Video tutorial: Manually adjust staves and systems


Ever wonder how to independently move a staff or a system without affecting other staves on the same page? Have a look at this new video tutorial on how to do this in your Sibelius and Finale scores.

A transcript follows.

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

This one’s on manually adjusting staves and systems in Sibelius and Finale.

In Sibelius, typically you can just click on any measure and drag the staff on the system up or down to adjust its vertical position. The keyboard shortcut for this is option on Mac, or Alt on PC, plus the up or down arrow, and you can hold down the Command or Ctrl key to adjust in larger increments.

You can do this for more than one system as well.

You may notice, though, that at the same time you are dragging a staff, Sibelius also proportionally adjusts other systems and staves on the page. Normally this is desirable because it saves you from having to make many little tweaks.

But sometimes you really want to adjust one staff, and only one staff. To do this, without affecting the absolute position of any of the other staves or systems on the page, simply hold down the Shift key before dragging or using the keyboard shortcut to move the staves.

This is especially helpful on the bottom system, which Sibelius will typically justify to the bottom of the page if a certain threshold is crossed in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Staves > Justification.

You may have noticed that attempting to drag the bottom system is impossible; doing so actually results in Sibelius moving all of the other staves in the opposite direction to that which you’re dragging. You’ll find, however, that if you hold down Shift, you’ll be able to drag the bottom system just fine.

Keep in mind that if you find yourself having to do a lot of manual dragging, you may wish to try experimenting with your staff size and spacing settings, which can be found in the Ribbon under the Layout tab, with additional options available if you click the dialog launchers.

In Finale, dragging a system is done by first switching to the Page Layout Tool, and then clicking anywhere within a system to select it and dragging it up or down. Like in Sibelius, multiple systems can be selected by Shift-clicking each system you’d like to add to your selection, and the handle in the upper left hand corner of each selected system is highlighted.

Unlike in Sibelius, however, Finale will not proportionally adjust the other staves or systems on the page. Instead, each system on the page below the bottom-most selected one will simply move up or down by an absolute amount.

To prevent the other systems from moving, hold down the option key on Mac, or Ctrl on PC while dragging the system.

Like in Sibelius, the vertical position of staves can also be adjusted in Finale. This is done by going to the Staff Tool. Click on the staff’s handle and drag the staff up or down. Like with systems, you can select multiple staves, and Finale will adjust all staves below the bottom-most selected staff. You can also select the same staff on adjacent systems, like in Sibelius.

To prevent the other staves from moving while you do this, again: hold down the option key on Mac, or Ctrl on PC while dragging the staff or staves in your selection.

Again, if you find yourself doing this a lot, you may wish to adjust some of your document settings. Some of these are found in the Page Layout menu, but this only affects music already created, unless you have checked Update Page Format for Score in the Page Layout menu.

Newly-created music will inherit the settings in Document > Page Format > Score, so I find it’s best to go there to make any global adjustments to staff or system size, margins and distances, and then update your document by going to Page Layout > Redefine Pages > All Pages.

You can achieve something similar to Sibelius’s proportional respacing feature by running a plug-in called Space Systems, which is found in Plug-ins > Scoring and Arranging. This will retain the proportional distance between the systems while making the top and bottom systems adhere to the same position on every page that you have selected in the Process Range area of the dialog.


  1. Gregory Winters


    Do you accept students? I don’t have time for the massive amount of trial and error associated with Sibelius and am willing to pay a reasonable fee for personal consulting services. If you do not do this, can you recommend someone who does? Thanks.

  2. Synth

    Excellent post! Very informative. Have you ever done a tutorial on formatting bar numbers? I do not understand the relationship between the formatting in the Text formatting dialogue box vs. the formatting in the Engraving Rules dialogue box.
    Thanks again, GREAT website.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Synth: Thanks! That’s a good idea for a future post. I agree that there some things regarding bar numbers that could be explained more, especially when getting into Dynamic Parts.

  3. salvatore

    Hi, I can use on Ipad air 2??

  4. Vinicius

    Thank you for such clear explanation, both post and video. May I ask a question?
    I`m a music teacher, and I`ve been working on some sight singing exercises to my students. I need to create several different melodies, with different time signatures and key signatures on the same page. Is that possible?

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