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Sibelius 4 Notation Software

Manufacturer: Sibelius
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided DigiFreq with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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When Sibelius Software releases an upgrade to their major music notation package, it’s usually a big deal. Why? One of the reasons is that unlike most other music software companies, Sibelius doesn’t rush an upgrade out the door every year. Instead, they usually take 2 or more years between upgrades, which lends to a more solid release. Sibelius 4 is no exception. With this version, Sibelius has upped the ante with a host of new features and improvements including Dynamic Parts, Worksheet Creator and ready-made worksheets, music to video support, copy-and-paste to Word, Optical beams & ties, new music fonts, 11 new function plug-ins, and more.

Dynamic Parts
Personally, I think the most significant addition to Sibelius 4 is the new Dynamic Parts feature. You no longer need to extract or print individual parts separately. When you first begin working on a score, Sibelius automatically creates the parts as you notate. Any changes you make to the score are automatically reflected in the separate parts and vice versa. If you need differences between the parts and the score, you can achieve that as well. When it comes time to print, you can specify the number of copies for each part and print them all out at once. In addition, you can copy layouts between parts for easy symmetry. Of course, this feature isn’t quite perfect. You may still need to make some minor adjustments, such as the positioning of text, but these changes are very minor and occur rarely.

Fonts, Optical Beams and Other Enhancements
Printouts have been enhanced by the inclusion of the new Helinski music font. This is a wonderful alternative to the preexisting Opus font, which in my opinion, was keeping Sibelius a bit behind its competitors in print quality. The Optical Beams and Ties provide clear and precise placement in addition to French beaming, beams across system & page breaks, extra-long ties, etc.

Sibelius 4 includes 11 new feature plug-ins including Copy Articulations and Slurs (copies patterns of articulations and/or slurs without copying the notes), Smarten Quotes (even deals with special cases like ’Twas), Add Simple Harmony (automatically harmonizes melodies), and more. In addition, there is now a new playback window with transport controls and a timeline slider so you can skip to any position in the score. You can also see and move the playback line and start/stop with a quick press of the space bar on your computer keyboard. And there are hundreds of other smaller enhancements that are too numerous to list here.

Scoring to Video
For those of you who work in film and television, Sibelius now allows you to add a video to a score. The video is displayed in a separate playback window and is shown in sync with the score – this occurs during scoring, playback, and navigation so that you can always see the part of the video with which you are working. The video can also be viewed at different sizes (or even full screen) and you can export the score playback for use as your video soundtrack if you’d like. Most importantly to professionals, however, is the ability to add hit points. These allow you to mark special events in the video so you can match your music to precise moments of action. And altering metronome marks automatically moves the hit points so they stay in line with the video action. Very nice indeed.

The Worksheet Creator
Educators who use Sibelius will love the new Worksheet Creator. The Creator provides over 1700 worksheets, projects, exercises, songs, instrumental pieces, lyrics, posters, reference material and other resources. All of the materials are carefully designed to fulfill curriculum requirements, and to suit school students of all ages.

Using the Worksheet Creator only takes a few seconds. You simply choose from six main categories – Elements of Music; Writing and Creating Music; Selected Repertoire; Reference; Posters, Flashcards and Games; Projects. Each main category provides sub-categories - for example, Elements of Music includes 14 areas, such as scales, sight-reading & ear training. After choosing a category, you select how many questions you want to include. The worksheet is then created automatically with a random selection of questions and a filled-in answer sheet.

In addition, you can adjust the worksheet materials or even create your own templates for use with the Creator. You can also now copy and paste music directly to Microsoft Word to easily create essays, books and other materials with your music notation included.

Sibelius vs. Finale
The one question people always ask is why purchase Sibelius over Finale (the other major notation package on the market). Well, it really depends on what you need from your notation software. For teachers and students, there’s really no contest – Sibelius is the software you need. Sibelius is also easier to use and easier to get up and running in the beginning. Using default settings, it is also easier to create a more professional looking score. And the new score to video feature in Sibelius makes it a wise choice for film and television composers.

Finale is also very powerful and in retrospect may be a better choice for people who want to write music. Why? Because it provides many more music sequencing features than Sibelius. The Finale music playback features are more extensive and the sound of your played score sounds more authentic. In addition, Finale does provide the same amount of music notation power as long as you’re willing to take the time to learn how to use it.

The Final Score
So should you buy Sibelius 4? If you want to get up and running quickly and produce professional scores with ease, then most definitely. Sibelius provides excellent documentation as well as video tutorials to get you going. If you’re upgrading from a previous version, you’ll find plenty of improvements here to warrant a purchase. If this is your first notation software purchase, you can’t go wrong. Sibelius 4 is an extremely powerful application that will fulfill your music notation needs with ease.
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