Transferring scores from Sibelius

Hi all

anyone had much luck with this? Seems one of the main problems is the MusicXML exported by Sibelius.

I just noticed that ScoreExchange just announced they now support Sibelius 8.7 files.

Does this mean maybe there’s an API for the sibelius files? Maybe Dorico could find a way to import the files directly, thereby breaking the dependency on Sibelius to properly convert to MusicXML.

I remember Excel took off once they put out a converter for Lotus123 files, as they removed the barrier for people to move across.


ScoreExchange can support Sibelius 8.7 files because they’re using Sibelius 8.7 to import the files you upload, and convert them into the various different formats they use for their SeView viewer and the PDFs you can buy and download/print.

There’s no way to import Sibelius files directly: you have to go via MusicXML. In general importing MusicXML files exported from Sibelius (and indeed Finale) works pretty well. What kind of problems are you having, specifically?

Speaking only for myself, with the few incidental score that I moved from Sibelius 8 to Dorico, things I’ve noticed:

  • Certain linked notations like crescendo/decrescendo sometimes get attached to barlines rather than notes. This became problematic for me when a crescendo go attached to the last bar of a flow…

  • Placement of some directives can be interpreted incorrectly; going into the properties for the directive and letting Dorico automatically reposition generally fixes it.

  • Some notations not yet supported by Dorico can dissappear

  • Immaturity in the XML spec causes different approaches to fingering notations to not be correctly imported into Dorico

  • A handful of positioning/spacing things which are usually fixed by going through and turning off any manual placements that Dorico accepted from the incoming XML file and letting Dorico re-position to its liking

  • Sometimes Dorico just doesn’t like the XML file. This results in a roundabout Sibelius->FInale->Dorico import (which usually resolves it.)

Other than the last, in general, I haven’t seen anything particularly devastating…a cleanup script would go a long way to reducing the manual fix-ups. In other words, par for the course with MusicXML as a medium.

All my work has been on Sibelius since it first came out, so I have a lot of stuff to transfer. I have tried to reinstall Sibelius 6 after a total PC wipeout caused by Windows Update 1902. Sibelius installer says it needs Microsoft Net framework. OK I installed that (verion 4.8). Restarted, and still the same message from Sibelius. There comes a time when you have it up to here with Sibelius and start looking for an alternative notation software. But the very first prerquisite is that it should read sib files. No way to to go through exporting from Sibelius if the wretched thing doesn’t even open!

Welcome to the forum, Paul. Unfortunately it would be both illegal (because the Sibelius file format is proprietary, unpublished, and encrypted) and impractical (because we would have to reverse-engineer a great many parts of Sibelius’s internals in order to make sense of its data structures) for Dorico to open Sibelius scores directly. If you need help getting Sibelius running, you can contact Avid’s support for assistance. Email Ingrid Guce (ingrid dot guce at avid dot com), who is the lead support person for Sibelius, with details of your problem, including your Sibelius serial number and/or System ID, and she’ll help you.

the biggest issue with xml Sibelius import is that Technique text is completely unsupported – at any rate from my v7.13. Repeated notes where the enharmonic spelling changes in Dorico are sometimes incorrect and ties over the barline can be wrong (and likewise slurs or hairpins though this doesn’t usually mess up playback). Otherwise it’s useable. I can see that it’s an attractive idea to convert existing Sib. scores to Dorico for the cleaner layout, condensing options and the like and I’ve done a reasonable job with my last Sibelius score as a test but I wouldn’t want to do it again unless things become clearly less time-consuming.

It might be helpful to know if the current limitations are on the Sib or Dorico side (or both). There was a post elsewhere which suggested that the current Sib version is no better in this respect?

I don’t believe the team at Avid have made substantive improvements to MusicXML export since the original Sibelius team went wherever it was they went (whatever happened to those guys and girls?). You should find that a decent amount of text is imported if you enable the ‘Text items’ checkbox on the MusicXML Import page of Preferences in Dorico, but playing technique instructions (Technique text in Sibelius terms) like pizz. and arco are not captured by that.

thanks for the clarification, Daniel – it’s the Technique text (I now corrected my original post for clarity) which is a bit of a show-stopper for me though some I used are irrelevant in VSL as I’ve pretty well started from scratch in Dorico with the default VSL matrices in solo strings rather than using the Sib. ones in VI which are completely different (though there’s noting to stop me from creating an Expression Map based on the Sib ones if I though it was worth it). Of course pizz v arco is an obvious issue, irrespective of VST used.

If you do a bit of research, you may find that the guys and girls from Sibelius went on to greater things… :smiley:

a quick update on this as its possible that with the new Note Length feature, I may finish up importing one or two scores from Sib. which I’d previously thought not worth the hassle. I’ve found that with Dorico 3.5 with appropriate settings, it’s generally easier to get techniques interpreted correctly and with better placement of dynamics than previously. In fact there are only two things which are significant annoyances for me personally still.

  1. Gradual tempo changes are sometimes shown with the dotted line running past the new tempo which leads to some pretty odd results. Fortunately in the majority of cases, simply dragging the line into the correct place sorts the issue.

