Simplifying Sibelius


Tips and tricks to take Sibelius software from scary to simple

—by Kimberly Rowe

Do you want to publish your own music? You’re in luck. Digital publishing tools have never been better or easier to use, making it easy for anyone to jump into the game. But just having the next greatest harp arrangement floating around in your head isn’t enough. You’ll need to turn that idea into a professional looking publication. While newer notation programs like Musescore and Symphony Pro for the iPad have made it easier and cheaper for anyone to crank out a quick arrangement, the old stalwarts Sibelius and Finale continue to offer the most bells and whistles, especially for harpists. We outlined our favorite Finale shortcuts in the November/December 2018 issue of Harp Column, so in this issue we’re going to give you some tips and tricks for turning your manuscript into a masterpiece using Sibelius notation software.

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About Author

Best known among harpists as founder of Harp Column magazine, Kimberly Rowe has also performed with top ensembles throughout the U.S. and abroad. She currently serves as web editor of Harp Column, Harp Column Music, and Harp Column Academy.

1 Comment

  1. This is an excellent article – thanks for writing it, and thanks for mentioning my document Notating Harp Music in Sibelius!

    I would like to make a couple of comments that could make using Sibelius a little easier in some situations.

    1. For harmonics, instead of using a symbol, use the harmonics articulation available in the bottom of the 4th keypad layout. Articulations stay with the note even if it is moved, and may also provide appropriate playback. You can select several notes and apply the articulation to all of them at once.

    2. For arpeggios, always use the line available in the 5th keypad layout, known as a note-attached arpeggio, rather than taking a line from the Lines menu. Note-attached arpeggios stay with the note if it is moved and also allocate horizontal space for the line, which normal lines do not do. Playback of arpeggios only works in a single staff even though you can drag the line across multiple staves. The downloadable plugin Harp Arpeggio can make playback work across multiple staves.

    3. Playback of harp glissando will always be wrong unless the gliss is equivalent to the white keys or black keys of a piano. Sibelius does not know what the current tuning of the harp is. The downloadable plugin Harp Gliss Playback can be used to produce the correct notes.

    4. If you are using the Norfolk Harp Font to get extra symbols, you can open the Transfer Document (a Sibelius score) that is included when you download the font, and copy symbols from that document into your score, rather than trying to figure out how to type them as text. This is usually much easier.

    There is also a set of scores that use Norfolk Harp font and provide the font characters as both Symbols and Text objects, and provide some additional symbols and lines. You can open Harp Techniques Opus Norfolk Harp.sib and copy the characters you want into a score; the text, symbols and lines will then be available to your score. These scores are available for free at

    Bob Zawalich

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