How to create tuplets in Sibelius (Part 4)

We have finally come to the fourth part of this tutorial series on creating tuplets in Sibelius. This section contains some advanced techniques, so do not feel bad in commenting to ask how to do certain things, I am here to help!

When I started writing this episode, I wanted it to be a single one, but I discovered there was so much to say that I had to split this in two. Let’s begin with what you absolutely cannot miss!

Plug-ins (Part 1)

In case you are not familiar with plug-ins they are easy to install: from within Sibelius, click on the File menu (within the app), go to the bottom of the leftmost column and expand the Plug-ins menu. From there, select Install Plug-ins and you will be greeted with a dialog such as this one:

From the top-left menu Show expand the dropdown and select All Plug-ins, then, in the search field to the right, type-in what you are looking for. Once you have found your desired plug-in, select it and click on Install in the bottom right section of the dialog.

Create N by M Tuplet

Let’s start smooth, with the first plug-in a Sibelius user coming out of apprenticeship should learn, the “Create N by M Tuplet”. As we saw in a previous episode, Sibelius can only create tuplets whose ratio is between one quarter and four times the total considered value. This should suffice for most cases, but there are some situations where this should be avoided.

The cases where you will need this will vary, but some clear examples are:

  1. Solo instrument and piano: the solo playing a run of notes over a piano chord with fermata using note values that cannot be halved. This kind of cadenza is unusual, but it happens a lot in Late Romantic music, where the piano plays a fermata chord a half-note long and the solo instrument is playing a long run of eight or even quarter-notes.
  2. Comply to a complex rhythmic situation where you need to align one instrument’s rhythm with another’s, and the only solution seems to expand the rhythm with a 1:x ratio. Again, 1:4 will suffice most of the time, but it is good to know we have an alternative.

Now, in your score, enter a note, for example a quarter note, at the beginning of the bar. Try now to create, via the Other submenu inside the Triplets menu, a 17:4 tuplet. The system will throw the error we talked about in the last episode. Again, I stress on the fact that musically this could be solved using 8th notes and a 17:8 group but since this kind of scenarios will happen in your everyday work, and you want to avoid being unprepared then, please bear with me.

Select that same quarter note, press Comma to open the Search in Ribbon feature1 and write “Create N by M Tuplet” (this assumes that you have installed the plugin). Select it in the search results or, if it is already selected, press Return. This is what you should see on-screen:

Write 17 in the “N” field and 4 in the “M” field; leave “Unit:” to 256 which is a way for Sibelius to count the quarter notes2; the second row of options lets you choose the number, bracket and bracket extension style, as with the other dialogs we have seen previously. Hit OK and admire your masterpiece:

This rest looks like somebody winking at us, doesn't it?
This rest looks like somebody winking at us, doesn’t it?

For science, let’s also try to do the opposite, that is an augmentation tuplet which exceeds the 4x ratio, such as a 1:6 one.

The visual result is clearly ugly, that is because the bracket is compressed in an awkward position. The only way to show the brackets as it should be, is to drag the top vertical segment towards the right. Normally, though, this kind of tuplets does not show the bracket.

Tuplet over barline

One of the limitations of Sibelius that has received the most complaints is the impossibility to create tuplets that cross barlines, as Sibelius considers bars as waterproof compartments. Once more, in ordinary classical music up to the beginning of the XX century you will find no clear need for this plug-in, but it can also come in handy for those of you dealing with mensural notation from the Renaissance period.

To the rescue came two incredible developers, Robin Walker and Bob Zawalich who, together, managed to code a way to create tuplets that span over barlines in Sibelius, a truly epic feat. In my everyday work I have been able to successfully use this plug-in to create multiple 5:4 tuplets across barlines in contemporary music pieces such as this example (look at the viola part):

From William Blank's SATZ for String Quartet, fair use.
From William Blank’s SATZ for String Quartet, fair use.

One of the developers wrote a comprehensive article about how this plug-in works, so I will not go in-depth with technical terms, rather I will just show you how this works.

Let’s take this as your starting point, which is: two bars in 4/4 time, both with a quarter rest, an 8th-note-quintuplet and another quarter rest. Our goal is to obtain another quintuplet over the barline. Before the release of this plug we could do this by creating two 5:16 tuplets, hide the brackets, adjust the beaming and then create an artificial bracket with the Lines tool. Now, instead, just select the quarter rest at the end of the first bar, change it to an 8th-note rest, then launch the “Tuplet over barline” plug-in. The dialog is very comprehensive and includes a good deal of explanations:

The plug-in description at the top warns you that the first time you will run this plug-in, a source score will be opened to fetch some needed material and your screen will flash. Do not panic, it is all normal, and it should be over in a matter of seconds. In the text field to the middle-left, write 5:4 and leave all other options unchanged (you can fiddle with them another time). The result will be this, passage selection included:

Now all you have to do is change the fixed notes to any note of your liking or need.

And that’s it for this plug-in, enjoy!

Bottom Line

And there you have it for this first episode on plug-ins. In the next and final episode (I know I said this in the last episode already, I’m sorry), we will look at the remaining plug-ins for tuplets.

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.

  1. If you are not using an English keyboard, this shortcut will most probably not work, for example with an Italian keyboard it is Ctrl-0 on Mac, not sure what it is on Windows.
  2. In short, Sibelius gives a note-value of 1 to the shortest note it can read/write, which is a 1/256th of a quarter notes, that is a 1028th note.
    Thus, an 8th note is given 128, a half note 512 and so on.

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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