Using manual repeats in Sibelius playback


While Sibelius 7.5 added many new features in the way of playback and performance, here’s one that’s been around a while longer, but you may not have noticed it: the ability to manually specify the playback order of bars.

From the Reference:

In scores with very complex repeat structures (e.g. songs with more than one coda), Sibelius’s automatic interpretation of the repeats in the score may not be sufficient. If you find this is the case, choose Play > Interpretation > Repeats and choose Manual repeats playback.

This allows you to specify the exact order in which the bars in the score are played back by typing ranges of bar numbers in a comma separated list. Sibelius displays the current automatic playback sequence to get you started, and you can go back to the automatic sequence by clicking Restore Default Order.

If you have multiple songs, pieces or movements within the same score, leave a blank line between each set of bar numbers corresponding to a single song, piece or movement to tell Sibelius to play a gap there.

In scores that use bar number changes, or whose first bar is not numbered 1, beware that the Play > Interpretation > Repeats dialog requires you to use internal bar numbers, i.e. counting all bars in the score only once, and the first bar in the score, even if it is a pick-up (upbeat) bar, is number 1.

Beware also that if you add or delete bars, you should return to Play > Interpretation > Repeats and update the list of bars to ensure that they are still played in the correct order.

manual-repeatsIn the above example, then, Sibelius will play, in order:

  • bars 1-8
  • bars 5-8 twice
  • bars 1-4
  • bars 9-12
  • a small gap of silence
  • bars 13-16
  • (skip bars 17-20)
  • bars 21-24

In addition the caveats noted in the Reference, be aware that Sibelius will not display bar numbers for any bars which have been skipped. For more information about this, as well as working with coda systems during playback, see these Avid Knowledge Base articles:


  1. Bob Zawalich

    This is great stuff, Philip, and it is easy to not notice that something so powerful is easily available. Sometimes there is no other way to get your bar numbers to all be there, and to get a playback order that Sibelius just does not want to do (though it usually refuses for a good reason).

    You article reminded me of the plugin Unfold Repeats (in category Engravers’ Rules, and available for Sib 7.1.3 and later only). Since Sibelius generates a map of the playback order whether you use manual ordering or not, and a plugin now has access to that map, the plugin is able to generate a new score in which all the bars are written out, without repeats or jumps.

    The description of the plugin mentions various things that will prevent it from being used, but when it works, it can let you avoid having to turn back in the score (at the cost of having more pages to turn forward, of course) !

  2. tommy butler

    good information. i use this option a lot with verses songs or hymns at my church. for pick up notes if i want them in an introduction taken from somewhere other than the beginning in 4/4 i put a time signature in the bar following the pickup. the measure before i add a 3/4 and a 1/4. that way i can then order the measures as you demonstrated above . if there is a more efficient way please let me know.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Tommy, I’m glad you found this useful. What you have done sounds like a reasonable approach.

  3. Jack Campbell

    The only way I know to see “internal” bar numbers is by selecting the bars and checking the bottom of the screen… (Sibelius 2019). There is a View > Bar Numbers button in this version of Sibelius, but it shows the displayed bar numbers! Perhaps there’s a better way

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