Thursday, May 20, 2010

Using plugins when I work in Sibelius pt 1

Hi everybody,

I've been using Sibelius software to score music on for 10 years now (maybe more). I switched from Finale once Sibelius became available for Mac. At that time, Sib. could not do many of the tasks that were, IMO essential to jazz writing but there was a ease of use that seemed to give one the feeling that one day many if not all of these features would be available. In the meantime, many of these features did become available along with enhancements I could not have imagined. Music software and peoples expectations of it are as varied as the many styles and genres of music (glad I'm not in that business). Sibelius has since added 'Dynamic Parts' along with some beauties like 'Change Instrument' great for woodwind doubles in the sax section - a huge time saver. More recently Magnetic Layout has helped to bring 'near perfect' layout in parts. A few versions back we were moving chords, rehearsal marks and various collision items out of the way. I'm waxing lyrical here so it may seem like I have no gripes - not true :) Those who know me well know that I saw huge potential in the 'Arrange' feature. Many have said, and I agree, it should have been called 'Orchestrate'. This feature was never finished and largely ignored since it came out in Sib. 2. The ability to 'explode' vertical harmonic structures and assign them to multiple staves is invaluable to any orchestrator who is under the gun. How could 'Arrange' work for me? If Sibelius would simply take the artificial intelligence out of the feature, or make it optional - that would be a huge start and would remove all the octave jumping while the software tries to disagree with your lead trumpeter's range. Yes, you could set up templates with this preset but we shouldn't have to workaround this. Handling of tuplets in Implode is the other issue - that can be gotten around by using Dave Foster's 'Reduce' plugin. His Explode plugin is limited to 4 voices making it useful to a point. Some writers sketch their brass big band into one staff ad want to explode 8-10 voices in one go. Five parts for saxophone sections etc.

Plugins have added features to Sibelius that are now part of my standard way of using the software for some years now. The plugin writers often donate their work or sell for low prices. Bob Zawalich has written some plugins that have changed the way I work entirely, as has Dave Foster, Neil Sands and more recently Roman Molino Dunn . I will write a blog on Bob's plugins soon and chose to start about Roman as his was the last plugin I downloaded. I recently worked on a producing a lot of parts for a Big Band performance and used a plugin that has not been released by Roman yet - AutoPartLayout. This was a raw version but still got me several steps closer to what I needed than the initial Sib layout. Roman intends to release this plugin soon and I would advice any arranger who produces his own parts or indeed engraver, to take a look at it. On my recent Zinc Bar gig I used Distribute Selection, Distribute Chords while on the 'Bird With Strings' gig with Steve Wilson I used the plugin for writing bowings in.

More to come...

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