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Sibelius Professional

Richard Price
22 May 2001

This new British product is to music what Microsoft Office, Pagemaker, Photoshop or Coreldraw are to office environments and graphic design studios.

For years there have been word-processors and graphic programs, but no easy way to use a computer for printing out music. Sibelius changes that.

Sibelius is not the only program around and at a university music studio I had the opportunity to see two of Sibelius's competitors. Finale, a US product, is so complex and confusing that a full semester course is required before it can be used with confidence. A new, Swedish product, Igor Engraver works well on a Macintosh but there is only a pre-release version on Windows.

There are a number of things I liked about Sibelius - I installed it on an older PC and was busy entering music almost at once. I certainly did not need a university course!

Now I am certainly not a musician - I only have some basic primary school music training and bad childhood memories of a recorder. But I was entering tunes, adding instruments, experimenting with counterpoint and playing it all back via MIDI with excellent results on a SoundBlaster Live! card. Talk about an intuitive interface!

Sibelius runs on a good Power Mac or better and also under Windows 95 or later
running on a 486 PC or better.

Sibelius handles all standard score markings including things such as cresc, pizz, legato and so on. The Espressivo feature can be used to give a human touch to the performance by adding phrasing and expression.

The software also gives a good representation of music in the written form. As well as listening to the music it is possible to see what it looks like as a score while it is being played. Music students should find this feature quite useful.

Sibelius allows users to notate, edit, play back and print music. Forget about creating an MP3, Sibelius users can publish scores on the Internet so other people can play them!

But you don't have to take my word for it. According to Australian musician James Morrison, who wrote the opening fanfare for the 2000 Olympic Games, "there are many programs used for music scoring, but Sibelius is one of the best ones.

"Sibelius is very flexible - you can play any tempo and any instrument, and change this to any key. The simplicity of inputting to Sibelius is excellent."

Even Peter Sculthorpe, Australia's internationally known premier composer is hooked. Apparently his publishers, Faber Music, also insist that all scores for publication are engraved using Sibelius only.

Of course no matter how good a piece of music sounds, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is hardly likely to perform it if the score looks like a dogs' breakfast. Sibelius comes with enough engraving rules and "styles" to create a distinctive, professional score. The Inkpen font creates that handwritten look.

Sibelius supports all notations from early music to the complex rhythms of the avante garde. It can not do everything though. If you want some contemporary effects like ¾ waltz-time bars against 4/4 march music - a favourite trick of Charles Ives, one of America's greats, forget it.

The comprehensive manual is also well written and easy to understand. Included in the package is PhotoScore Lite, music scanning software and ManuScript, which allows advanced users to add their own customisation to the program. Bear in mind scanning someone's music without permission is likely to infringe on copyright.

In the end though, it is all in the music, and AU$1395 seems a lot of money to spend on getting a decent looking score.

Price Sibelius Professional Price AU$1395; Institution (schools, unis, etc) AU$799: Student AU$849




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