Working correctly with slurs and ties


Occasionally when reviewing someone else’s score in Sibelius or Finale, I’ll notice that the user has incorrectly entered ties as slurs. While the two items may look similar, they are in fact different, and behave differently in notation software:

  • Ties connect two or more notes of the same pitch, effectively lengthening the duration of the note
  • Slurs are notated on two or more notes, usually of different pitch, to make them legato, or to show phrase markings or bowings

If you enter in a tie as a slur, not only will it look and behave differently in notation software, but it will play back incorrectly. My colleague Tom Rudolph has an excellent basic guide to entering ties and slurs in both Sibelius and Finale. These topics are also covered in Lessons 1 and 3 in Avid’s Get Started Fast with Sibelius 7.5 video tutorials.

What if this information came too late, and you’ve already entered in all your ties as slurs? Or what if you’re a copyist who has received such a file from somebody else? You’ll want Roman Molino Dunn’s $13 plug-in Locate Ties Entered As Slurs, available from his store, The Music Transcriber. Once you’ve installed the plug-in via the usual manual installation procedure, or with Bob Zawalich’s free plug-in Install New Plug-in, you can take a passage like this:


Run the plug-in with these settings:


And get this result:


In Appearance > Engraving Rules > Ties 1 and Ties 2, under Ties Above/Below on Notehead Side, I’ve unchecked “Use on single notes”, which is why the difference is more noticeable than it otherwise might be. Notice how the plug-in is intelligent enough to account for slurs that occur between notes of the same pitch when articulations are present, and optionally leave them alone, like when a string player would play two separate notes of the same pitch with the same bow stroke.

Another of Roman’s handy plug-ins is Locate Slurs Ending On Ties, also $13. It is generally best practice in modern notation for a slur to encompass all ties notes until their last tied into note. If you’re working with a score in which the composer has entered the slur only up to the start of the tie, this plug-in will easily save you lots of work, like in this case:


Run the plug-in with these settings:


And get this result:


I recently used Locate Slurs Ending On Ties on a score with more than 700 such instances! Naturally, I used all that time I saved to more thoroughly enjoy life’s greater pleasures.


  1. Ron Puente

    More great information. Thank you.


  2. Bob Zawalich

    Roman has a large number of useful plugins on his website, and there are worth looking into. As you say, when you have 700 slurs to move, automation is really useful!

    For Sibelius 7, the manual plugin installation process is fairly tedious. You might try using the downloadable plugin Install New Plugin, in category Other, which can be installed with the Sib 7 plugin installer.

    Once it is installed, you unzip a plugin file that you get from Roman or anyone else and place it on the Desktop (or anywhere you can find, but Install New Plugin looks at the Desktop first). Run Install New Plugin and it offers you a list of folders to put it into, and then has a button to browse to the plugin file. It will move the plugin file to the user plugin folder, and once you restart Sibelius, the plugin will be available for use.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Ron: Thanks!

      Bob: Somehow Install New Plug-in has eluded me all this time. Thanks for making me and others aware of this! I’ve updated this post and will include this information in future plug-in write-ups.

  3. Tom Rudolph

    Thanks for mentioning my blog, Philip.
    This is an outstanding post. I reference your blog often.

    Tom Rudolph

    1. Philip Rothman

      Tom: A pleasure!

  4. Bob Zawalich

    Oops – I just noticed that Install New Plugin gets confused in Sibelius 7.5 if you have created your own plugin folders. I think the period in “7.5” is a problem. I will try to fix it as soon as I can, but I suggest not using Install New Plugin in 7.5 until it is fixed.

  5. Bob Zawalich

    Install New Plugin has now been updated so it handles Sib 7.5 folders correctly. You can install it in Sib 7 with File > Plugins > Install Plugins from category Other.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Jeez, Bob, what took you so long? ;-)

  6. Kelly Fenton

    This is great to know about- I’ve spent hours correcting slurs and ties and this will be a great time saver. Do you know if he has a plugin that works in reverse? I’ve in the past received scores where the composer has used ties instead of slurs. Any plugin for that instance?

    Thanks again for the tip!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Kelly: Apparently not, unfortunately, according to this thread from a while back.

  7. Kelly Fenton

    Oh well, thanks for checking! ;)

  8. Andre van Haren

    Hi, Philip,
    what are the best settings in Engraving Rules/slurs to avoid a slur attaching on the top of a stem. I rather have them at the middle of the stems instead. I tried many settings, but can’t get it right. Any suggestions?

    thanks and best regards,

    1. Philip Rothman

      Andre: You could try adjusting the value of Slur near note stem > Vertically x spaces beyond stem.

  9. Andre van Haren

    Thanks, Philip! I give it a try.


  10. Felix Burghelea

    This blog is great. I`m glad I ran into it.This is a little bit off the topic disscused here, but how can I write in the artificial harmonics for the strings?Thanks a lot!

  11. Andre van Haren

    Felix, you can create the upper diamond shaped note for the artificial harmonic with the Notes pane in Properties and let them playback with the Harmonic Playback plug-in.

    1. Felix Burghelea

      Hey Andre, thanks! It works!

  12. Jorge Pires

    Good evening.
    First, thank you for the many tips you’ll put on the blog. I am a frequent reader and find many answers to my problems when I’m working with Sibelius.
    For some time I encounter a problem for which I have not yet found a solution. When I put a tie on the last note of the compass and this compass is the last of the system, it appears in the following system a continuation of the tie. If there is no note on that compass and the tie has no note to tie on to this compass, what can I do to make the tie invisible in the new system? If you hide the tie on the first bar of the second system it also hides in the bar of the previous system.

    Thanks for you attention.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Jorge, thank you for reading. There is no great solution, but see this thread for some ideas.

  13. John

    Any advice on how to avoid tied notes in guitar score appearing as played notes in tab?

  14. Craig Dabelstein

    The link to Roman’s plugins no longer works and I can’t find the “Locate Ties Entered as Slurs” plugin anywhere. Any ideas?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Craig. I had to poke around a bit, but I finally found it at this link. Also, here is Locate Slurs Ending on Ties.

      1. Craig Dabelstein

        Thanks Philip. I think the stress of 2020 has melted my brain!

        1. Philip Rothman

          Me too.

          1. Philip Rothman

            Or rather, mine too :-)

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