Of all of the major commercial desktop music notation programs, Sibelius has the best built-in tools for marking up your score. In fact, it’s really the only such software that has these tools, which appear in the form of annotations, comments, and highlights.
While you might be tempted to dismiss these features as tangential or limited to use in education, they can actually be quite useful in professional situations. In this post we’ll explore Sibelius’s commenting feature and how to use it, and how to make the most of it through plug-ins.
To create a comment, click Review > Comments > New Comment, or use the shortcut Shift+Alt+C (Windows or Mac). It looks like the ubiquitous yellow sticky note found in every office.
It’s best to select the music before making a comment; that way, the comment will automatically show the name of the selected staves, and the bars selected.
Once you’ve made a comment, you can double-click on it to edit it. You can minimize a comment by double-clicking the bar containing your name, and maximize the comment by double-clicking the resulting initials.
Comments will appear with the name in your user account, but you can choose a different name in File > Preferences > Other, where you’ll find options to show the date and time of the comment, as well.
If you’ve chosen the date and time to display but you don’t see them appearing in your comment, it’s because the comment was not wide enough to display them. To remedy this, you can drag the boundary of the comment to resize it.
If someone else comments in the score, their comment will appear in a different color.
If you’ve got lots of comments in your score, you can easily navigate among them in Review > Comments > Previous Comment and Next Comment, respectively.
To view or hide comments while working in your score, go to View > Invisibles > Comments.
You can easily filter comments (i.e., for mass deletion) in Home > Select > Filters > Comments.
If you want to print your comments along with the score, when you print in File > Print > Add, make sure that View options is switched on.
Make the most of comments
It’s easy to see how comments can be useful in an educational setting. As a professional music preparer, though, I’ve found them to be invaluable in rehearsal and recording situations.
I always struggle with the best way to take notes on the fly in a rehearsal in real time. Mark up the score? Write out a list and cross reference the score later? Organization and accuracy is a challenge, to capture so much information — instrument, bar number, the nature of the remark, the date and time, etc. — as music is being played.
If the score I’m working exists in Sibelius, following along in the score and making comments directly in the file is far and away my preferred way of taking notes. It’s downright fun to do (and always elicits an intrigued, uh, comment, from onlookers about how easy it is).
When I was in Baltimore recently, working on the new edition of the ballet score to Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid, I marked up my file in just this way, without missing a beat, so to speak.
As you can see, comments appear in the Timeline so that you can quickly identify a potential problem passage if there is a cluster of comments.
What’s more, you can get a plug-in by Roman Molino Dunn called Export Comments, which can write all of your comments to a log file or can list them in the plug-in trace window. You can purchase the plug-in alone for $15 or as part of a bundle. It allows you to export comments as an HTML file for easy viewing in any web browser:
If that weren’t enough, you can turbo-charge your comments with Ed Hirschman’s Add Turbo Comment plug-in, available for free within Sibelius in File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Comments. He wrote a post a few years ago describing how that works, but the quick take is that it allows for far more quick customization than Sibelius’s standard comments, such as making use of stock phrases, color and font customization, and loads of display options.
Finally, check out the other free plug-ins in the Comments category: Roman’s other contributions Convert Text to Comments, and Maximize or Minimize Comments (both self-explanatory), and Bob Zawalich’s Highlights to Comment Color, which can match colors of highlights to comments to better associate a user’s highlights and comments.
Bob’s also got an amazing plug-in called Go To Comments, which can be used to navigate among comments in list format! That’s found in File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Navigation.
What do you think about this topic? Leave a — what else — comment!