In this tutorial I’ll show the workflow I use to create a four hands piano score, and optionally, how to export a midi/audio reference.

Piano music for four hands has in general the lower part (Secondo) notated on the left hand pages, and the higher part (Primo) notated on the right hand pages. This way, the two players can easily read their own parts while following the other player’s part.

Notation template

In this example I will create a basic template with  4 pages having 5 systems each, in which every system has 4 bars, what would be 20 bars on a page and a total of 80 bars on 4 pages. Later when you to enter the music, you can always add or delete bars on a page.

  • Start by creating a normal piano solo score.
  • Add enough bars to get a total of 80 bars from the Create/Bar/other menu:


  • Create a system break after every 4 bars.
  • Select bars 1-20 on page one and lock it with the Lock Format command from the Layout/Format menu:


Do the same for bars 21-40 on page two, bars 41-60 on page three and bars 61-80 on page four. Or to do all the above steps at once, choose the Make Layout Uniform plugin from the Plug-in menu…


… and fill in the amount of bars and systems:


Title pages

The Secondo and Primo parts need both a title page with the same staff margin settings. This can be done the regular way in the Layout/Document Setup window. In the screenshot below, both 1st page and After first page have the same top and bottom staff margin values (shown in mm):


Special Page Break

To set the staff margins for the pages after the 2nd title page, select the right bar-line from the last bar on page 2 and open Special Page Break from the Layout/Break menu:



Select the New Margins check-box to open the Margins window. In the Staff Margins panel for this score I choose 18 mm for the top and bottom staff margins for the rest of the score:


You can see where a special page-break is used by turning on the Layout Marks in the view menu:

A normal page break:  avh_08  A special page break: avh_09

Gap before bar

The 1st bar in a score doesn’t snap again the left page margin, but has some distance from it. This can be set by selecting the 1st bar and from the Properties window/Bars, set the distance you like (this distance is set in spaces). Do this on the title page for the Secondo and the Primo part:


Bar numbers

The bar numbers in the Primo part (right hand pages) must always reflect the bar numbers in the Secondo part (left hand pages), you can change them by double clicking on a bar number which will bring up the Bar Number Change dialogue:


It’s custom that the 1st bar number is always hidden, which you can do by right clicking the bar number and choosing Hide, from the Hide or Show menu:


Time signature

When creating the time signature for Piano Primo, keep “Allow cautionary” unchecked so it doesn’t show up on the previous page:


Title, subtitle etc…

Copy and paste the title text etc. from the Secondo to the Primo part:


Part names

To show the part name at the start of the score for the Secondo part, go to the House Styles menu/Engraving Rules/Instruments, and in the Instrument Names tab, choose Full to be displayed At start.

To show the part name at the start of the score for the Primo part, choose Full from the At new Section menu and after that, create a section break in the last bar on page 1:


Select the last bar on page 1 and in the properties/Bar window, check the Section End box:


Right now, both parts are named Piano Secondo, however the second part must be named Piano Primo. Renaming the text will not help; both part names will stay the same because it’s the same Instrument. The solution here is to create an instrument change in the first bar of the Piano Primo part.

From the Create menu, choose Other/Instrument Change…


…choose piano as instrument and click in bar 1 in the Piano Primo part:

Instrument change

Hide the newly created instrument name above the staff and rename the parts:


The part names (primo and secondo) at the top of the pages are created with a normal Header Text style. From the Create menu, choose Text/Other System Text/Header:



Because the Secondo part plays mostly in the lower register and the Primo part in the higher, let’s give them their correct clefs:


Final result…


Save as template

Saving the score as a template is done under the File/Export/Manuscript Paper menu:

save as template

To use this template when starting a new score, choose New from the file menu and choose the template in the Manuscript Paper menu:

open ,anuscripts

Engraving the score…

While engraving the music in the score, avoid that the template layout changes and accidentally deletes the special page breaks. Instead, add and delete bars somewhere in the middle of the pages and leave the 1st and last bar on every page as they are.

  • To add bars, choose Other from the menu Create/bar:


  • To delete bars, hold down the CMD key, select a bar, add the SHIFT key, click the last bar. Hit delete.

