Sibelius Software recently released version 5 of their popular flagship music notation package.  Sibelius has come a long way in the past few years, and the improvements that the company has made in terms of reliability and usefullness have really begun to pay off.  This article presents a review of the Sibelius 5 music notation software (full version) from the perspective of a music educator and amateur composer.


The New Sounds of Sibelius:
Sibelius' music notation software has shown the most significant improvements in the area of audio playback.  The company lived up to its promise of full VST instrument support for playback of the notation files it creates.  In layman's terms this means that the old, tinny sounding MIDI accompaniments that have plagued music for decades can now be replaced by realistic sounding, acoustically mastered instrument voices that bring your compositions to life without needing live musicians.  The new instrument sounds, named Sibelius Sound Essentials, work seamlessly within the software to provide lifelike reproductions of the notes, their articulations, and dynamic contrasts.  On the downside these new sound samples tend to eat up a lot of processor power, so lower end systems may hesitate a bit when loading.  Overall though, the new sound fonts are a very appealing addition to the overall package.  Additional sound packages are also available for purchase through Sibelius to expand your library to include highly accurate reproductions of world instruments, rock and pop instruments, and even voices for the choir.

Part Manipulation and Editing in Sibelius:
This feature was actually added to Sibelius back in version 4, but it is such a wonderful upgrade from the old methods of part extraction and printing that it deserves to be mentioned again.  In version 3 extracting parts was a tedious and sloppy process.  Changes to the score required that you re-extract all of the affected parts, readjust their layouts, and in essence waste a lot of time on minor details.  It was very easy to forget which parts you had adjusted and which you were ready to publish.  Beginning with Sibelius 4, all of the parts were placed in an easy to use pull down window and each of the parts was dynamically linked to the master score.  If you made a change in the score it was reflected in the individual part automatically and vise vera.  This addition alone makes an upgrade well worth the cost.  In addition, Sibelius 5 continues it's tradition of producing some of the finest print output of any music software notation package.  Reading music printed by Sibelius is easy on the eyes and layed out correctly with little user manipulation required.

Sibelius 5 and The Ideas Hub:
Perhaps the most interesting and forward thinking innovation of the new Sibelius 5 music notation software is the addition of what has been termed the "Ideas Hub."  Think of it as a multilayered clipboard for you to save small chunks of music to paste in at any place and on any instrument with a single click.  Once you have finally finished a motif you can save it to the Ideas Hub, name it, tag it with other reference information, and easily access it later in the same music score or in a completely different score.  These few sentences simply do not do this feature justice.  Try it out for yourself by downloading a demo version from today.

Should you upgrade to Sibelius 5?

The short answer to whether you should upgrade to Sibelius 5 is yes, the long answer to the question of whether you should upgrade to Sibelius 5 is...  Maybe.   The Sibelius 5 package offers some great upgraded features, but unless the new instrument sounds and the ideas hub are important to you you would probably be okay sticking with version 4. However, if you are still stuck on Sibelius 3 then the choice to upgrade becomes a definate and enthusiastic yes.  The amount of improvement from the old Sibelius 3 is so significant and helpful that you owe it to yourself to find the money in your budget to get version 5 as soon as possible.

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