Student Colin Griggs says, bluntly, “Sibelius Sucks.” Colin says that Sibelius’s handling of composition is neither elegant nor beautiful, that Sibelius 5 is rather bloated, and that “everything about it screams awkward.” Naturally, I couldn’t disagree more!
But Colin does make a good point regarding what happens to existing notes when you decide to change note values while editing. He points out that when you try to change an existing note into a tuplet, Sibelius deletes any notes that exist in the duration of the tuplet, and when you extend the duration of a note, any other notes that start before the end of the newly-edited note’s length are deleted. Both of these are consequences of the design decision to ensure that Sibelius never allows you to have a bar with the wrong number of beats in it, and both can likewise sometimes interfere in the fluidity of composing.
It is, however, possible to work with these apparent limitations and still find Sibelius a fluid composing environment. More after the jump.
Firstly, manipulating tuplets. Sibelius 5 includes a whole suite of new plug-ins, in the Plug-ins > Tuplets submenu, that make working with tuplets considerably easier than before. The example Colin gives in his blog post — where he wants to turn three existing quarter notes (crotchets) into a triplet — is easily solved by selecting said notes and choosing Plug-ins > Tuplets > Make Into Tuplet.
It’s worth exploring the other plug-ins in this submenu, too. You can do things like split an existing tuplet into two parts, or combine an existing series of tuplets into a single tuplet, or change the ratio of an existing tuplet, or add more notes to an existing tuplet, and so on. These plug-ins effectively remove the barriers that otherwise exist to editing music with irrational rhythms.
Secondly, dealing with changing the duration of an existing note without losing the notes that follow. This isn’t quite so straightforward, but once you get used to the little shimmy you have to perform it’s by no means a big problem. The basic principle is that you copy the music you want to avoid being overwritten, and either stash it safely on the clipboard, or use Alt+click to paste it the required duration further on, before you adjust the duration of the note you want to edit.
So in Colin’s example, you would grab the 32nd notes (demisemiquavers) to the end of the bar, then hold Alt and click to paste them a beat further on. Now simply change the note value of the original note.
I certainly wouldn’t argue that this is as smooth as it could be. You are required to think ahead in order to make this kind of edit as easy as possible. We have lots of ideas about how we could make this easier in future versions of Sibelius, but for now, the above tricks should make note editing a little less painful. Hopefully Colin will come around to the idea that Sibelius doesn’t, in fact, suck.