How to Optimize your MusicXML Export from Sibelius

by | Oct 30, 2017

MusicXML allows users to freely share musical notation content from one software to another.
However, composers and musicians are still encountering issues when importing a MusicXML score into their notation software.
In this article, we’ve shared some best practices to optimize your MusicXML export process using Sibelius 8.2.

TIP 1: How and when to use the Dolet Plug-in

Exporting in MusicXML format will save you considerable amounts of time and effort. This isn’t surprising as the alternatives are very time-consuming and convoluted – for example, manually copying your scores note by note, exporting via PDF and re-importing into Photoscore & NotateMe, or exporting via Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). In addition to being a lengthy process, exporting via PDF or MIDI will also result in a loss of data (such as dynamics, articulation, text and layout).

Dolet is a plug-in that allows users to export MusicXML and is compatible with Sibelius.

Here is an overview of the steps you will have to follow depending on which Sibelius version you own:

  • Sibelius 2.1 – 5.0: To save your document as a MusicXML 1.0 file, use Dolet 1 for Sibelius plug-in.
  • Sibelius 5.1 – 6: To save your document as a MusicXML 3.0 file, use Dolet 6 for Sibelius plug-in.
  • Sibelius 7 – 8: Although you have a built-in MusicXML export system, many people find that the Dolet 6 for Sibelius plug-in provides better results than Sibelius’s built-in MusicXML export. It’s best to try both and see which works better in your particular situation. Click here to download the Dolet plug-in for Sibelius.

TIP 2: When using extended techniques, try to keep it simple

Today, many contemporary composers use extended techniques in their pieces. By challenging traditional music notation techniques, they also challenge music notation software in order to achieve desired results. For example, the cross-staff slurs, arrows, glissandi and lines in Sibelius won’t be represented when exported into a different software. You’ll need to create a graphic alternative such as this one in your destination software.

The way all major software import and export MusicXML is currently not built to understand all the unique ways in which contemporary composers and arrangers challenge the software. Therefore, a large amount of information will likely be lost when exporting this kind of piece via MusicXML.

If you know in advance that you will export your score via MusicXML, we strongly recommend that you keep it simple and use your notation software in a traditional way for optimal results.

TIP 3: Be aware of missing symbols

It sometimes happens that symbols disappear from the score after importing a MusicXML file. This may occur for several reasons, which we’ve listed below.

  1. The software is not able to export a specific symbol via MusicXML.
    Here is an example of a symbol that Sibelius is currently unable to export: feathered beam accel./rit. (see image below).
musicxml export newzik Sibelius music notation software

2. The software is not able to import a specific symbol via MusicXML.
In this case, the symbol does exist inside the MusicXML file, but the destination software is not able to show it. For example, Sibelius can export Microtonality but cannot import it (see image below).

musicxml export Sibelius music notation software

3. The symbol does not exist in the MusicXML library.
For example, symbols above a bar line:

musicxml export newzik Sibelius music notation software

As you can see in the example above, the fermata is attached to the bar line. However, MusicXML does not allow users to attach anything above or below a bar line. Instead, MusicXML will represent the fermata (or any symbol) attached to a note and shifted horizontally to be located above the bar line.

For a more in-depth analysis:

The issue is that there are two types of elements: the first use time, such as notes and rests, while the second typed are determined by the first. So the horizontal position is determined by computing the “current time” and deducing the horizontal location. The current time is the sum of the duration of the previous time elements (notes or rests). You cannot display something in MusicXML that is not related to a note or rest. So you cannot place something specifically over the bar line as there is no note or rest at that time.

TIP 4: Export in transposing score

If you are using transposed instruments in your score – such as Trumpet in Bb or Horn in F – be sure to display a transposed score while you are exporting, so the transpositions can export correctly. Otherwise, the score will be exported as a concert score without transpositions.

musicxml export newzik Sibelius music notation software

TIP 5: Freeze position of magnetic layout before exporting

If you are using the magnetic layout in Sibelius 6 or 7, freeze the magnetic layout positions before exporting your score to ensure that object positions are accurately reported. To freeze the positions, select the whole score using Ctrl-A for Windows or Cmd-A for Mac. Then go to the Layout menu and click on Freeze Magnetic Layout Positions item (see image below).

musicxml export newzik Sibelius music notation software

TIP 6: When using graphics, save as a compressed MusicXML file

In order to transfer all the graphics, symbols and shapes properly, the MusicXML file should be compressed in the export process (see image below).

musicxml export newzik Sibelius music notation software