A Jazz Professional Review
Version 3 of this remarkable music scoring software is now available. It is the product of thousands of hours of work by dedicated programming engineers and is something of which they can be justifiably proud. This PC update is 3Mb smaller than the previous Version 2, and comes with a host of goodies, some of which may or may not be useful to the user, depending upon what kind of music he or she wishes to write.
Readers of this review are more likely to be interested in the jazz aspects of the programme, so Iíll write a bit of a big band score as an example, and add comments on the way.The Big Band Score
Start Sibelius 3 and click on New to start a new Score. If you generally use a screen resolution of 800x600 youíll notice that the templates page is slightly cut off at the bottom. Donít worry about that for the moment. Click Next, scroll up to the top of the dialogue box and select Big Band. Select Landscape †and Next.
Change House Style to Jazz Handwritten and Main Text Font to Jazz Text Extended. Click Next. Set the Time Signature to 4/4 and the Metronome Mark to one quarter note equals 120. Now click Beam and Rest Groups. Change Group 8ths, at the top to 2,2,4. Trust me on this and Iíll accept your thanks later. Hit OK and Next.
Select F Major and Next, add a title if you wish, and then take a look at the option to create a title page. This works fine in Sibelius 3, but if you try and add a title page to a score written in any previous version it will spread the text all over any extracted parts. Iíll tell you about that later.
Click Finish† and view your new empty score.
Hmm. Not quite what we expected. Quick, pull down the Layout menu and select Document Setup. (Control+D) is quicker. Now change the Staff Size to 4 and Hit OK. Aha! Change back to a staff size of 5.5 if you prefer working in Portrait.
Sometimes, if you are too impatient to start, the toolbar will not load properly, and you'll find the odd icon, or the screen percentage box, appearing mysteriously in the score. Correct this by pulling down the View menu and clicking on the Toolbar option. Do it a couple of times and the toolbar will light up.
You may notice, as I did, that pulling the screen around with the mouse hand is not the same as it used to be in the previous versions. The Navigator may be a bit frisky, too. There is now an innovation called Smoothing, and you can find that in the View menu. I've selected the slider all the way over to the left at Faster. I suppose that someone asked for this, but it's a bit disconcerting if you don't know what is happening.
I'm not going to write a complete score right now, just the intro, but I'll show you some of the lovely new things you can do with Sibelius 3 while doing so.
The first thing we'll try is the Explode facility. Now I know that was in Sibelius 2, but there was a glitch in it if you exploded anything with triplets in it. It used to mess up the top line something awful and blast the following bar into oblivion. Not a pretty sight.
Here's the bit I'm going to explode right now. Just the top line, of course.
Now you already know how to insert notes in Sibelius but here's a trick I use to speed things up a little. To write the first two bars of the above passage select the whole-note rest in the first bar of the 1st Trumpet part, press key 3 on the keypad to change that note to an eighth-note and hit the R key to fill up two bars of eighth-notes. Now go along the row of notes, using the right arrow key, pressing 0 to make rests and key 4 to make the quarter notes where needed. It would be a good idea to add the articulations now, so that each instrument will have them. This saves a lot of extra work later. First, though, you'll need to change something in the House Style. Go there from the House Style menu and Engraving Rules (shortcut Ctrl+Shift+E).
I mentioned screen resolution earlier on and now you can see why, because if you are using 800x600 the Engraving Rules page, and one or two others in Sibelius 3, will be too big for your screen. You can shift it horizontally with the blue strip at the top but not vertically to reveal the lower buttons that are now hidden. The only remedy for this is to minimise Sibelius (click the small dash at the very top right of the screen) and change the screen resolution. Click with the right mouse on the blank desktop and select Properties. Click the button marked Settings and push the slider at Screen Resolution over to 1024x768. Now you'll be able to read the big dialogue pages. Maximise Sibelius once more by clicking the name in the Task Bar at the bottom of the screen. In Engraving Rules go to Articulations and click in the boxes to make the dots and lines appear above the notes only. Down below you'll see Vertical Position. Set both spaces from notehead and spaces from stem to 1. That's the way we jazzers like to have it. While you're there better go along to Staves and change the Justify staves layout to 75%, This will prevent instrument parts with only a few staves from spreading out to fill the page.
