Learning more advanced cut-away score techniques


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 tutorial builds on some of the techniques first introduced in Creating cut-away or scrapbook scores and addresses some problems with scores containing 4 or more instrumental groups. It assumes familiarity with the earlier tutorial.

Note: The term reappearance point is used to denote a barline where previously hidden instruments reappear mid-system: it is not a recognised Sibelius term.

My aim is to present the Sibelius 6 user more options for the display of instrumental groups at mid-system reappearance points. This is a very advanced and involved topic: if you are new to cut-away scores you should read Staves with gaps in in Sibelius Reference, and then follow the first tutorial before attempting this one. Other methods of producing these scores do exist in Sibelius, using an array of fakes for example, but this tutorial will show you how to accomplish good results using standard Sibelius procedures and will therefore avoid problems associated with fakes (when your score reformats, for example). I recommend that you leave the formatting of your score in the cut-away style to the very last moment, after all notes and texts have been added and and respacing commands have been executed. More after the jump.


Creating cut-away or scrapbook scores showed a cut-away method applied to a simple score comprising just two instrumental groups: winds and strings. When the wind appeared in mid-system, all the brackets and clefs appeared correctly for those new instruments:


With 4 or more instrumental groups present, typically in an orchestral score, this won’t do. Why not? Well, look at this example:


It’s plain wrong. You don’t want the reappearance point’s “initial barline” to be unbroken like this, straddling the entire system, even linking groups already present. We need something more sophisticated. The following steps will demonstrate how to achieve this (and, in the process, how to deal with the anomalous 5-line tambourine segment). We’ll do this using a fairly minimal case score comprising four instrumental groups.

Step 1: Create the score

Create a new score comprising flute, oboe, trumpet, trombone, tambourine and string quartet. Make sure they appear in the vertical order shown here:


Step 2: Force brackets and clefs to appear

We want brackets and clefs to show for the newly-appearing instruments in mid-system, like we did in tutorial 1. We’ll do things differently this time, however, using a rather neat little trick:

  • Select bar 5 and increase Gap before bar in the Bars panel of Properties until brackets and clefs appear.
  • Select bar 5’s initial barline (N.B: not the regular barline, but the one which continues in an unbroken vertical line through the entire system, regardless of instrument grouping).


  • Nudge this line left a few times. If it disappears, don’t worry, it’s still there and still selected. In that case, arrow it some more; it will reappear. You want it positioned exactly over the top of the regular barline, and the more you zoom in, the more accurate you’ll get:


Your score will look like this:


Note: This is a really good moment to make sure you’re thoroughly familiar with the Edit Instruments dialog; see chapter 8.14 Edit Instruments in Help > Documentation > Sibelius 6 Reference. I recommend creating a new family to contain all cut-away specific instruments. Then, when you create a new instrument (based in a pre-existing one), remove it from its default group and add it to this custom group instead.

You should also consider relocating No Instrument (hidden) into this family (if that worries you, make a duplicate based on it and move that one instead). In addition, I also recommend creating a custom family containing all the “real” (default) instruments in your score. (If you’re getting confused at this point, you may need to read that chapter in Sibelius 6 Reference and come back to this.)

All of these procedures are going to make your life a lot easier when it comes to finding and inserting these instrument changes into your score.

Step 3: Hide instruments

  • Select bars 1 – 4 in the flute
  • Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change
  • Locate and choose No Instrument (hidden). Uncheck Add clef (if necessary) and Announce at last note of previous instrument.
  • Click OK.
  • Do the same for the trumpet, viola and cello.

You should now be looking like this:


Step 4: Create masking instruments

As before, we need an instrument change that will mask out brackets and clefs for instruments already present before the reappearance point. Actually, we need two of them in this score; one for the 5-line staves, and one for the single-line tambourine staff.

  • In House Style > Edit Instruments, create a new instrument based on Unnamed (treble staff). Name it Mask.
  • Choose Edit Staff Type. Under Other Objects uncheck Bracket and Initial clef.
  • Click OK in Edit Staff Type, and OK in the New Instrument dialog.
  • Back in Edit Instruments create another instrument, this time based on the tambourine (by default found in Other Unpitched Percussion).
  • In Name in dialogs call it Tambourine mask (or something else similarly useful). Delete all other entries in the Name text boxes.
  • Click the Edit Staff Type button and click the General tab. Deselect all options under Other Objects and Barlines.
  • Click OK.
  • OK the New Instrument dialog and close Edit Instruments.

Step 5: Place masks in the score

Make sure you have Restore original item after single-bar selections switched on in the Note Input page in Preferences, otherwise the following won’t work:

  • Select bar 5 of the trombone staff
  • Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change and select Mask.
  • Uncheck Add clef (if necessary) and Announce at last note of previous instrument.
  • Click OK.

As we noted in the first tutorial, this places two instrument changes: one at the beginning of the bar (Mask) and one at the end (a return to the “real” – technically, the default – instrument for that staff). We’ll adjust these in a moment.

  • Do the same for violins I & II
  • In a similar way apply the Tambourine mask to the same point in the tambourine staff.
  • In the trombone staff, bar 5, select the Mask instrument change and nudge it leftwards until it’s just over the left-hand barline: bracket and clef should disappear.
  • Now select the the second instrument change in that bar and also nudge it leftward, until it clears the bar rest symbol and finishes up just to the right of where the clef would be, just as we did in tutorial 1 (not too far, or else you’ll negate Mask). Here is the ideal placement for these two instrument changes:


  • Do likewise for the tambourine and violins I & II
  • Select all the instrument change labels for the trombone, tanbourine, violin I, violin II and hide them. Do not delete them: as we noted in the previous tutorial, deleting these labels will also delete the associated instrument change.

