Creating cut-away or scrapbook scores in Sibelius


This tutorial was contributed by composer, teacher and choral director Peter McAleer. If you would like to contribute a tutorial for the benefit of Sibelius users around the world, please get in touch.

This method extends techniques discussed in the section Staves with gaps in from Sibelius Reference and is intended for advanced users. You should read that short Reference section first. In addition, a basic grasp of Sibelius skills is assumed, including acquaintance with the Properties window, the concept of  instruments, and editing House Styles. Since this is a basic tutorial, I won’t make any attempt to visit more complex issues that can arise with this type of score. More after the jump.

In extending the information given in Staves with gaps in, this guide will help you achieve bracketed entry of instrument blocks in mid-system, complete with appropriate clefs, instrument labels and good staff spacing, but leaving already visible staves untouched (see the final illustration).

Step 1: Create the score

For this tutorial we want an ensemble comprising a wind quartet plus string quartet. In Sibelius choose File > New, and in the manuscript paper list select String quartet. Add a wind quartet to this ensemble (press the Change Instruments button to access the Instruments dialog): we need to add Flute, Oboe, Clarinet in Bb and Bassoon.  When you’re done, click OK and then, back in the New Score dialog, click Finish straightaway because we don’t need any further settings. You should now have a score that looks like this:


Step 2: Make instruments disappear until mid-system

In this piece, we’ll pretend the flute and bassoon won’t play until bar 5, and the oboe and clarinet have no music to play for some pages. We therefore want to hide all of the wind, but have the flute and bassoon appear in mid-system at bar 5. It’s simple enough:

  • Select bars 1 – 4 in the flute part
  • Choose  Create > Other > Instrument Change. Get to know the shortcut – you’ll thank me if this is the kind of score you’ll do frequently (it’s Ctrl+Shift+Alt+I on Windows or ShiftOptCommandI on Mac). In the Instrument Change dialog select No instrument (hidden) from the Other family under All instruments, then click OK.
  • Repeat the above steps for the bassoon staff. Your score should now look like this:


Step 3:  Force brackets and clefs to appear

It doesn’t look very good yet, but it will. Select bar 5 in, say, violin I (or any instrument). Go to the Properties window and open the Bars panel, setting Gap before bar to 0.4 spaces. Watch what happens:


Brackets and clefs appear for all instruments, even those for which you don’t want them. But before we go on to step 4, there’s a small but vital piece of tidying up to do. Let’s look closely at violin I in bar 5:


If you look hard, you’ll notice a barline peeping from behind the bracket (indicated in purple). Let’s deal with that now. Select the barline, carefully making sure the bracket remains unselected. Now choose Create > Barline > Invisible to make it disappear. You can do this later, of course, but you must do it.

Step 4: Create a custom instrument

We now have to create our own instrument. We want it to “mask out” the unwanted brackets and clefs on the string staves, but only for that small portion of staff. After that, each staff must return, almost immediately, to its original instrument so that notes etc. can be entered without any unwanted side-effects. So now:

  • Choose House Style > Edit Instruments, and from the All instruments ensemble under Others, select Unnamed (treble staff).
  • Click New Instrument…, and you’ll be asked to confirm. Just click OK. You’re now in the New Instrument dialog. There are many powerful settings and options available to you here, but we won’t touch most of them in this tutorial.
  • In the Name in dialogs edit control give your new instrument an appropriate name – one that you will find useful when searching for this instrument in dialogs:


  • Click the Edit Staff Type button to enter the Staff Type dialog. There are two pages here; make sure you’re looking at the General settings:


  • Under Other Objects uncheck Bracket, Initial clef, and Key signatures/Tuning
  • Click OK to dismiss this dialog, OK the New Instruments dialog, and close Edit Instruments.

