the music you want to be saved as an Idea and typing Shift-I to capture it
  • Edit Ideas by double-clicking them in the Ideas window, or add tags and other information
  • Save Ideas in the score to create a starting point for your students
  • Provide students with a score with the instruments already in it, and perhaps some bars completed
  • Show them how to copy and paste Ideas from the Ideas window to their score, and then play back
  • Direct them to put together, for example, a 12-bar blues form by adding the correct bass line from the bits provided.

2: Teach instrumental techniques

  • Sibelius 5’s built-in sample library, Sibelius Sounds Essentials, puts more than 150 high-quality instrumental sounds at your fingertips
  • Show your students how they can explore instrumental techniques simply by adding the appropriate markings to their scores, e.g. harmonics on a harp part, tremolos on string parts, “mute” instructions on a brass part, pedaling on piano parts
  • Dynamic markings, articulations, slurs, tempo markings are simple to add from the Keypad and the Create menu
  • All of these effects are rendered automatically in playback by Sibelius Sounds Essentials
  • Use any VST or Audio Unit virtual instrument with Sibelius, even high-end professional quality sounds like Vienna Symphonic Library

3: Teach composing to picture

  • Download one of the video clips from, or use the ones on the Sibelius 5 DVD-ROM
  • Add a video to the score and see the Video window
  • Demonstrate how musical events should line up with events in the score, and how hit points are used to achieve this
  • Show the students how to change how the music fits to the video using the Fit Selection to Time plug-in
  • Export an audio file using Sibelius Sounds Essentials, and import it as a soundtrack in Pinnacle Studio or iMovie, then burn the finished result to DVD

4: Sibelius saves you time

  • Sibelius is full of time-saving features to help you prepare for lessons, ensemble rehearsals, and concerts as quickly and painlessly as possible
  • School orchestras are often missing a cor anglais, or 3rd trombone, etc.: using PhotoScore, you can scan in an instrumental part and produce it in a new transposition in minutes
  • For your own arrangements, dynamic parts are linked to the full score, and update magically when you make an edit in either one: plus it’s really simple to produce multiple parts for the same instrument with different clefs or transpositions
  • To kick-start the arranging process, import a MIDI file of a well-known work, clean it up in a few clicks with the Renotate Performance plug-in, and get on with arranging it for your school’s ensemble
  • If you suddenly need to provide material for a supply teacher to cover your class while you rehearse for this term’s concert, find a suitable resource using the built-in Worksheet Creator, with more than 1700 built-in worksheets
  • If you need to produce a test with musical content, or a poster with a snippet of music on it, it’s a snap to copy and paste music from Sibelius into applications like Word, Powerpoint, and Publisher

5: Sibelius is truly your ideal musical classroom assistant

  • Sibelius is designed by musicians, for musicians, so it thinks the way you do
  • Many easy-to-remember keyboard shortcuts: I for instrument, T for time signature, K for key signature
  • Enter notes any way you like: using the mouse, using the computer keyboard, using any MIDI keyboard, by importing a MIDI or MusicXML file, or by scanning
  • Comprehensive on-screen help and tutorial videos for when you don’t know how to do something
  • Technical support that’s second to none
  • Your network manager will thank you, too: simple to install, administer and run on a school network, works with RM networks on Windows and Xserve networks on Mac

Don’t forget to take your Top Sibelius Shortcuts poster with you to put up on your classroom wall, and enter our competition to win an M-Audio MicroTrack II handheld recorder. Thanks for coming, and enjoy the rest of the show!


  1. mike

    How do I import something I recorded in Sebelius into Pinnacle for background music?

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