Back to our new score. Here's one of the new goodies in Sibelius 3. Select the first note of the passage, pull down the Notes menu and click on Re-input Pitches (shortcut Control+Shift+I ). When you do this a dotted vertical line will appear just to the left of the note you selected. You can now enter a chord on your midi keyboard on that note. Continue to add chords to the rest of the passage ó any rests will be jumped over. Brilliant! Or it would be if stayed like that until you switched it off again. At the moment, if you make a mistake and have to go back a note or two, it goes off and you have to switch it back on again. Watch for tied chords as you'll have to enter them twice.
Now select the two bars you've written, (hold down Shift and click each bar with the mouse) and hit the R key to paste those two bars into the following two bars. Press Cntrl+Shift+I again and enter some new chords. Of course, you can do all this whichever way you like ó perhaps by copying the single-note bars first, or by inputting the single-note melody first. The way I've described is quick, I just completed the four bars above in about thirty seconds, and I'm not a piano player.
Select the four bars, press Ctrl+C to copy them, and clear the selection by hitting the Escape button on your keyboard. Now select the first bars of all four trumpets and press Ctrl+Shift+V. This will take you to the Arrange dialogue box. Click on Explode at the top there and take cover.
Isn't that just dandy? Now select the first bars of the top sax staves, altos and tenors, press Ctrl+Shift+V again and hit OK.
Do the same with the trombones, adjust the pitch down an octave with Control+ Down arrow, and you have fully scored the first four bars of the score within one minute. Maybe the trombones sound too low. Delete all the trombone parts, copy the top three sax parts (alto1, alto2, tenor1) on to the bottom three trombone parts (troms 2,3 and 4) and move them down an octave with Ctrl+down arrow, and then the second tenor part on to trombone 1 as it is. Sibelius will transpose the passage correctly for you when you paste it in.
When you've finished with the trombones you'll need to copy the lead alto part and paste it into the baritone part.
The entire exploding action sequence took longer for me to write down here than the actual operation itself.
Take a look at the complete intro at Trial Run 1. If you don't have the Scorch plug-in follow the instructions at the bottom of the page that comes up. You don't need to have, own or buy any Sibelius software for this, only the plug-in. Play the intro back a few times.
Now for a piece of Sibelius 3 wizardry. Select all the parts you have just written by holding down Shift and clicking on the first bar in Alto 1 and the last bar in Trombone 4. Copy the selection with Ctrl+C. Deselect that selection by hitting the Esc button. Now make a new selection by holding down Shift and clicking on the first bar in Alto 1 and the first bar in Trombone 4. Hit Ctrl+Shift+V and scroll down to find the entry Jazz Thad Jones Style double diminished tutti 1. Select that and hit OK.
You now have the same intro as written by Thad Jones, or by Bob Brookmeyer, who knows all the same tricks. Look at and listen to the result at Trial Run 2.
Dissonances in the voicing become somewhat mellowed when a passage such as this is played by real musicians, especially when they are good musicians and are absolutely in tune. The quality of the playback will depend upon your own midi devices, but this innovation of Sibelius is surely a gift from the gods. You can try out all the other Arrange options. There are plenty of them: Basie, Nestico, Strayhorn with loads of classic combinations and even rock and pop.
Since writing the above I've discovered that Explode does not function correctly sometimes when used with mixed instruments. A small group, consisting of trumpet, alto sax, trombone, tenor and baritone saxes, written downwards in that order may give problems. In some cases. Explode insists upon giving the third note down from the top of a chord to the fourth instrument, i.e., the tenor saxophone. What's more: if you add, say, a French horn in there it gets worse. OK, that's pretty high for the horn, but it doesn't matter where you put it, the result may, in certain circumstances, be wrong. See the examples. If it occurs in one of your scores the solution is simple: instead of clicking on Explode scroll down and click Standard. It works!
