Using Kontakt and other third party virtual instruments in Sibelius Ultimate


Sibelius Ultimate comes with wide range of instruments for playback in the form of Sibelius 7 sounds. But what if you want an instrument not included in this sound set, or have a virtual instrument (VI) from a third party that you would prefer for playback? Many users don’t realize that you can mix Sibelius 7 sounds and third party sounds in the same Playback Configuration for use in the same score. You can also use just the third party VI’s for playback in your score, if you’d like.

After a quick stop by the Play tab in the Ribbon, and a few simple steps to create a custom Playback Configuration, you’ll be all set.

Listen to the podcast episodes

The first of a two-part episode in which Philip Rothman and David MacDonald discuss the playback features of music notation software, why playback is important, and how you can make use of it when you work on a score:

Scoring Notes
Scoring Notes
“Playing” with notation software, part 1 of 2

The second of a two-part episode in which we discuss the playback features of music notation software. We share the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years, look at some software-specific tools, and provide a few examples so you can hear how it all sounds.

Scoring Notes
Scoring Notes
“Playing” with notation software, part 2 of 2


Since Kontakt is a very popular VI, I’ve created a video on my YouTube channel that walks you through the steps of how to set up a playback configuration with Sibelius 7 sounds and Kontakt. There are also tips on how to navigate around a few quirks that you may encounter, which can throw you off if you aren’t aware of them.

This doesn’t just apply to Kontakt; it’s the same process for any VI.


Here are the basic steps to create a new Playback Configuration and set up Sound Sets:

Open Playback Devices

1. Go to Play tab > Setup and click on the little downwards and right-pointing arrow, which opens up Playback Devices.

Step 1: Open Playback Devices

Create a new Playback Configuration

2. In the Playback Devices window, create a new playback configuration by clicking on New and give it a name; for example “Sibelius 7 & Kontakt”.

3. From the Available Device list on the left, select your VI (Kontakt) and click the Activate button in the middle.

4. Select Kontakt from the Active Devices list and then click Show.

Steps 2, 3, and 4: Create a new playback configuration

Load your instruments

5. Load the instruments you require in the usual manner for Kontakt.

Step 5: Load instruments in your virtual instrument

Set up the Sound Set

6. Click on Manual Sound Sets.

Step 6. Open the Manual Sound Sets tab

This takes you to a new window.

7. In the Device dropdown, select Kontakt, then check Use manual sound set, and for this example we will set No. channels: to 5, since that is all the instruments I need right now. You can choose any number from 1 to 16.

8. To keep things simple, I’m going to assign a general MIDI Program name and number to each Kontakt instrument. If it’s not the exact sound, I’ll choose something close. Remember, this is just a label to help you select a sounds in your mixer.

9. For each channel, click on the channel number in the program window (the Ch. column on the right). On the left, the Channel number will update as you do this. Under Sound Settings, select the Program Name for that channel.

10. When you are done with Channel 1, remember to click Apply! If you don’t click Apply, when you go to Channel 2, the selection for channel one with be gone. Did I say remember to click Apply? Remember to click Apply.

Steps 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11: Setting up the Manual Sound Set

11. Repeat this for all channels — five in my case, or however many you have.

Save your work

12. When you are done with all the channels, you will see that your Configuration has an asterisk next to the name. This is because it hasn’t been saved. Remember to click Save. If you attempt to close the window without saving, Sibelius will ask if you want to save your configuration (“Do you want to save the changes you made…? Click Yes).

13. Close out of the Playback Devices window. The configuration you have created will be the active configuration. But this configuration is now saved in your system and can be selected for future Sibelius scores.

Steps 12 & 13: The Playback Configuration is saved for future use

14. Open the Mixer (M). On each channel you can select either the Sibelius Player or Kontakt as your device. Because you’ve defined a Sound Set and instrument for each channel of your Kontakt device, you will see a list of program names to choose from. Sibelius will automatically route it to the appropriate instrument in Kontakt.

Step 14: Using the Mixer

The “set it and forget it” alternative: NotePerformer

An excellent third party VI for in playback Sibelius Ultimate is NotePerformer by Wallander Instruments. This is the best “set and it and forget it” alternative to the stock Sibelius 7 sounds — none of the above work is required at all. Instead, when NotePerformer is installed, a new Playback Configuration is automatically created.

There are several great articles about NotePerformer on this site, so I won’t go into detail about it here. But if you would like to hear the difference between Sibelius 7 sounds, NotePerformer and a live orchestra, check this video on my YouTube channel:


If you’d like to use NotePerformer and Sibelius 7 sounds in the same score, you can. The procedure is the same as using Sibelius 7 sounds and Kontakt, except there is no need to set up Sound Sets. Just follow the same steps for creating a new playback configuration and select NotePerformer from the Available Devices list and you’re done!

Go back to the Play tab, and select this new Playback Configuration. Next, in the Mixer, select your Playback Device and sound in the usual way.

It should be also be noted that any instrument in your Playback Configuration will also be included when you export an audio file of your Sibelius score.

So now you know how to spice up the playback of your next score in Sibelius Ultimate with third party virtual instruments!

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  1. Itzhak Yaron

    Great that you do this. I do work with many third party VI using VEPro 7 . Another great topic will be writing on a DAW I use Logic X and then exporting midi or SML into Sibelius Ultimate
    Keep the great work and seeing here all the links in one place for us to delve in.
    Love it.

  2. Ron G.

    I am really interested in this since I’ve spent time with Avid tech support trying to ensure Sibelius will boot up. The solution was to remove the VSTs and Components from their respective folders, otherwise Sibelius will hang up and not start. So I am puzzled that it is possible to use third party VSTs and do the things described here. How Sibelius can work with VSTs yet not boot with them in their normal filepath is beyond me. Currently I have to move them back and forth when using Sibelius or my DAW and other VST instruments. I would love to get this to work but am wondering how much time would be invested…(using Sibelius Ultimate)
    – Ron

  3. Patrick N

    I’m new to sibelius and currently trying to set this up with kontakt instruments..The one thing you leave out here is how to get it to switch articulations?..

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