©2023 Michael Norris

A set of plug-ins for Sibelius that check your scores for common notation and layout issues.



Click here to download CHECK RHYTHMIC NOTATION plugin


Click here to download CHECK LAYOUT plugin


  • Locate the downloaded folder, and the file within called CheckLayout.plg. This is the plug-in itself.
  • Go to your Sibelius Application Data folder
    • on Windows, this is C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Avid\Sibelius\ (or \Sibelius 7\)
    • on Mac, this is ~/Library/Application Support/Avid/Sibelius/ (or /Sibelius 7/)
    • NB if you have an older version of Sibelius, this may not be in the Avid folder. Look for, say, the 'Sibelius 6' folder in AppData\Roaming (Windows) or Application Support (Mac)
  • If you see a folder called 'Plugins', open it — if not, create one, then open it.
  • If you see a folder called 'Proof-reading', open it — if not, create one, then open it.
  • Drag the file to the 'Proof-reading' folder. Mac users may need to hold down the option key in order to copy it, rather than making an alias.


One of the most common errors in music notation is poor rhythmic notation, especially when notes or rests ‘hide’ a beat, or when the beaming is incorrect. These issues can be very offputting for performers, and can lead to problems in rehearsal and performance. This plugin was created to help composers ensure that their scores meet these professional expectations by checking over the selected music for incorrectly notated rhythms. If it finds an issue, it will add a comment and highlight the offending note(s)/rest(s). The comment tells you what is wrong and how to fix it. (NB: the plugin does not fix the error—the user must correct it.)

The following common rhythmic notation issues will be found and flagged:

• Notes 'hiding' a beat (with common exceptions)
• Tied notes that can be 'condensed' into a single note
• Rests that can be 'condensed' into a single rest
• Bar rests entered manually
• Notes not beamed together
• Notes incorrectly beamed together


This plug-in checks your score for over 50 different common notation errors and opportunities for visual layout improvement. Many of the underlying notation principles have been taken from Elaine Gould's definitive music engraving book, Behind Bars.

If the plug-in finds what it thinks is an issue, it will add a comment and highlight the offending note(s)/rest(s)/object(s). The comment tells you what is wrong and how to fix it. (NB: the plugin does not fix the error—the user must correct it.)

The plug-in does not check for rhythmic notation problems or opportunities for improving accidental spelling — you can use the 'partner' plugins, Check Rhythmic Notation and Check Accidental Spelling for these.

In the dialog box that opens when you choose the plug-in, you can select which issues you want to check your score for, from the following list:


Spacing and layout
⁃ Check staff spacing: Checks that the space between staves is between 6–9mm. As this is only a recommended value, you can turn this off in special cases.
⁃ Check system spacing: Checks that the space between systems is between 12–16mm. As this is only a recommended value, you can turn this off in special cases.
⁃ Check staff size: Checks that the staff size is not too large or too small. Recommended sizes are: 1) solos and single-staff duos: 5.9–6.5mm; 2) trios or duo with grand staff: 5.6–6.5mm; 3) 4 staves: 5.3–5.9mm; 4) 5+ staves: 4.4–5.0mm
⁃ Check margins: Checks that the margins are 15mm or smaller. As this is only a recommended value, you can turn this off in special cases. ⁃ Check barline width: Checks that the barline width is between 1–1.6mm.
⁃ Check beam thickness: Checks that the beam thickness is between 0.45–0.5mm.
⁃ Check bar spacing: Checks for systems that contain considerably more or fewer bars than the average. It is impossible for Sibelius plug-ins to reliably tell when the music is too spaced out or too cramped, so you may need to ignore these warnings.

Staff names and order:
⁃ Staff names (solo works): Checks that the staff names are hidden for solo works.
⁃ Staff names (ensemble): For ensembles of less than 6 players, checks that the first system staff names are full, but after that, are not shown. There are some situations in which you might need to show them, however, so this could be turned off.
⁃ Duplicate staff names: Checks whether two staves have been given identical names (e.g. 'Violin' and 'Violin'), or one staff is numbered and one is not (e.g. 'Violin I' and 'Violin')
⁃ Grand staff order: For sextets and smaller, checks that grand staff instruments are at the bottom.
⁃ Special ensemble order: Checks the correct order for some specific non-orchestral ensembles (wind quintet & brass quintet)
⁃ Brace on single staff: Single staves should not have a brace on them, but they are sometimes erroneously added by Sibelius (e.g. the vibraphone) and should be manually removed.
⁃ Check system text staves: Checks that system text, such as tempo markings, are shown above the correct staves on the score (i.e. above the top and above the string section only). There are some variances in practice here, so you could ignore this warning.