Now, if your score looks like this, you’re doing well:


Step 6: Create a special reappearance instrument

We now need another kind of masking instrument, one that will suppress the drawing of the initial barline for the reappearing instruments too, because until we have done this for all the instruments in the system this barline will just stick around (remember, Mask and Tambourine mask have already been set not to draw the initial barline – go and check if you like).

Important: You might think you can get rid of the initial barline simply by hiding it (as you can with most things) or unchecking Initial barline in the Bars panel of Properties. The former does nothing, the latter – well, give it go: select bar 5 and try unchecking Initial barline. Whoops, there go all the clefs and brackets! (You might ask why, but sorry, I don’t have an answer.) Choose Edit > Undo.

  • In House Style > Edit Instruments create a new instrument based on Unnamed (treble staff).
  • Under Name in dialogs call it Reappearance (5 lines). (Hypothetically, you might, at some stage in this score, have to use a special reappearance instrument for the single-line tambourine staff.)
  • Click the Edit Staff Type button
  • Under Other Objects leave everything checked; under Barlines uncheck both items.
  • OK the Edit Staff Type dialog.
  • OK the New Instrument dialog and close Edit Instruments.

Step 7: Use the reappearance instrument

Note: The following is not necessary for the topmost instrumental group, the flute and oboe.

Now we must replace the instrument changes that Sibelius placed for us at the start of bar 5 in the trumpet, viola and cello:

  • In the trumpet staff, delete the instrument change in bar 5 (the staff will disappear)
  • Make sure nothing is selected. Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change. Ensure Add clef (if necessary) and Announce at last note of previous instrument are unchecked, then double-click Reappearance (5 lines). You may well be asked: There is something selected which is not in view…; just click No to this message.
  • Guide your “loaded” mouse over to where the trombone part would display a clef at the start of bar 5, then click. The instrument change won’t be quite over the clef so drag it so that it is: there’s a very good reason for this.


You’ll notice barlines for that instrument will disappear. They’ll be back soon.

  • Do likewise for the viola staff
  • Do the same to the cello staff
  • In the words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC!

All of the barlines for our reappearance instruments at the start of bar 5 have now disappeared. This is because the barline at the beginning of bar 5 actually wasn’t there at all: technically it was at the end of bar 4. Because bar 4 is affected by a No instrument (hidden) instrument change, it’s hardly surprising that its barline doesn’t show. We’ll remedy this shortly.

Another problem you may encounter: some instruments with masking instrument changes may have lost their barline at this point, like Violin I in this picture:


This is because the instrument change over that barline is too far to the left. Simply select it and nudge it right.

Step 8: Create a barline reveal instrument

  • in House Style > Edit Instruments create a new instrument based on No instrument (barlines shown).
  • Under Name in dialogs call it Barline reveal (or something useful to you)
  • Click the Edit Staff Type button.
  • On the General page uncheck absolutely everything except Barlines in the Barlines group.
  • In the same box change Extend above center of staff by to 2, and likewise set Extend below center of staff by to 2.
  • OK all dialogs and return to the score.

Step 9: Use the barline reveal instrument

  • Make sure nothing is selected in the score
  • Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change. Ensure Add clef (if necessary) and Announce at last note of previous instrument are unchecked.
  • Double-click the Barline reveal instrument.
  • Click it into your score in the trumpet staff at the start of bar 4. Your missing barline at the start of bar 5 returns. If it doesn’t, make sure the reappearance instrument change in bar 5 is over the clef, not the left-hand barline.
  • Do the same for the viola and cello.

Are you looking like this?


If you are, you’re almost there.

Step 10: Tidy up

As before, we need to return our reappearing instruments to “real” ones almost immediately after each reappearance instrument change.

For each of these staves, therefore:

  • Make sure nothing’s selected in the score
  • Choose Create > Other > Instrument Change. Ensure Add clef (if necessary) and Announce at last note of previous instrument are unchecked.
  • Locate and double-click the appropriate “real” instrument for that staff.
  • Click it into the score on that staff at the end of bar 6.
  • Nudge the instrument change leftwards, past the bar 5 rest symbol until it almost reaches the clef. Just another reminder – don’t go too far left.
  • Instrument change labels will have appeared for each of those staves. Edit and reposition them as appropriate. Whatever you do, don’t delete them (hide them if you must):


There it is! I told you it was very advanced and involved. But just look at the result: you’ve gained complete control over the appearance of brackets and clefs, barlines and groupings. Notice that the viola and cello link their barline with the violins when they enter just as they should. Notice, too that trumpet also links itself to the trombone. But the separate groups remain separated, just as you’d want.

You also now have, in your Create > Other > Instrument Change collection, nearly all the tools you’ll need for the rest of the score and it’s surprising how quick you can get at applying them.

There’s more: in the works is another tutorial where I’ll explain more ways to use the tools we’ve developed, and some more tricks. So if you’ve been following me don’t trash your copy of the score – keep it safe somewhere.

Peter McAleer
composer – teacher – choral director


  1. Ian Phillips-Kerr

    Brilliant tutorial, many thanks. I wonder if it’s possible to do the same thing mid-way through a bar rather than always at a bar line. Thanks Ian

  2. zandi

    Tank you
    Tank you
    Tank you(:

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