Step 5: Conceal unwanted brackets and clefs

  • First, make sure you have Restore original item after single-bar selections switched on in the Note Input page in Preferences, otherwise what follows won’t work
  • Select bar 5 in violin I
  • Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change and in the dialog find and select your newly-created instrument. At the bottom of this dialog uncheck Announce at the last note of previous instrument. Click OK, and you should see this:


  • Do the same for each of the other string staves in bar 5. On no account delete the instrument label text that appears above each staff; if you do, the actual instrument change will disappear with it. Instead, you should hide this text by selecting it and typing Ctrl+Shift+H on Windows or ShiftCommandH on Mac.
  • Now the fun bit: select violin I, bar 5 again and examine it (zoom in if it helps). You’ll see two instrument change rectangles in blue. Select the leftmost of them (this our custom instrument) and nudge it leftward using the left arrow key, until it’s over the left-hand barline. Watch the clefs and bracket magically disappear for that instrument:


  • Select the same bar and then select the second (right-hand) instrument change (aside: Sibelius put it there automatically in order to change back to the original instrument after your selection. Cool or what?). Nudge it leftward until it clears the bar rest symbol, but not too far or else the brackets and clef will reappear! If that happens you’ve just negated the leftmost instrument change and your only course of action is to undo and try again.
  • Do the same for each of the string staves at bar 5.
  • If you haven’t already done so, select the instrument texts at bar 5 for all the string staves (not the wind), and hide them. You should end up with a score looking like this:


You can now safely input notes etc. into any of these bars, and brackets and clefs appear correctly on all subsequent systems.

Step 6: Tidy up

Almost last of all, one of the most important procedures in this whole technique. You may have noticed the unwanted space below the flute staff. You may even have tried to do something about it by dragging the bassoon staff up. If you haven’t, why not give a whirl now? It won’t close, will it? Why not? Because there are still 2 staves between the flute and the bassoon. OK, they may be invisible, but they are still there and Sibelius is dutifully allocating space to them. I got you to put those instruments there deliberately to demonstrate a situation you will come across often with cut-away scores: intervening “invisible” staves.

Undo your dragging (if need be) so that these staves are back in their default positions. Instead:

  • Click in bar 5 where the oboe staff would be if it were visible. This may need a little practice:


  • Then extend this selection:
  • Shift-arrow down to select the Clarinet staff
  • Shift-right arrow a few times to extend the selection to the end of the system
  • Shift-left arrow to extend the selection to the start of the system:


  • Choose Layout > Hide Empty Staves (shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Alt+H on Windows or ShiftOptCommandH on Mac). Your score now looks like this:


As you can see, everything is spaced as it should be automatically: no dragging needed. In larger orchestral scores, this procedure will save you much heartache.

The last thing to do is move the flute and bassoon instrument labels to their correct position at the left of their respective staves. You can safely edit them, too, to their short forms (e.g ‘Fl.’ and ‘Bsn.’) and will probably want to do so, just don’t delete them:


Don’t forget that the apparent barline at the end of bar 4 is actually no such thing (we hid the real one to avoid having a double line there) and you can’t change its appearance as you can with normal barlines. In addition, if you try to hide it, the brackets will hide with it too – not something you’ll want after all this work. That’s why we hid the “real” barline instead. If you want to alter it, or delete it, you’ll probably have to fake it (and there are situations where you might want partially to obscure this line) but such details are beyond the scope of this tutorial.

There are many other issues that will arise, too, if you choose to present your music using this kind of score. These include restoring dynamic parts to a usable state, and situations where you may need fake brackets etc. in your score. And not least, at what stage of composition should you format your score in the cut-away style? Should you actually do it at all? Too many areas to cover in this basic tutorial, but I hope this guide is enough get you going. If you discover any tips and tricks of your own along the way, you are most welcome to drop me a line.

That’s it. I hope you enjoy, as I do, discovering what this amazing piece of software will do.

Peter McAleer
composer-teacher-choral director



    didnt know you could do that in Sibelius – I have been using Sibelius Software for over 12 years and all the time new things pop up – even when using the software you constantly find new things which are so useful… Thanks Sibelius for all your hard work!

  2. Robyn Markey

    This is a great post. I’m hoping that you might be able to help with a related problem I am having. I’m putting together a score with scrap-book/cutaway look, but instead of putting them one under the other, I want my staves to be next to each other with a break between. Is this possible? I can send you an image of what I’m trying to achieve if that helps. Just give me an email address to send it too. Thankyou.

    1. Philip Rothman

      What you want is a gap before the bar. Look up how to do this in the Sibelius Reference in the section about the Inspector > Bars Panel.

  3. Anthony Butler

    This has been very helpful, but I have a few questions. When I made the new instrument to remove the clefs and brackets, the new instrument would create a key signature of naturals in order to negate my present key signature. Do you have a method how to make it not do that? Also, this new instrument changes the present instrument on my staff. How do I go about returning my instrument sound to the proper file? I have sibelius 8.

    Thank you for this resource.

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