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During a recent rehearsal we played an arrangement which was set in Sibelius and featured header styles and formatting similar to the original handwritten charts, made popular by the music of Thad Jones in the sixties/seventies. The title, subtitles and composer info were nicely underlined and with the templates choice of font, it added a more vintage-y feel to the chart.

I like this style, because it makes the resulting files ever so slightly more authentic. “If you want it to sound like Jazz, it has to look like Jazz1. I wanted to use a similar style in an arrangement I am working on but my first instinct, Text - Format - Underline was amiss.


After a bit research and searching around the interface I found two solutions: one that works globally and one slightly more finicky which is helpful on a case-by-case basis.

The Global One

If you always want to have the same styles it is easiest to change the default values and create a new house style Appearance - House Style - Export. Sibelius makes it easy to change the styles, although not overly obvious. Or at least I needed to click around first.

In Sibelius 82 it works like this:

Sibelius Text Formatting No1

Click the arrow next to styles to open the Edit Text Styles panel. There select the element in question and Edit it.

Sibelius Text Formatting No2

There is lots of options to style the text in this panel. In this case I only select Underline.

And that’s all there is. To make sure I don’t have to do this again I save my settings as a new (or update another) house-style. The next time I start working I can simply select my exported house-style during the setup, or load it later, and I’m done.

The fiddlier, but more fine grained solution

This method can be used if a certain element should be styled occasionally, but not all the time. A quick Google search revealed this method on the “Sibelius blog”. To add underlines under, say the title, or composer info, simply add:

[code lang=”text”]
\U\ – underline on
\u\ – underline off
[/code]

before and after the text-element you want to change during the setup or later in the File-Menu and voilà, underlines. With this technique also other common formatting options, such as bold or italics and even line-breaks can be added. The latter is very useful, and the lack thereof had been bugging me for a while already.

Considered that Sibelius is a WYSIWYG editor this feels a little non-intuitive but it’s simple enough and does the trick. Which makes me wonder what other tricks one could use.

For a more thorough description and more formatting options and tricks refer to the original article.

With these two options available it seems obvious to use the first solution to create a house-style. This will save time and fiddling in the future. On the other hand, the second has it’s place if more control is needed.


  1. This is a quote from Peter Herbolzheimer as told to me by my arranging teacher back in the days. I might though remember the quote and the source though wrong. 
  2. Sibelius 8 is the first version of the app that I am using on a regular basic, hence I am not sure about the differences to say, version 7 or version 6 which is still running at work.