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