After the music is engraved…

Aligning the staves on left- and right-hand pages

It’s very important that the staves on the left- and righthand pages are aligned vertically, this will make it easier for the players to follow each other’s parts:

  • Select a left-hand and a righthand page and from the Layout menu choose Align Staves:


  • Make the selections as show in the screenshot below and hit OK:


To align text and other kind of objects on the left- and right pages, select these object and use the Align in a Row command from the Layout menu.

Midi/audio export template

Exporting this score as midi or audio is a problem because the parts are not notated above each other but on two separate pages, making the two piano parts being played after each other instead of at the same time.

The workaround for this is to create a second score for midi/audio export only where the two piano parts are notated on the same page, and copy/paste the music from the notation layout into this second score.  After that it’s easy to export the midi/audio files.

Creating this midi/audio export template is very simple, because how it looks on the page doesn’t matter that much:

  • Start a new piano solo score and from the Create/Instrument menu, add a second piano:


  • To avoid making mistakes while copying and pasting the music, make sure Instrument Names is turned on in House Style/Engraving Rules/Instruments:


  • Change the clefs so that the Primo part has treble clefs for both staves and the Secondo part has bass clefs for both staves. Also, give the parts their correct part names so the exported midi file will show them after importing the midi file in your DAW:

rename parts for midi

  • Copy and paste the music from the Notation version into this template. Be careful not to forget special bar-lines, key- and time signatures.
  • Final step: exporting the score. In the file/export menu choose audio or midi:


  • The imported midi file in your DAW:


have a great day!


Sibelius 6 lyrics Quick Tip 2: Notating melismas.

Notating melismas

In this 2nd part about working with lyrics in Sibelius 6, I explain how to create a melismatic notation in which a single syllable is being sung under two or more notes.

First let have a look at two new words we need to know. The first one is “melisma“: a single syllable which is being sung under two or more notes.

For example:


In the above example the word Two (which is a single syllable) is being sung under eight notes.

The next word is “extender line” which is the long line at the end of the above word. The extender line is only used after a single syllable word or the last syllable of a word with more syllables that is notated as a melisma. So you never see the extender line when you notate one syllable under one note as we talked about in the previous lesson. When there are more than one syllables in a word and you want to create a melisma on one of the other parts of the words than the last one, you use a hyphen instead.

For example:


The way you start a melisma is by selecting the note where you want the lyric to start, then go into lyric enter mode which can be done by going to Create/Text/Lyric/Lyrics Line 1. A faster way is to use the keyboard shortcut CMD+L.

Now start typing a single syllable which can be a single syllable word or the first part of a word that has more than one syllable. After this you have two choices in creating a melisma:
1. Using the space bar if this is a single syllable word and keep on hitting space until you created the extender line under the notes you want to be sung on this syllable.
2. Typing a hyphen is this is the first part of a word with more than one syllable and keep on hitting the hyphen-key until you created the hyphen-lines under the notes you want to be sung on this syllable.

And that is it! This is how you create a melismatic notation.

The only thing left to do is adding slurs over the melismas, which is part of official engraving rules and makes it easier to see how the music has to be sung. Here is how you would notated the slurs in the above 1st example:

melisma with slures

One thing to remember is that any punctuation like comma’s and periods always come directly after the word and NOT at the end of the extender line. And the extender line ALWAYS ends at the right side of the note and NOT at the end of the value of that note.

This is correct:


But this is so very wrong:


Some plug-ins in Sibelius to make working with lyrics even easier:
Check Lyrics Hyphenation, which can be found in Plug-ins/Proof-reading.
Add Slurs to Lyrics, which can be found in Plug-ins/Text.
Traditional Lyrics Beaming, which can be found in Plug-ins/Text.

The first two are easy to understand, the 3rd one will re-beam the notes to the way they were notated in the past with a single flag for every syllable and beamed for melismas. This isn’t done anymore these days because sometimes it makes reading the correct rhythms very difficult. Feel free to use it though!

To see all the above information in action, have a look at the video below.

For information about engraving, please send me an e-mail.

best regards,

André van Haren