The Shadow Note
A really useful new addition to note entry is the shadow note. Go to Notes/Note Input Options and tick Show shadow note. Click OK. Press the N key and the mouse cursor will turn blue. If you position the cursor over an empty bar you'll see a shadow note, in this case a quarter note. Move the mouse to the right and the shadow note will click on to four different positions. Position the shadow note at the end of the bar and click. You've just entered a quarter-note on the last beat of the bar. No more time wasted entering rests.
Try this: Go back to Notes/Note Input Options and change Beat positions to snap to to an eighth-note. Now watch the shadow note move exactly to the eight different positions as you move the mouse to the right. You can alter the length of the notes you are entering by simply pressing the desired note length on the keypad.
Sibelius 3 now has Segno, Go to Coda and Coda playback options. Inputting them involves rather a lot of work with the mouse. Youíll need to look in the User Guide for details as there is nothing in the Help file about them. If you don't have a User Guide then you won't discover how to do this on your own. Even with the guide you'll need patience and fortitude. You get the User Guide when you actually buy the programme.
Tip: Select the final bar before the coda, select Layout/Break/Split System to create a gap between the coda and the main score. You can now click on that final bar in the extracted parts to move the coda down to start a new line. Before doing so go to the View menu and select Attachment Lines. You'll now see a thin blue line leading down from the Coda sign. This line must project down to somewhere in the first bar of the coda. If the sign is too far over to the left it will connect to the previous bar over on the other side of the split. Move the Coda sign to the right until it is connected to the first bar of the coda. If you don't do this it can disappear on the extracted parts, or turn up in the wrong placesometimes even outside the score.
A note about playback. I am only interested in checking a score for errors, as I am able to hear my things played and recorded by big bands anyway. For this reason I've set up my instruments in the Mixer as follows: All wind instruments on Programme 57, Trombone, keyboards on Programme 88, New Age, and Bass on Programme 35, Fretless Bass. These sounds on these settings depend entirely upon which sound card is in your system, but they serve my purpose well and I can hear all the instruments properly. I generally shift all the pan positions, volumes and distances to the same settings, but this is purely a personal thing.
Now to the new Mixer. Hereís another reason why you need to use a screen resolution of 1024x768, like it or not, because otherwise youíll have problems in getting it the right size. If you open the Mixer too far to the left in 800x600, in order to see all the settings, it has a trick of shooting over to the right and you cannot access the close button. You can get rid of the settings and just view the sliders alone later on, but right at the beginning you'll need to see it all.
Thereís a new device called Kontakt Player Silver included with the new Sibelius, designed to enhance playback. I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be a new musical sensation, especially upon the forthcoming release of Kontakt Player Gold. The files for this are located in a separate folder to Sibelius; they are 250 Mb in size and constitute a solid block on the hard disk that cannot be defragmented. They can, however, be uninstalled and deleted, without disturbing Sibelius too much.
You may notice sometimes, on playback, that, although the score is actually playing at the tempo of the metronome mark you have entered at the beginning of the score, the tempo marking in the toolbar is not the same, but somewhere around half. This happens sometimes, but I cannot knowingly reproduce the error to discover why. It happens, too, if you set the time signature to cut common. Just set the slider to half of the required tempo and it will run correctly. The only remedy I can find for this is to select the entire score and paste it into a new template.
If, during your score-writing you suddenly notice that your articulations have gone all up the creek, particularly notes with a dot over the top that you want played short, but come out long, whatever you docast your eye over the Play menu. If there is a tick beside Live Playback you've found the culprit. Remove the tick and all's well again.
When you've finished your score, you can publish it with Scorch. The people at Sibelius deserve a medal for Scorch, because with it you no longer need to print out all the parts and send them away through the post. Now itís only necessary to Scorch them on to the Internet, score and all, and let the recipient, who can be anywhere in the world, print out the score and parts a few seconds later. He can even play the score back, as youíve seen already in my demos, to see whether he likes it or not.
First youíll need to extract the band parts from the score. Before you do that there are a couple of things you need to know. The parts will have to be in Portrait mode, so better make sure now that the score is also in Portrait mode. You can always change it back to Landscape when printing the score itself if you wish.
