Tim Davies’s “deBreved” Finale tips translated into Sibelius


The veteran composer, arranger, orchestrator, and band leader Tim Davies has been writing a series of refreshing and immensely useful posts about orchestration on his new blog, deBreved. With an eye toward practical and creative instruction for film orchestrators, I always find myself learning something new with each of Tim’s posts.

One of the posts is a straightforward series of Finale tips to achieve some of the results Tim desires in his scores. With Tim’s permission, I have “translated” those tips into Sibelius instructions, where possible, so that orchestrators working in Sibelius can create scores with similar results. You might want to refer to Tim’s original Finale Tips page for further reference, as I have ordered the tips similarly.

Large time signatures

  1. Appearance > House Style > Engraving Rules > select Time signatures (large). Set the “Gap before time signatures” to 0.5 spaces
  2. While here, click Edit Text Style… and set Line spacing to 100%, the Font to “Opus Big Time Std” and the Size in score to 30.0 pt
  3. Appearance > Design and Position > Default Positions (the little downwards pointing triangle in the Ribbon) > Text styles > Time signatures (large) and set “Vertical position relative to staff” in the score to 0.5 spaces.
  4. Appearance > System Object Positions > select the first instrument in each section (Flute 1, Horn 1, Timpani, Violin 1)
  5. Layout > Magnetic Layout > Magnetic Layout Options (the little downwards pointing triangle in the Ribbon) > Time signature: Uncheck the “Mag.:” box so that Sibelius does not incorporate the large time signatures into its collision avoidance algorithms, especially when re-spacing the staves vertically. (Note that items that collide with the time signatures will appear red — even hairpins, for which there is no choice but to draw them through the time signature. If this bothers you, you can go to View > Magnetic Layout and uncheck “Collisions”. Note, however, that legitimate collisions will also cease to be identified by color.)

Optimizing (Hiding empty staves)

To hide staves not in use for the duration of the score while retaining other staves: triple-click the first staff to be hidden. This will select that staff for the entire score. Then Command+click on Mac (Ctrl+click on PC) each subsequent staff you wish to hide, in order to make a non-contiguous selection. Finally, invoke Layout > Hiding Staves > Hide Empty Staves (shortcut Cmd+Shift+option+H or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+H).

For “sketch” staves that have material that you wish to remain in the score for reference, but you wish to hide for printing: triple-click the desired staff and Command (Ctrl) +click as before. This time, hide the material by going to Home > Edit > Hide or Show, then invoke Hide Empty Staves as before. The staves will still appear in Panorama view. (For further usages of this technique, see John Hinchey’s blog post “Extra Staves, now you see them, now you don’t!“)

Hidden measure number regions (View bar numbers)

Finale does not have a “view only” option for bar numbers, so the workarounds in Tim’s post are not needed in Sibelius. Simply switch on View > Invisibles > Bar Numbers to always see bar numbers on the topmost viewable staff in the score for display purposes. This will also show the staff names at all times on the left side of the screen.

bar numbers

Staff names

Unfortunately it is not possible to have both a “group” name and a “staff” name in Sibelius, like it is in Finale, e.g., to show “Flutes” vertically centered between the staves and have each individual staff numbered “1”, “2”, etc. There are some rather elaborate workarounds and the litany of user requests to add this functionality that you can read about on the Sibelius chat page. Until (or unless) this feature is added in a future version of Sibelius, better for now to just label each staff “Flute 1,” “Flute 2,” etc.

For some flexibility in quickly naming staves differently in the score and the parts, download Bob Zawalich’s plug-in Edit Part Instrument Names.

For doublings (i.e., to change the name on the staff partway through the score), use Instrument Changes by going to Home > Instruments > Change. This will not only change the name of the staff, but will also helpfully change the sound patch and set the transposition of the new instrument correctly.

Font sizes

Tim likes 14 pt. bold text for tempo text and other indications. This is easily achieved in Sibelius by going to Text > Edit Text Styles (the little downwards pointing triangle in the Ribbon) > Tempo (whatever text style you wish to change) > Edit > Size in score, then check the “Keep absolute” box and adjust the text size in the “(absolute)” column to 14.0. Sibelius offers additional advantages over Finale in this regard by allowing for separate size settings for the score and parts.

To write notes in metronome marks, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) to get the word menu. You can alternatively use the Ctrl or Command key in conjunction with the numeric keypad. Then type = 60 (or whatever) in the normal way. Hit space on either side of the = sign.

Tim likes 14 pt. bold (non-fixed, in other words, relative to the staff size) for expressions and technique text. In Finale, text point sizes are relative to an 8.467 mm staff, while in Sibelius, text point sizes are relative to a 7.0 mm staff. Therefore, to achieve a Finale “look” in Sibelius, one must multiply the Finale point size by 0.8267. Confused? Don’t be. A 14 pt. size staff-size font in Finale would equal approximately 11.5 pt. in Sibelius:



Default positions of text can be adjusted, appropriately enough, in Appearance > Design and Position > Default Positions (the little downwards pointing triangle in the Ribbon). We visited this area already earlier in this post when we adjusted the default position of large time signatures.

Bar rests

This is not in Tim’s Finale tips post, but it appears elsewhere in his blog in the post “How to Score.” He prefers to have no default whole note rests. To switch these off throughout your score in Sibelius, simply go to Appearance > House Style > Engraving Rules > select Bar rests and uncheck “Show bar rests” in the dialog. The rests will still show as “hidden” if you have View > Invisibles > Hidden Objects selected.


  1. techlover10

    This is cool…but now…any news of Sibelius 8? ;)

  2. Peter Roos

    Brilliant, very useful.

  3. Jason

    Great tutorial!! Is it possible to have the rest apear in parts and still not appear in the score? Also is it possible to have page numbers in score at top middle but in the parts at top left? All in the same Sibelius file?

  4. Frank Davis

    Took me a while to go over the tutorial, but i got it all figured out and use the sibelius in a lot of my music projects.

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