How to create tuplets in Sibelius (Part 3)

Welcome everyone to the third part of my miniseries on “How to create tuplets in Sibelius”. Today we are going to have a look at some more advanced techniques, which I am sure you will be very pleased to learn. Let’s get started.

Other ratios

Let’s assume that we have exhausted our possibilities with tuplets from 3 to 9 notes, or that we need a different ratio which is not automatically covered by those keystrokes. What should we do? As a reminder, the keystrokes from 2 to 9, combined with the Cmd modifier (that’s Ctrl on PC), create the following ratios:

  • pressing 2: 2 notes in the place of 3, useful in compound times such as 6/8 (so, a ratio of 2:3)
  • pressing 3: 3:2, more commonly known as a triplet. If you want 3:4 this is not the place where to look.
  • pressing 4: 4:3
  • pressing 5: 5:4
  • pressing 6: 6:4
  • pressing 7: 7:4
  • pressing 8: 8:12, this is fascinating, right?
  • pressing 9: 9:8

If we want to create a different ratio, we need to use the Other option in the dropdown menu we already visited to manually create irregular groups before. Power Tip: assign a shortcut to this function in Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Note Input, it will save you hours!

Upon clicking, you will be greeted by this dialog:

The text field to the top accepts only numbers and columns : as input (actually, it will accept everything and then warn you that you should not have typed those characters) so, to try this out, select a note or a rest in your music, launch this dialog and type 3:4. Do not click OK just yet. Immediately below the text field are the same options we found in the Inspector, simply in the form of a radio-buttons checklist instead of a dropdown menu. Carefully choose your options and click OK.

Possible errors

Every so often Sibelius will not allow you to create the desired tuplet, and the main possible reasons are basically two: such a tuplet would cross the barline, or you have entered a ratio that is less than 1:4 or more than 4:1 when reduced to its minimal form. When would you use such an occurrence? Believe me, it will happen, the matter is only when!

The first error will return this alert, not very informative from its text:

Just click OK and keep reading!

The second error will be much more helpful and already appear in the previous dialog:

The solution to both problems will be looked at in the next lesson on Plug-ins, as there is no built-in way to work around them.

Sticky tuplets

When you need to create a very long run of same-ratio tuplets (such as a piece in 2/4 that has one instrument playing triplets almost all the time), it can be tedious to manually create each one of them.

The proposed solution is sticky tuplets, that is a function that will keep creating the same kind of tuplet you are currently using until you press Escape on your keyboard. Be mindful that if you change note value it will keep trying to create a tuplet but will fail if there is not enough space in the bar.

The keyboard shortcut for this is Option-Shift-K (that’s Alt-Shift-K on PC) and it will work only in Note Input mode, showing a hovering digit of the same colour as the voice you are writing in.

To exit this mode, simple tap Escape or one of the directional arrows.

Nested Tuplets

Sometimes, though, your music wants more, and you feel the primal instinct of creating tuplets inside other, possibly wanting to create something like this:

First three bars from Brian Ferneyhough String Quartet n° 6 — Edition Peters EP72078 – fair use reproduction

This clearly being an extreme example, it is still useful to know how to create more complex scenarios, as it will for sure become useful sooner or later.

To create nested tuplets, you need to work your way from the outside in, that is, from the biggest tuplet to the smaller one. Let’s start with a 4/4 bar and create a 5:4 crotchet tuplet, by selecting the bar, hitting 4 on the keypad and then Cmd-5 (or Ctrl-5 on PC).

Now we have increased the space available in the bar by 20%. Next, select the first quarter note and change it to a sixteenth note using the 2 on the keypad. Now, using the Other dialog we previously learned about, type something like 14:12 and hit OK. With this, we created a diminution tuplet on the first three quarters of the bar.

Next, select the quarter rest in beat 4, change it to a quaver using the 3 on the keypad and then, with the Other dialog, type 3:4 and hit OK. We now have an augmentation tuplet at the end.

We must admit that this starts to look confusing and that using the ratio would look better, and we will fix this later. At this point, we cannot create more nested tuplets if they cross the boundaries of another tuplet, but we can still work inside them. In the 14:12 one, we can still choose to have a 7:10 in the beginning and a 6:4 in the end, to simulate some kind of accelerando. Finally, instead of the triplet at the end of the bar, we will create a 7:5 semiquaver tuplet. We will finally turn the “ratio-note” option on and enjoy our complex masterpiece:

This is a completely theoretical example, please do not write your music like this unless you are sure of what you are doing.

Bottom Line

And there you have it, you now know how to master tuplets from the easiest to the most complex ones. In the next and final episode, we will look at what can be done to tuplets with the use of plugins.

If you are looking to greatly enhance your Sibelius experience, please take a moment to consider my viewset for Metagrid that I have published back in February. Metagrid is an app for iPad that allows you to control your Mac or PC from your iPad. My viewset is optimised for Mac because that is what I use; it may work on PC, but I have had no way to test it so far.

I hope you found this article helpful, if you did, please like it and share it with your friends and peers. Don’t forget to follow me on this blog and to let me know what you think.

If you are interested in my music engraving services and publications don’t forget to visit my Facebook page and the pages where I publish my scores (Gumroad, SheetMusicPlus, ScoreExchange and on Apple Books).

You can also support me by buying Paul Hudson’s Swift programming books from this Affiliate Link.

Thank you so much for reading!

Until the next one, this is Michele, the Music Designer.

Published by Michele Galvagno

Professional Musical Scores Designer and Engraver Graduated Classical Musician (cello) and Teacher Tech Enthusiast and Apprentice iOS / macOS Developer Grafico di Partiture Musicali Professionista Musicista classico diplomato (violoncello) ed insegnante Appassionato di tecnologia ed apprendista Sviluppatore iOS / macOS

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