Square brackets with Sibelius
I use Sibelius 6. It’s fine for inputting vast quantities of music, but as soon as you find yourself doing anything out of the ordinary, it kicks up a fuss.
Anyway, here I was, wondering how on earth to get square brackets. You know, [ and ], instead of the ( and ) ones. They’re often used for producing editions of old music.
Well, don’t you know, there are 1001+ symbols included with Sibelius, including every kind of bracket. None, however, allow you to bracket accidentals in a clean or satisfying manner without having to resort to some serious voodoo.
Can we insert around each accidental, I wonder … ?
Sure, it might look ok here and there, but I’ve got 200+ pieces of music to edit. Also, note alignment (
N) quits doing its job properly. So, no.
Altering the accidental symbol to use [ and ]
The verdict: 7/10
Looks better, but the sharp itself is too ‘high’ and the brackets are not being compensated for by the note spacing. Yeah, we could go change accidental spacing in house styles — but that would change all accidentals. So, uh, no.
Using the brackets from the ‘Figured Bass’ font
Rather than using symbols far the brackets and losing the ability to space the notes vs accidentals properly, let’s base the symbol on the brackets themselves. In other words, Sibelius calculates the spacing around the bracketed accidental based on the brackets.
Back to the ‘create symbol’ dialog, noting the font I’m using, here’s what happens:
The verdict: 5/10
Give it a try, noticing it spaces beautifully with the note. It is, however, unusable. The bracket is too high and cannot be moved down, and moving the sharp above its baseline will make it appear too high.
Creating new brackets within the ‘Figured Bass’ Font
Well, the best I could come up with was to edit the font itself. I started off with Opus Figured Bass (extra), as it contains some useful bracket symbols. Then, edited and reinstalled the customised font.
Download Glyphs App and load font
Glyphs (OS X only — check out FontForge for Windows/Linux) is a commercial font editor. The trial version works for 30 days, though - so seeing as we’re just altering one character, that’ll do nicely.
Copy the ‘Opus Figured Bass Extras’ font from
/Library/Fonts. Make a backup of it, just in case we cock up. Open it in Glyph and you should see the following:
NOTE Sibelius numbers glyphs in decimal. Fonts, at least any I’ve come across, are usually numbered hexadecimally, ie to the base-16. Unicode follows this pattern. That means character number 40 will be
x28in hex… goodness only knows why Sibelius decided to number the characters in decimal! I mean, it’s not like you count the characters from the first register, right? Anyway…
Edit said font
I found the best bracket to start off with was
0x28 (#40 in Sibelius). This just needs to be copied to a new register and moved down a tad. I assigned it
0x27 (#39 for Sibelius).
Once that was done, I added a bit of room to the left of the character, so Sibelius would know to give the character a bit of elbow room.
Copy the ‘parenleft’ character, assign it register
0x27 (down on the bottom left panel) and double-click. Move it down by a good bit. While you’re down there, give it space to the right.
Export as OTF from GlyphsApp, reinstall font. I found opening the file in Font Book (OS X) and reinstalling from there would double-check conflicts.
Close Sibelius and rebuild font cache. In Terminal:
sudo atsutil databases -remove sudo atsutil server -shutdown sudo atsutil server -ping # this just checks ATServer is back up
No need to restart. Restarting is for dummies.
Moment of truth
Open Sibelius. Check ‘Music Font’ (accessible in House Style>Edit Symbols) uses our new font for Figured Bass, or it’ll unhelpfully resort to Times New Roman. Edit the (b) and (#) symbols, removing the parenthesis and adding the new character from register
0x39 of the Figured Bass (extras) font.
The sharp has a lower baseline. With the bracket selected, you can use the arrows around the symbol preview to move the bracket. Saves you having to create a separate glyph!
Note how I’ve assigned it to the same space as the normal parenthesis. This means I can access it via the keypad and, as this is an edition of music dating from early 1700s, I won’t be using cautionary accidentals anyway. You could substitute any other key if you like.
Job done. Phew.
Want to use this in another score? Export it as your house style, or copy to a new score and re-use!