Sibelius (software)

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Icon for Sibelius, starting from version 7.png
Sibelius 8.5 on macOS.png
Sibelius 8, running on macOS.
Original author(s) Ben Finn
Jonathan Finn
Developer(s) Avid
Initial release April 1993; 24 years ago (1993-04)
Stable release
8.6.1 / 20 July 2017; 4 months ago (2017-07-20)
Written in C++
Operating system Microsoft Windows, macOS
Available in 9 languages
Type Scorewriter
License Proprietary

Sibelius is a scorewriter program developed and released by Sibelius Software (now part of Avid Technology) for the Microsoft Windows, macOS, and the RISC OS operating systems. It is used by composers, arrangers, performers, music publishers, teachers and students, particularly for writing classical, jazz, band, vocal, film and television music. Beyond editing and printing scores, Sibelius can also play music back using synthesised sounds, produce legible scores for editing and printing, and publish scores for others to access via the Internet and iPads.

'Lite' versions of Sibelius, with fewer features, at lower prices, have been released, as have various add-ons for the software.


Sibelius was originally developed by British twins Ben and Jonathan Finn for the Acorn Archimedes computer, under the name Sibelius 7. Development (done on RISC OS fully in assembly language) was started in 1986, just after the Finns left school, continuing while they were at Oxford and Cambridge universities.[1] They were music students, and they said they wrote the program because they did not like the laborious process of writing music by hand.

The program was released to the public in April 1993 on 3.5-inch floppy disk. It required considerably less than 1 MB of memory (Sibelius 7 needed only 548 K for a 33-page symphonic score, for example), but the combination of assembly language and Acorn's RISC chip meant that it ran very quickly. No matter how long the score, changes were displayed almost instantly.

The first ever user of Sibelius was the composer and engraver Richard Emsley, who used it before its release and provided advice on music-engraving aspects of the software. The first score published using Sibelius was Antara by George Benjamin, published by Faber Music and copied by Emsley. Other early users included composer John Rutter, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and publisher Music Sales.

Sibelius rapidly dominated the UK market, being a killer application for the niche Acorn platform.[2] It also sold in smaller numbers in a few other countries, restricted by the availability of Acorn computers. 'Lite' versions were subsequently released; these were successful in UK schools, where Acorns were widely used.

In September 1998, the first version for Windows was released (now simply called Sibelius, and with the version number reset to 1.0).[3] A Mac version was released a few months later. To produce these versions the software was completely rewritten in C++, while retaining most of the original's functionality and user interface with numerous enhancements.

Releasing Sibelius for more widely available computers brought it to a worldwide market, particularly the US, where Sibelius Software had opened an office in late 1996. Following the break-up of Acorn Computers shortly after Sibelius's Windows release, no further Acorn versions were developed.

In August 2006, Sibelius Software Ltd. was acquired by Avid Technology, an American manufacturer of software and hardware for audio and video production. Avid has continued publishing Sibelius as a stand-alone notation product, as well as integrating it with some of its existing software products.

In July 2012, Avid announced plans to divest its consumer businesses (not Sibelius), closed the Sibelius London office, and laid off the original development team,[4][5][6] amid an outpouring of user protest, then recruited a new team of programmers to continue development in Montreal, Canada and Kyiv, Ukraine. Since then there have been frequent new releases of the software.


  • Sibelius 7 for RISC OS was released in 1993, followed by major version updates every year or two until c. 1997
  • Sibelius 7 Student and Sibelius 6 for RISC OS in 1994, again followed by major version updates until c. 1997
  • Junior Sibelius for RISC OS in c. 1996
  • Sibelius (i.e. Sibelius 1.0) for Windows in September 1998, Sibelius 1.2 for Mac in March 1999

Thereafter major new versions were released for both Windows and Mac approximately every 2 years, with minor versions (not listed, and mainly containing bug-fixes) in between:

  • Sibelius 2 (in 2001), with numerous new features.[further explanation needed]
  • Sibelius 3 (September 2003), with new features such as Kontakt Player and the ability to create audio files and CDs.
  • Sibelius 4 (July 2005), with new features such as the ability to write music synchronised to video, instrumental parts which are automatically updated when the score is changed, and a redesigned user interface.
  • Sibelius 5 (June 2007), with support for VST effects and instruments, a new sample library (Sibelius Sounds Essentials), 'Panorama' view, and numerous other new features. This version added importing of MusicXML files, but dropped importing files from RISC OS versions of Sibelius.[7]
  • Sibelius 6 (May 2009), featuring 'Magnetic Layout' (comprehensive score object positioning and collision avoidance), 'Versions' (revision control of changes made to a score), keyboard and fretboard windows, Live Tempo (recordable tempo changes), ReWire support, input via microphone, and various other notation and playback enhancements.
  • Sibelius 7 (July 2011), with a new ribbon-based user interface,[8] native 64-bit support, a 38 GB professional sound library including specialised playing techniques, advanced text and typographic handling, enhanced graphics import/export, MusicXML export, Finale-compatible note input, and various other improvements. This version of Sibelius (and all future versions) is no longer supported on Mac OS X v10.5 or earlier, and Mac computers with PowerPC processors; the last version with this support is Sibelius 6.2.[9]
  • Sibelius 7.5 (February 2014), with support for score sharing, improved playback and notation interpretation, "Timeline" window and other features.[10][11]
  • Sibelius 8 (June 2015-2017), with support of touchscreens and digitiser, scaling for high-DPI screens, annotations, subscription license model, removed 32-bit support, multiple staff sizes, magnetic glissandi lines, Sibelius | Cloud Sharing.