Font and text placement:
⁃ Check tuplets font: The default Sibelius tuplet font of 'Opus Text Std' or 'Helsinki Text Std' is quite heavy for tuplet text; this plugin suggests changing it to Times New Roman italic. This is a question of style, and can be ignored or turned off.
⁃ Check dynamics font: Checks that dynamics have been entered with the correct font.
⁃ Check styled text: Checks for markings that should not be italicised (e.g. pizz., arco, etc) or bold
⁃ Check dynamics location: Checks that dynamics appear below the staff. As there are sometimes good reasons for dynamics to appear above the staff, this could be ignored.
⁃ Check Expression location: Checks that Expression text appears below the staff. Text appearing above the staff should generally be Technique text.
⁃ Check Technique location: Checks that Technique text appears above the staff. As there are sometimes good reasons for Technique text to appear below the staff, this could be ignored.
⁃ Check text misplaced: Checks for text that has been placed a long way from the note it is attached to, which may indicate it has been attached to the wrong staff, which could affect the parts.

Common text errors:
⁃ Check misspellings: Checks for common misspellings of text (e.g. 'col lengo'), as well as incorrect use of fullstops (e.g. 'arco.')
⁃ Check lowercase text: Checks text that should be lowercase (e.g. 'pizz', etc) is indeed lowercase
⁃ Check tempo capital: Checks to see if a tempo marking begins with a capital letter (it should do), or if a tempo change (rit/accel) starts with a lowercase letter (it should do)
⁃ Check space at start: Checks to see if there is a space character or other non-alphanumeric character at the start of a text string.
⁃ Check abbreviations: Checks for text that is commonly abbreviated (e.g. 'con sordino')
⁃ Check Expression text: Checks for text objects that should be in Expression text (e.g. 'cresc.')
⁃ Check Tempo text: Checks for text objects that appear to be tempo markings, but are not in Tempo text.

Special Instrument Notations:
⁃ Check mute markings: Checks for unnecessary mute indications when the instrument is already muted/unmuted (i.e. no duplications)
⁃ Check arco/pizz.: Checks arco/pizz./col legno markings to ensure no duplications
⁃ Check tasto/pont.: Checks tasto/pont/ord markings to ensure no duplications. It can differentiate between, say, 'sul pont.' and 'poco sul pont.'
⁃ Check tremolos: Checks that no more than 3 strokes have been used to indicate an unmeasured tremolo. Also, for pitched percussion, checks that tremolos have been written as 'single tremolos' rather than 'double tremolos'.
⁃ Check correct clefs: Checks common orchestral instruments for incorrect use of clefs (e.g. alto clef in the cello)
⁃ Check 8va/8ba etc.: Checks incorrect use of 8va/8vb, e.g. 8va in bass clef
⁃ Instrument change on note: Checks for an instrument change warning being put above the last note of the previous instrument, rather than afterwards
⁃ Staccato on pizz: Checks that pizz. notes have not been written with staccatos, which is almost always wrong

General errors:
⁃ Check slurs to tied notes: Checks that slurs start at the beginning of tied notes and end at the end of tied notes.
⁃ Check slurs on grace notes: Checks that grace notes are slurred (unless they have articulation attached)
⁃ Check appoggiaturas: Checks for appoggiaturas, which are sometimes incorrectly used instead of grace notes.
⁃ Check flipped stems: Checks for manually flipped stems for non-cross staff notes, which are almost never needed.
⁃ Check mid-tie accidental: Checks for tied notes with an accidental rearticulated in the middle of the tie.
⁃ Note tied to another pitch: Checks for a tied note with the tie going to a note of a different pitch.
⁃ Check pickup bar rests: Checks for pickup bars with different lengths in different parts, or the incorrect length given.
⁃ Staccato on dotted note: Checks for incorrect use of staccato on a note with an augmentation dot, which is almost always incorrect (or at least contradictory)

⁃ Title: No text in Title text has been included (may be ignored if intentional)
⁃ Composer name: No text in Composer text has been included (may be ignored if intentional)
⁃ Initial Tempo text: No tempo marking has been put on the first bar
⁃ Initial time signature: No time signature has been set in the first bar
⁃ Initial dynamic: No dynamic has been put on the first note of each part
⁃ Dynamic after 3 bars rest: Checks to see whether a dynamic has been (re)stated after a part has been silent for 3 or more bars.
⁃ Dynamic after long hairpin: Checks to see whether a dynamic has been put at the end of a hairpin that lasts a bar or longer. NB it ignores hairpins in grand staff instruments (as the dynamics could be placed in either staff), or diminuendos going to a rest (which are usually just expressive 'fade outs')
⁃ Rehearsal marks: For non-solo works longer than 30 bars, checks to see if rehearsal marks have been given. As this may not be appropriate to your work, this could be turned off.