Composite time signatures in Sibelius


In this video tutorial, we’ll cover how to create composite time signatures in Sibelius, including what Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars book calls “meters of mixed denominators.”

By “meters of mixed denominators,” we mean something like 6/8 + 2/4. Finale and Dorico handle this with ease, but in Sibelius it takes a bit of effort.

A tutorial video and full transcript follow.


Hi everyone, it’s Philip at NYC Music Services and Scoring Notes, back with another tutorial.

Today we’ll cover how to create composite time signatures in Sibelius, including what Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars book calls “meters of mixed denominators.”

By “meters of mixed denominators” I mean something like 6/8 + 2/4. Finale and Dorico handle this with ease, but in Sibelius it takes a bit of effort.

Let’s start with an ordinary file. We want to change the time signature to 6/8 + 2/4, which is non-standard, so press T for time signature and then choose More Options.

Choose Other:. Here, you have to do a little math. Sibelius only lets you have a single denominator, so let’s double the 2/4 portion of our desired time signature to 4/8. Type in 6+4 in the box, and choose 8 from the drop-down menu.

Then, click Beam and Rest Groups…

We want to group the eighth notes in groups of 3, 3, 2, and 2, so type those in and click OK.

Click OK again and then click to apply the time signature.

Many people don’t realize that you can apply a time signature like this in Sibelius, so if that’s all you needed, congratulations! You’re done. But we have further work to do to turn this into 6/8 + 2/4.

I’ve entered in some music, so now let’s go to Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles. Choose the Time signatures style and click New Text Style…

Yes, we want to create a new text style, so click Yes.

Name this new text style something sensible, like Time signatures (composite). From the Based on: drop-down, choose Time signatures. This allows our new style to inherit most of the settings of the main Time signatures style.

Indeed, uncheck everything except for Line spacing and Vertical scale. The reason we are creating a new text style is that we need to account for the “plus” character which will go smack in the middle, and so we need to halve the existing line spacing from 25% to 12%. Ideally we would be able to choose 12.5% but Sibelius won’t let us. So instead we’ll compensate by slightly increasing the Vertical Scale to 102%.

Click OK, then Close.

Now, let’s hide our existing time signature by clicking on it and hide it by choosing Home > Edit > Hide or Show. The reason we’re hiding the time signature and not deleting it is because we need Sibelius to take account of it in spacing the music, which it will do even if the time signature is hidden.

Now, go to Text > Styles and choose our new Time signatures (composite) style.

If the existing time signature wasn’t already selected like I’ve done here, click in the score and type the following to get 6/8 + 2/4:

6 space space 2 return + return 8 space space 4

Then press Esc.

You may need to nudge it into place, but that’s how you get a nice composite time signature in Sibelius.

You may wish to tweak the positions of the characters a bit; in this case the plus is a little too close to the 2/4. So, I’ll open the Inspector and carefully select the plus sign, and increase the Tracking to 10. There, that looks nice.

This will appear in all the instruments in your score as well as all of the parts. While I wish that Sibelius had native support for this type of composite time signature, at least now you have a way of creating it, and you can save the text style in your house style.

I hope you found this useful.


  1. Lu

    But why would I want to use composite time when I can do the same thing with regular time signatures? Why would I look for a harder way to do something? I’ll grant you it’s cool (nerdistically speaking), but is it necessary?

    1. Philip Rothman

      That is a fair question, but I won’t debate it here since this is a post about “how” to do something as opposed to “why”. These types time signatures exist in music, and Gould covers them. If a composer or publisher calls for it, you have to find a way to do it.

      1. François Grillot

        Thank You Philip
        just happened to need it for a composer, 91 y.o. Marga Richter; Full orchestral piece, and even a more complicated request such as: piano in 4/4 and orchestra in 3/4 for a dozen bars (of piano) in the middle of the piece! Same tempo! It’s done but may be you have a better idea than me how to go about this one!?
        ƒrançois grillot

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Cool. Nerdity is often required to get things to look right. I am glad you documented all the steps, because it is easy to get partway through and have it not quite look right.

    I for one never know what the Tracking control did.

  3. francois grillot

    All goes well until i get to: /Users/francoisgrillot/Desktop/Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 12.09.06 PM.png

  4. francois grillot

    Hi, i don’t get that blinking vertical line before you insert 6+8

  5. francois grillot

    i don’t that vertical blinking line before you insert 6+8

  6. Galvagno Michele

    I have now noticed that if one doesn’t have the same amount of digits between numerator and denominator this trick is not really working.
    I have to write 11/4+3/8 and either the 4 gets aligned with the first 1 or the 8 gets misaligned.

    Any idea on how to solve this?
    In the end it is a 25/8 and I can use multiple text objects but I would prefer to be able to use this trick if possible.

    I also noticed that, as of Sibelius 2019.12, selecting any part of that text during editing makes it disappear from the screen until you hit Escape, making it very hard (or nigh impossible) to select the correct part.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Michele. After a bit of trial and error I got it to work, by making the horizontal text alignment in the Time signatures (composite) style right-aligned. If you have other composite time signatures in your score, you may wish to create a separate text style for this one. Then I typed 11 space space space 3 return + space space space 4 space space space 8. I used the ribbon to adjust the point size of one of the first spaces to about half the normal size to get the 11 to line up. I will send you the file.

      I also experience the text disappearing upon selection and agree it’s rather annoying.

      1. Galvagno Michele

        Thank you Philip!
        This looks awesome!

        Thanks for the file as well.
        I don’t know why I didn’t receive a reply-notification, but I guess it’s my Gmail filter playing with me again.

        All the best!

  7. ketan

    Hello Philip, hello everyone,
    I would like to use the huge time signature style in the score. I managed to create the Composite Time signature as explained above, also based on the huge time signature text style. But in the Parts I suddenly also have the huge text style. Does anyone know how to make it happen, that the parts keep the normal size? When I use the huge time signature in the score, Sibelius normally keeps the normal text style for the parts by default. How ever, if I create a new text style based on the huge time signature text style, the same textstyle is used in the parts, also with the same placement, which looks awkward. Where do You decide, how the score and the parts handle the textstyle for timesignature? any ideas?
    best, ketan

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