Finishing up the engraved score, Object Check: dynamics

  • Open the score “After work, late at night” – Staff Margins

  From the View menu, check “Attachment Lines”:

attachements lines

My personal keyboard shortcuts for dynamics used in the course:

Filter Hairpins: F9

Filter Text: F10

Filter Dynamics: F11

Magnetic Layout on: CMD+,

Magnetic Layout off: CMD+.

In this step called Object Check, you are going to check the score from start to finish and see if the following objects need to be corrected:

1. Dynamics, 2. slurs, 3. notes, 4. fingerings and 5. tuplets.

If this is the first time you check a score this way, it’s a good idea to check only one object at the time, what would mean that you have to go through the score five times. After having done this with a couple of scores though, you can check all the objects at the same time. Let’s start with dynamics.

The dynamic object includes both the expression text:

expression text

and the hairpin:


There are three rules to keep in mind when working with dynamics:

1. In instrumental scores they are always placed below the staff and in vocal scores they are always placed above the staff (to avoid collisions with the lyrics below the staff). This includes the grand staff (used for keyboard instruments):

dynamics placement example

There are some exceptions on this rule: when two parts share a staff and have different dynamics, you need to place the dynamics for the upper voice above the staff, for the lower voice below the staff. Also, for the grand staff, when the left hand staff has its own dynamics, place those dynamics below that staff. We don’t have these exceptions in our example score though, so we don’t need to worry about these things.

2. Within a single system, align the dynamics horizontally as much as possible. This will not always possible because of some notes being higher or lower in pitch than the other notes, those single dynamic objects will have to stand on their own horizontal distance from the staff:

centred dynamics

3. In a grand staff (keyboard music), centre the dynamics between the staves as much as possible, except when only one hand is playing, that dynamic object should be placed closer to that hand’s part: see screenshot above. To align dynamics within a system, you have to select them first. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Selecting the dynamics

1. Using your mouse. If you want to select more than one object, keep down the CMD-key while clicking the objects.

2. Double-clicking the staff that you want to edit, this will select the whole system and from the Edit/Filter menu, choose Dynamics. This will select both the Expression Text and the Hairpins:

selecting dynamics

3. Double-clicking the staff that you want to edit, and from the Plug-in menu, choose the Filter Text plugin:

filter txt

This plugin will display every text style that is used in the selected bars which works faster than using the standard Edit/Filter menu plugins. Choose Expression and click the Select button:


This plugin will only select the Expression Text and NOT the hairpins. To select the hairpins within a system, double click the staff that you want to edit, and from the Edit/Filter menu, choose Hairpins:

hairpins 2

Personally I like to align expression text and hairpins separately, because they do not line up nicely when done at once. I use therefore the 3rd option.

Instead choosing the hairpin filter from the menu, I assigned it to one of the function-keys on my keyboard. To see how this is done, please see the Pagination and Page Turns step. The Filter Text plugin, if installed as described at the beginning of this course, can be found here:

shrtcut 1

Moving the dynamics

After making the selection, use the arrow keys to move them vertically up and down and use the Align in a Row command from the Layout menu to align them horizontally:

align in a row

Also here I use the keyboard shortcut instead to increase work speed: SHIFT+CMD+r (remember “r” for “row”).

Sibelius will try to keep them horizontal aligned within the system because of the Magnetic Layout option (that’s why they are jumping while you move them). This option can do a good job, but sometimes it’s a little bit in the way. I tend most of the time to turn it of while aligning the expression text objects. For the hairpins I leave the magnetic Layout on, because the magnetic layout also avoids them to overlap objects horizontally, correcting the length from every single hairpin by hand can be very time-consuming. Magnetic Layout can be turned off from a selection in the Edit/Magnetic Layout menu:

Magn layout on off

Standard, there are no keyboard shortcuts assigned to the magnetic layout, but to be able to work fast and avoid using the menus, I assigned them as shown above.

One extra step I take sometimes when the dynamic looks very out of place, is using Reset Position from the Layout menu:

reset position

This will place the object back to the original default position as set in Sibelius. Expression text is always placed slightly before the notehead whenever possible. As you can see, I assigned the F13 key to this command for faster workflow. However, this will only work if the object is still connected to the correct note in the score with an attachment line which normally is the case if the dynamic was created the correct way. The attachment line is the grey dotted line in the screenshot below:

pp placement

You could also have a situation like this:

pp placement 2

Using the Reset Position command wouldn’t help here, you will have to drag the object with the mouse instead to its correct place.

Whenever you select a hairpin, Sibelius shows a centred dote line which is a great help to get them horizontally aligned with the expression text. This line  will only show up show up with the Magnetic Layout option is turned on:

dotted line

Here are the steps I take to align the dynamics in a score, always working on one system at a time. The keyboard shortcuts are my personal ones:

  • Double click a staff
  • Select expression text with Filter Text (F10)
  • Turn off magnetic layout (CMD+.)
  • Use Reset Position (F13)
  • Align them horizontally with Align in a Row (SHIFT+CMD+r)
  • Using the arrow keys to move them vertically to the best place possible.
  • Double click a staff
  • Select Hairpins with the Hairpin Filter (F9)
  • Align horizontally with the Align in a Row command
  • With the hairpins still selected, using the arrow keyboard keys to align them horizontally with the expression text.
  • Adjust the length of the hairpins with mouse dragging.

Of course there are always situations in which you will do things different or leave steps out, practice will teach you this. For example, if there is only a single expression text in a system, you will use your mouse to select it and the arrow keys to move it and not the Align in a Row command. Or sometimes you don’t need to use the Align in a Row command because the objects are already aligned correctly.

Now let’s have a look at the example score

In the first system, bar 1-4, the expression text objects are horizontally aligned correctly, but not centred between the staves of the grand staff. Also, they seem to be too much to the left of the notes they belong too. The hairpins are aligned horizontally correct as well, but are too short, we will have to drag them to their correct length. Here is how I correct this:

  • Double click the piano right hand staff
  • Select expression text with Filter Text (F10)
  • Turn off magnetic layout (CMD+.)
  • Use Reset Position (F13) – the text is now placed correctly under the notes.
  • Using the arrow keys to move them centred between the staves.
  • Double click the piano right hand staff
  • Select Hairpins with the Hairpin Filter (F9)
  • Using the arrow keyboard keys to align them horizontally with the expression text.
  • Adjust the length of the hairpins with mouse dragging.

From this point there could still be need to fine-tune the dynamics as a whole in this system which you can do by double click the right hand staff and choosing Dynamics from the Edit/Filter menu. Use the arrow keys to drag everything up or down:

dynamics filter

As you can see in the screenshot above, I assigned this filter to the F11 key on my keyboard.

Here is the first system again, now with corrected dynamics:

corrected system

As you can see, I decided to lower the last two bars’ dynamics. Keeping them at the same height as the first bars would place them too close to the right hand slurs, but still the total image looks good what is the most important. As always, working on the layout of a score is an art and there are moments that rules have to be broken. The hairpins are now at the correct length and centred horizontally with the expression text.

Although the dynamics are pretty much done with this step, the final tweaks on the full score will be done in the step 8, where we make the last and mostly subtle adjustments on the objects that still need this, including dynamics.

For the final result, see Sibelius score “After work, Late at night”- Dynamic check.

That’s it for this step. In the next step, we will have a look at the slurs.

Have a great day!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s