Ah, the semicolon, the often misunderstood and maligned member of the punctuation family. Kurt Vonnegut once famously compared it to a “transvestite hermaphrodite”; Lynne Truss called semicolons “dangerously addictive”; and an opinion piece in the New York Times on the matter elicited more than 300 comments in response.
Yet the humble character persists; it is widely used in computer programming, for instance. And who hasn’t softened a stern-sounding text or e-mail message with a wink? ;-)
If you use Sibelius, you could be forgiven for thinking that the semicolon is useless; after all, in versions prior to Sibelius 7, typing it does nothing. Finale users are accustomed to its use; in Speedy Entry mode, typing it changes a note to a grace note.
Try doing that in Sibelius 7 or 7.5; you may well be surprised at the result!
To get the above sequence: I first selected my position for note entry; I then typed 2 on the Keypad to specify a sixteenth note; I typed F followed by the semicolon; I then repeated the a similar process for the other notes.
Switching back and forth between Keypad layouts in order to turn grace note entry on and off can be awkward; using the semicolon should save you quite a bit of time.
Kurt Vonnegut’s disciples may wish to avoid the semicolon at all costs; others may wish to reserve the character for other purposes. To change the shortcut to something else in Sibelius 7.5: Go to File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts; select Note Input tab from the Tab or Category list; select Turn note into gracenote; choose your new shortcut. (Curiously, in Sibelius 7 this option appears in the Selection catgeory of the Tab or Category list.)
As far as I know, this shortcut is hardwired to work only for appoggiaturas; there’s not an obvious way to use it to turn notes into acciaccaturas using this method. However, Robert Enns and John Hinchey have pointed out another way to streamline grace note entry, which also works in all previous versions of Sibelius, and appears to be undocumented:
- Select position
- Type the note value on the Keypad (e.g, 2 for sixteenth note)
- On your main computer keyboard — not the numeric keypad — type . (period) for an appoggiatura (unslashed grace note) or / (forward slash) for an acciaccatura (slashed grace note)
- Enter your notes
- Type the shortcut key — . (period) or / (forward slash) — to cancel grace note entry
- You are now back to normal note entry
In effect, the shortcuts . (period) or / (forward slash) are shortcuts for items on the Keypad’s other layouts; you could program other shortcuts in a similar manner.
Updated April 4, 2014 to further document where the shortcut appears in Preferences in Sibelius 7 and 7.5, and to more clearly describe the shortcuts for the Keypad.