Using WordBuilder with Sibelius to make vocal text come alive

Tutorials

I have often wished for a seamless way to input lyrics into Sibelius and have them instantly recognized and sung back to me. Although such functionality isn’t yet available, there’s a method that can achieve similar results. Using the EastWest Hollywood Choirs library and their built-in WordBuilder 2 engine, you can assemble words, enabling your choir passages to sing.

However, mastering this process demands a touch of patience, as the software doesn’t directly interpret written words with absolute precision. Consequently, you’ll need to transcribe the words into phonetic syllables or, for more accurate results, Word Builder’s proprietary Votox system. Fear not! It’s actually an enjoyable endeavor.

And yes, you can have it perform the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem (download the Sibelius file here).

Simply copy and paste these lyrics:

la a Kre mo sa dE E es !Ea qva re so get ex fa vi la ju de can dos ho mo re Os

into WordBuilder, then play the passage from your MIDI keyboard.

“Fun”, isn’t it? It can be!

Configure playback

To make this work in Sibelius, let’s walk through the process.

Prerequisites

First, I presume you have the EastWest Hollywood Choirs library fully installed on your computer. It’s available from EastWest as both a stand-alone perpetual license purchase, or on a subscription basis as part of their ComposerCloud+ package. (If you’re not in a hurry, Black Friday is among the best time to get discounts on these products!)

Next, download my Dies Irae example Sibelius file.

Playback Configuration

In Sibelius, go to the Play tab and, in Setup, click on the small disclosure arrow to access the Playback Devices settings.

Here, we will set up the playback for our SATB choir.

First, create a new playback configuration by clicking New… and, in the Choose Name dialog, name your configuration. I have called mine NotePerformer with Choir, because I am using both NotePerformer and EastWest Hollywood Choirs, but you can name it anything you like.

Since we need four distinct voice categories — soprano, tenor, alto, and bass — add four Opus players (Opus is EastWest’s proprietary sample player) to your list by clicking the Activate button.

Now, let’s proceed with configuring the manual sound sets.

Configure the manual sound sets

Click on the Manual Sound Sets tab above, and choose Opus in the Device. Click on the Show… button, then select the WOMEN WB Multi patch from within Opus. Finally, close Opus.

Back in the Manual Sound Sets tab, for Sound set: choose (none) and ensure that the Use manual sound set option is checked. Then, under Sound ID, select Voice > Female > Soprano > Normal and click Apply.

Use a similar procedure for all voices, opting for the WOMEN WB Multi patch for the alto voice, and the MEN WB Multi patch for the tenor and bass voice within Opus. Once you’re finished, click Save to save your updated playback device. Finally, you may close this view.

Configure the mixer

Now we need to configure our Mixer settings.

Access the Mixer by pressing its shortcut key M, then click the left button to expand it vertically. Select Opus as the main sample player and choose the respective sound sets for each channel. For example, for Channel 1, select voice.female.soprano.normal; for Channel 2, choose voice.female.alto.normal, and continue this pattern accordingly. Once you have completed these steps, you are all set to enjoy composing your choirs.

Let’s work through the choir passage from the opening of the first song on my Les Bals de Paris, Vol. 1 album, which sings “Dies Irae – Dies Illa”.

Begin by accessing the mixer using the shortcut key M and then click on the small engine button to activate the Opus engine.

Next, navigate to WordBuilder and copy/paste these lyrics into it:

dE ez E re dE ez E la Sol ve et ze ek lO Om in fa vil la

Repeat this process for all remaining ATB voices.

Add some information to the Sibelius file

Before we conclude, there’s one crucial setup left: ensuring the Opus player resets to the beginning with each return to the score’s start to avoid confusion with the lyrics.

To do this, while in the Opus player, click on Options. Under Return to the Beginning, select 21 – Control 21 and set it to 127. Remember to apply this to all four Opus Players.

Finally, as the very last step, back in Sibelius, copy/paste this hidden MIDI text as technique text to each player:

~CC21,127

This ensures that each time you return to the beginning of the score, the Opus Player knows to restart the singing from the beginning.

Now, let’s input our music notes and ensure that our singers are singing in sync, confirming that everything is working smoothly. (It is really a beautiful feeling that the choir sings what you write, isn’t it?) Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of settings we’ve adjusted to make this happen. Most of them are one-time setups, and you can always save your project file to swiftly start your next choir project.

Extensions: Graphical Midi Tools and NotePerformer

As a final tip, consider using Graphical MIDI Tools (GMT) to fine-tune your notes and add automations, similar to a DAW. You can acquire it from Notation Central. Additionally, GMT works seamlessly with NotePerformer. You can always mix and save Opus Player together with NotePerformer in a custom playback device and call it whenever you need to work with it.

Eventually, I hope we can input lyrics into Sibelius and have them automatically sung. Although this feature isn’t available yet, the future may bring new possibilities. I hope these tips help improve your workflow. In the meantime, I invite you to view all of my Lightning Sibelius tutorial videos for many more time-saving tips and tricks. Until next time!

Comments

  1. Huub Leijten

    Hey,
    Do you know the Cantamus.app (https://cantamus.app)?
    It’s available for English, German, Spanish and Latin.

  2. Ernie Mansfield

    PDF2MusicPro will sing lyrics in several languages, when you input any PDF music file (with lyrics) into it. Not “pro quality” but simple and easy to do.

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