Sibelius's main function is to help create, edit and print musical scores. It supports virtually all music notations, enabling even the most complex of scores (such as modern orchestral music) to be reproduced to publication quality.

Further, it allows scores to be played back or turned into MIDI or audio files, e.g., to create a CD. A large range of sampled sounds and built-in sample player are included. Sibelius supports any MIDI device, and allows Virtual Studio Technology (VST) and Audio Units plug-ins to be used as playback instruments, giving Sibelius users access to third-party sample libraries, such as Vienna Symphonic Library or Mark of the Unicorn's (MOTU) Symphonic Instrument.[12] Score playback can also be synchronised to video, or to audio software via the ReWire standard.

There are various education-specific features for Sibelius's large market of schools and universities. These include extensive built-in music teaching materials, and the ability to run and manage multiple copies of the software on a network. Discounted educational pricing is available.

The third-party Music OCR program PhotoScore can be used to scan and create a Sibelius score from printed music; a lite version of PhotoScore is bundled with the Sibelius software. Similarly, the third-party program AudioScore (with bundled lite version) can (supposedly) be used to turn singing or an acoustic instrument into a score,[13] though many users have complained that AudioScore does not work. The AudioScore software currently holds a two-star rating on[14]

The program plays a brief passage from a Jean Sibelius symphony as it starts. Each Sibelius version has used a different excerpt; e.g. Sibelius 7 appropriately uses the main theme from Sibelius's 7th Symphony.

Internet publishing[edit]

Sibelius users can publish their scores from the software via the Internet or iPads. Anyone else using software called Scorch (free for web browsers, charged for on iPads) can then view these scores, play them back, transpose them, change instruments, and print them (web browser version only). The iPad version of Scorch also includes a store containing over 250,000 scores from publishers Music Sales, Hal Leonard, and (see below).

Scorch is used by various music publishers' web sites, and web sites of individual musicians. Publishers can license a special version of Sibelius, Sibelius Internet Edition, for commercial online publishing. (previously is a website where any Sibelius user can upload scores they have composed, arranged or transcribed with Sibelius, so that anyone can access the music using Scorch. Some scores are sold, others are free. SibeliusMusic began in 2001, and by June 2011 had nearly 100,000 scores.

Scorch has been replaced by Sibelius | Cloud Publishing, providing publishers with an API to automate the publishing and selling of digital sheet Music. Sibelius | Cloud Sharing, introduced in October 2017, uses the same technology to allow Sibelius users to share music online directly from within the program.

Language versions[edit]

Versions of Sibelius are available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Russian. Earlier versions of the software also had manuals available in further languages such as Dutch.

Lite versions[edit]

'Lite' versions of Sibelius (with a smaller feature set and lower price) were released for Acorn computers from late 1993 onwards (Sibelius 7 Student, Sibelius 6 and Junior Sibelius) and more recently for Windows and Mac platforms (Sibelius Student, Sibelius Instrumental Teacher Edition and Sibelius First). A Sibelius version for guitarists and songwriters called G7 was also available for several years.

In 2012, Sibelius Student was replaced by a new version of Sibelius First.

Lite notation based on Sibelius is included in Avid's Pro Tools audio editing software.


Add-ons for Sibelius which are currently or have previously been available include extra sound libraries, extra plug-in features (which are free of charge, and often created by Sibelius users), full versions of the PhotoScore (scanning) and AudioScore (microphone input) software, keyboards and keyboard covers showing shortcuts, and Sibelius-branded merchandise.

A range of software for teachers and students from the same company, Sibelius Educational Suite, is not directly connected with the Sibelius program, but is often used by the same people.


The software is named after the composer Jean Sibelius. Ben and Jonathan Finn, the software's original creators, said they could not remember why they used his name, but it was probably because Sibelius was a 'Finn' (i.e. Finnish), as well as being one of their favourite composers. The original Acorn version of the software was called Sibelius 7, but the '7' was not a version number; it was reminiscent of Sibelius's final symphony (no. 7).[1]

For the Windows and Mac versions the company began using conventional version numbers, starting with version 1. The original Acorn names Sibelius 6 and Sibelius 7 have since been re-used to denote versions 6 and 7 of Sibelius for Windows/Mac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bourgeois, Derek (1 November 2001). "Score yourself an orchestra". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 May 2011. Many composers bought an Archimedes simply to have access to the program. 
  3. ^ "Sibelius Corporate Information". Sibelius Software. Retrieved 21 May 2007. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "v4 was the last Windows edition to import RISC OS Sib7 files"
  8. ^ "Sibelius 7: Task-oriented user interface". Avid Technology. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Avid end of support announcement: Sibelius on Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.5 or earlier and Mac computers with PowerPC processors". Avid Technology, Inc. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "Avid Continues Innovation of Proven and Trusted Music Notation Solutions with Sibelius 7.5 Software" (Press release). Avid. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "VST play back in Sibelius 5". Sibelius Software. Retrieved 9 June 2007. 
  13. ^ "Sibelius Product Information". Sibelius Software. Retrieved 21 May 2007. 
  14. ^ "CNET AudioScore reviews". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 

External links[edit]