The other thing is that Sibelius now has a method of inserting page turnovers in extracted parts. This could be, of course, a very good thing in a long piece of music, with instrument parts containing many pages, but it's not too often necessary in a jazz composition because we usually open up the music right across the music stand. Unfortunately, Sibelius has it on as a default, which means that it has to be turned off every single time when you don't need it. The result is that every time a page ends in the middle of a passage being played, a thick pair of spectacles appears at the bottom right of the page. Gadzooks! I have not been able to discover a way of changing the default. The on/off switch can be found on the extracted parts dialogue page in Options under Use auto page breaks, and if you forget to disable it when extracting a batch of parts youíll have to do them all again. While you're there you might like to enable Use one bar multirests, too. This can also be done in the House Style Engraving Rules.
Before extracting be sure to make the score transposed and check through it. If you are exceedingly unlucky, there may well be some B# and E# notes together with a sprinkling of double-sharps thrown in for good measure. It has happened to me and players do not generally think kindly of you when they suddenly come across them. They need to be enharmonically corrected, using the plug-in at Plug-ins/Accidentals/Simplify Accidentals. This works fine, but better save the score first because there is no Undo function with plug-ins.
There is another plug-in under Plug-ins/Batch Processing/Convert Folder of Scores to Web Pages which is just what you need for converting all the extracted band parts to Scorch. Unfortunately, the default of the print option in Scorch is set at off. With this setting the parts appearing in Scorch cannot be printed by the recipient. The plug-in cannot be modified to set the print option to on. Iíve been told, by a Sibelius spokesman, that this has to do with a restriction of the Manuscript language used in writing the plug-ins. So every extracted band part has to be saved as a Scorch Web page by hand. The task involves a minimum of five mouse actions for each part. With a big band that adds up to an awful lot of mouse actions.
Itís useful to know that when you try and add a first ending, or first-time bar, into a score, the method has been changed. If you are not careful Sibelius will insert it into the next bar. That is to say: if you select Create/Line/1st Ending, or, indeed, any other ending, you must click the resulting blue mouse arrow on the barline at the beginning of the bar where you want the ending. If you click the blue mouse arrow anywhere else in the bar the ending will most probably appear in the next bar. This can be a big surprise if you are trying to put the ending in the last bar of a page because then it will appear on the next page and you wonít see it.
Focus on Staves
There is a very useful new option in the Layout menu called Focus on Staves. With this you can select a bar in one instrument, hold down the Control key and select other instruments that are playing the same bar. Selecting Focus on Staves will group all the instruments you selected together. This is extremely useful if you want to voice a group of instruments, say the sax section, with the guitar chords underneath. Deselecting the option restores the whole score as it was before.
Slashes in Sibelius 3 no longer play back. Well thank Goodness for that! It says in the User Guide that they no longer transpose, but, alas, that is not the case. If †you want to copy the chord symbols and slashes in the usual way to transposing parts you start off like this...
... and end up like this...
That bass guitar is pretty neat, eh? Don't forget that when copying chord symbols to a transposing part it must first be done in concert, otherwise you'll be in a right mess. You cannot select a bar full of slashes and lower them all at once with the down arrow. There are several ways of getting them down; the best one being a new plug-in called Move Pitches To Transposed Mid Line. You can download the plug-in from here. While you're there better collect the Fill Up Pick-up Bar plug-in as well.
A word of warning about chord symbols. If you like to enter them by hand better first take a look at the way Sibelius likes to have them. If you write, for instance, CMaj7 in the piano part, copy it elsewhere and expect it to transpose properly in a Bb or Eb instrument part, then it won't. The capital M is the culprit there. You'll need to write it as Cma7 or Cmaj7. There may be others...
It don't mean a thing...
There are lots of ways to make the playback sound authentic, jazz-wise. There are Straight, Light swing, Regular swing, Heavy swing and Triplet swing. Unfortunately none of them do the job satisfactorily. A jazz musician doesn't play like that. In a piece of music there will often be mixed passages of straight and jazz eighths, but Sibelius can't do that. It must be possible to programme properly because other music software programmes manage the task admirably.
