If you’re at the stage with your composing or arranging that you want to start writing the music down then Sibelius is a really good software option for this.
There are student deals to buy Sibelius so have a look on the avid website: https://www.avid.com/sibelius
Here are some tips for using sibelius:
Enabling and downloading “sibelius sounds” will give you a much better sound quality and idea of what your piece sounds like. It takes longer to download but worth it in the long run.
When creating a new Sibelius score, in my opinion the best way to do this is click “Blank score” once (don’t double click as it will bi-pass the next stage)
One click will open up an options box where you can then add your instruments, time signature, key signature, tempo, title, composer name.
This way also means you don’t end up with loads of bars (which you do if you use the Treble score option) so it’s a bit more manageable and you can enter a lot of the important information straight away.
The tabs at the top of Sibelius refer to lots of different aspects of the music
A lot of the options in these tabs you can get to using keyboard shortcuts (explained below), but if you aren’t sure what they are, this is the place to find what you want!
I recommend going to the VIEW tab and on the right hand side click the Panels option.
Here you will get a drop down menu of some of the boxes you can have at the side of your score to navigate and input more quickly.
Two really helpful panels are: Keypad and Transport.
You need the KEYPAD to input notes.
You can use the TRANSPORT to play back from a certain point of the piece without scrolling, and temporarily change the tempo to hear something slower or faster (but remember to change it back!).
The quickest way to input notes is to find the note letter on your QWERTY keyboard and use the number pad on the right hand side. The number pad relates to the “Keypad” on Sibelius so for example when you press the number 4 it relates to the Keypad where there is a crotchet.
What to do:
Click the bar you want to add to...
Press the number keypad for the note length eg: 4 for a crotchet...
Press the QWERTY keyboard for the letter eg: G for the note G...
A crotchet G will appear on your stave...
If you have a keyboard/midi keyboard linked to sibelius then you can press the note on your keyboard and it comes up.
If you right click in Sibelius a list of options comes up. Things like bar, key signature, rehearsal mark etc.
Next to these, Sibelius have handily told us the keyboard shortcuts for these functions.
Here are a couple to get you started:
New bar at end of the piece: Ctrl + B
Delete a bar: Ctrl + click the bar - this will turn it PURPLE rather than BLUE, press delete
Change time signature: T
Change key signature: K
Play from the beginning of the piece: P
Line options: L
Expressions: Ctrl + E
Techniques: Ctrl + T
Add slurs: S
Change 8ve: Ctrl + arrow up OR + arrow down (for up and down an 8ve)
Sibelius will turn the notes red if it thinks you have entered a note that is out of the range of the instrument you are writing for.
Sometimes the ranges aren’t quite right, so double check with someone who plays the instrument or check our instrument ranges sheet.
Also, you might discover that an instrument can play higher than you thought, and write something really complicated - this is fine but maybe check with a player of the instrument. Often the higher you go on an instrument the more technically challenging it is!
The default setting for Sibelius is to have the score in the same key and then it will change the notes for the transposing instruments after. You can check what the transposing score looks like by pressing the option under the HOME tab.
It’s good to swap between the two to check what key some of your transposing instruments are having to play in, especially if something technical becomes almost impossible in the key they will have to play in. Just be aware!
Make sure what you are asking your performer to do is possible!
Not all the “symbols” and performance directions apply to every instrument. Eg: arco, meaning bowed, only apply to string plays, telling them to bow the strings.
Some techniques sound VERY STRANGE on sibelius, for example glissandos sound like a comedy slide. Don’t worry, this isn’t a representation of how it sounds in real life, so don’t let it put you off.
Specific instrument tips
Lower saxophones (tenor and baritone) and bass clarinet still read in treble clef, even though they play quite a lot lower. Players of these instruments normally don’t read bass clef.
To avoid loads of ledger lines, when adding these instruments to your stave, select the option “Score sounds 8vb” - this means you can arrange and read it at a more manageable octave.
Bassoons read in bass clef but when they go higher (they have quite a big range) they can also read in tenor clef. Changing clef avoids lots of ledger lines.