  2. The wrong notes are sometimes played. After studying it for a while, I noticed that most and perhaps even all were caused when a double accidental is repeated in the same bar. What happens is that the second time the accidental appears, it is simply cancelled with a natural thus the note is played a tone too high or low and is not corrected if the note appears subsequently. This can easily be seen in the attached bar 122 when compared to the previous one which is correct. Sibelius have just confirmed this is a reproducible bug in their export (concluded by my re-importing the MusicXML back into Sib). For those still actively using both, it will presumably eventually be fixed but there’s an easy enough workaround – even if it may mean offending Dorico’s Holy Rules of Enharmonic Spelling. It’s the plug-in “Simplify Accidentals”.

Hi Daniel,

thanks for the work with Dorico 3.5,

I was delighted to see that when I opened a .xml file exported from Sibelius, the playing techniques were exported. Fantastic!

But I’ve come across another problem and this, from what I know, I can’t recall this happening in other Dorico versions. Minims came through
as tied crotchets, and a dotted crotchet came through as a crotchet tied to a quaver. I’m not sure why this is happening. It could be a setting in .xml file preferences.

Has anyone had a similar experience yet?

hopefully it’s easy to fix.



Check Dorico Preferences > MusicXML Import. You might need to tick the “Note Durations” option. Then have another go at importing your MusicXML.

Hi Pianoleo,

thank you for that hint. I’ll try that and let you know how I go.



Hi Pianoleo,

you’re champ! fixed it perfectly!

many thanks,

Steve :slight_smile:

Playing Techniques do get exported in XML files from Sibelius, but they import as Text Objects into Dorico and not as Playing Techniques. So even if you have the same custom techniques set up in Dorico, they will not work. In my experience you have to go through the score and replace them all. I do believe that this situation may improve in the future, but for the time being I just accept that I will have to replace all my custom playing techniques.

Best practice for importing from Sibelius (for me) is:

1 - Only export the score - not the score and parts.

2 - Eliminate all “cue” notes - these seem to throw off the import

3 - Convert the typeface to Norfolk (since that is the closest they have to SmFl)

4 - Then export it.

You still will have to do cleanup regardless but that is not the fault of Dorico or Sibelius: the music xml standard does not account for everything (although they are getting closer). A tricky thing to watch for is tempo markings - sometimes they transfer, sometimes they don’t. You’ll figure it out when you play the imported score back in Dorico.

Also -if your files are old (more than two years) or used frequently they might get corrupted (it happens). They usually don’t show any signs of this in Sibelius but it will show up in the xml file. (Easy fix: save a clean copy in Sibelius before exporting)

I use Sibelius Ultimate but how much that effects the import/export I do not know. (And, no, I do not use it anymore except to transfer stuff to Dorico).


My issue with wrong notes appears to be solved --in addition to the “simplify accidentals” workaround – by using the Dolet 6 plugin which I’ve finally got round to trying. It doesn’t help with the grad. tempo changes issue, though – as Brian suggests. It’s not that they are not read at all --as I find with both methods they usually are, it’s just that they load just the default 75/125 defaults in and completely ignore something like “poco accelerando”. Same issue of the grad tempo lines often overstepping the next fixed tempo marking which is subsequently ignored.

With the Dolet, there seem to be some pretty odd things going on with note lengths anyway (the switches in the Expression Map are being sent but the lengths appear to be exactly as written rather than how they should be performed) but I don’t have time to look at that now.

I have an issue with transferring scores from Sibelius w/xml… some tracks that I import are hard panned right, and I cannot find where to actually reset the pan back to 0. I had this problem in Sibelius by itself before I started using Dorico. The only place I can see this pan change and adjust it is within a VST like Kontakt, but even when I replay from the beginning it reverts to a hard pan… does anyone know about any hidden pan settings, presumably from midi data?

Not sure if this would help, but this is in Play. Pan is cc10 so presumably there is a 127 at the beginning (64 is center).

Thnks arco, it didn’t negate the effect but one step closer… I found the same issue discussed in Sibelius forum with Daniel back in the day. I’m not sure if a solution is found exactly. This is not a huge issue - it is only happening in Kontakt / HALion, if directly importing xml, so I’ll use alternatives for now.

Edit: not exactly a hard pan, but seemed like it at first. Volume was also dropped on the VST but nowhere else.
I was able to ‘forget cc’ in HALion and it fixed it there. I guess the issue only lies in Kontakt now.

Hi Frank,

a while ago while I was using Sibelius to create backing orchestrations for a customers CD, I would create the score in Sibelius, then export it as a midi to open in Cubase to work with vst instruments. However, I couldn’t work out why my LASS kept on panning themselves in the midi file in Cubase to a place I didn’t want them to be, as I didn’t want them to be panned in cubase. I eventually looked in the midi file in cubase, and in the controllers I found the panning messages were exported from the sibelius midi file, so I rubbed them out - I remember having to scrub the messages from the bottom and the top of some mid line in the controller lane. I can’t remember what the controller cc message was, but if you think it may be helpful for you to know what it is was, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can find one of those files [from 2012!], and open it up, or I’ll just create one using LASS strings in Sibelius, I’ll export it as midi, and see if I can find what the controller was.

best, Steve.