I also couldn't get a proper soft-tongue effect, such as used in this kind of phrase:
There are plenty of ways to try, including 100% note values, placing a slur over the passage, and so on, but it still came out jerkily. Still, the main thing is to get it down in the score. The guys will play it correctly. By the wayselecting the above two bars and hitting the articulation, in this case the short dash key, should automatically place the dash over every note except the tied eighth-note. Finale manages that with ease, and has done so for ages. Sibelius still puts the dash over both tied notes.
Multiple Bar Rests
Sibelius still has problems with multiple bar rests. Nothing looks worse on a part than, say, an eight-bar rest broken up into odd multiples, especially at the beginning of a piece, where an instrument may not be playing in the introduction. A method I've found to be successful in such cases is to pull down the House Style menu and deselect Use Multirests. Your instrument part will now look terrible, but don't worry about that. Select the second bar of the sequence of bar rests by holding down the control key and clicking in it. The bar will now be surrounded by a double blue line. Go to the last empty bar of the sequence, hold down the Shift key and click again. Now all the empty bars of the sequence, except the first one, are surrounded by the double blue line. Hit Delete and they'll be erased. Pull down Create/Bar/Other and enter the number of bars you've just deleted. Click OK. Position the mouse pointer, now coloured blue, in the first bar rest (the only one now remaining) and click to enter the new bars. Pull down House Style, select Use Multibars and your worries are over. Sometimes.
Sibelius uses the first bar of a piece of music to anchor various important bits of code, including titles and subtitles. If you delete the very first bar you'll find yourself in all sorts of trouble. Try it now - your title has disappeared! It's better not to mess about with these things. Once you've finished a score just try and add a pickup bar at the beginning. Hahah! Good luck.
Click on the right of the final bar of any stave and a small square will appear. Put the mouse pointer in the square, hold the left mouse key down and drag the barline. Neat. Very useful for adjusting those sprawling two bar final staves. Click on the beginning of a stave and you'll get a little red square that allows you to drag that end. Good for indenting the first stave of an extracted part. Not found in any help files or manuals as far as I can see, but hot from good old Sibelius himself.
Users of previous versions, and that covers just about all of us, will discover that they can still use their scores in the new version. Well, that's a relief. However, saving them in version 3 will prevent them from being opened again in the older version, should you wish to do so. There is a special Save As to allow saving back into Sibelius 2. There are several problems concerning all this, particularly if you try and do certain things with a Sibelius 2 score in Sibelius 3. Even if you save the score in Sibelius 3 those problems will persist. The only way I could find to beat them was to select the entire score and copy it with Control+C. Then I opened a new blank score, making sure that all the staves and instruments in the blank score were identical to those of the selected score, clicked on bar one in the top instrument and pasted the score in using Control+V. Checking the number of bars first was not necessary. I can now use the pasted score as if it had been written with Sibelius 3.
One last comment concerns the small group templates. If you select, for example, Jazz Combo, 3 horns in the New menu you will find that the wind instrument names are, for some reason, enclosed in brackets. I'm sure that you won't want this, but if you try and alter the names they will shoot off to the right and partly cover the clef in the first bar. This makes it difficult to see what you are doing. The best way around this is to select the name and drag it up to a clear space above the staves. Now you can double-click the name and remove the brackets, and also the number above.
Help CentreSibelius has a Help Centre where you can get advice and solve any small problems you may encounter. You'll need to become a member to access the centre, and register a password. Once in there you can take a look at the Chat Line, but have to enter your password once more to be able to take part. My password didn't allow me to do that, so maybe you need two passwords. But it's still possible to take a look in as a guest. The answers to the queries are very interesting and thorough.
Now go and read A Minstrel in Spain, Chapter 18 - Chaos for more on the trials and tribulations of the contemporary electronic composer.
You can find out more about Sibelius 3 at http://www.sibelius.com. Download the demo and take a look.
Copyright ©, 2003, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved