Scoring Percussion and Drum Set Parts in Sibelius
Tom Rudolph, presenter
The PAS Standard
Sibelius uses the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) standard for drum set notation. There are
three basic rules for this style of notation:
About Drum Maps
Sibelius uses percussion maps or drum maps that assign sounds and percussion
notation to specific lines and spaces.
There are many different drum maps in Sibelius and the sounds and noteheads are
frequently assigned differently in each map.
Sibelius gives you two options when entering into percussion staves with a MIDI
keyboard. You can play the MIDI drum pitch or play the staff notes to which the
percussion sound is assigned. I find playing the MIDI note on a MIDI keyboard to
be the most efficient entry method and it usually requires the least amount of
First, you must tell Sibelius which entry method you are going to use.
1. Select Preferences:
a. Mac: Select Sibelius > Preferences >
Note Input.
b. Win: Select File > Preferences > Note
2. Under Percussion staves, check “The MIDI
Device’s drum map.”
3. Click OK to close the Preferences window
Below is a partial list of the standard General MIDI percussion map note assignments.
You can download the complete file from in the Downloads
Open the sample file: DrumNotation.sib.
Select the percussion staff.
Press Esc to clear the selection.
Play the notes on your MIDI keyboard. You should hear the corresponding drum
sound as the notes are played.
So, when you play:
Sibelius will display:
Entering Drum Set Parts with a MIDI Keyboard
Enter the ride cymbal and snare in Voice 1 (stems up). The part could be entered in steptime or real-time. Step-time is usually more accurate
1. Select bar 1 in the drum staff so it is outlined
by a blue box.
2. Press the letter N. Voice 1 will be selected by
default. The entry carat will be blue.
3. Select the eighth-note value from the Keypad.
4. On the MIDI Keyboard play D#3, twice to enter the first two eighth
notes. If the preferences are set to MIDI device, an X notehead will
appear on the top line.
One of the main advantages to playing in percussion parts with the MIDI keyboard in this
manner is that you hear the correct sound when it is played and Sibelius then
translates it to the correct notehead and line or space as programmed in the drum
5. To enter the Ride Cymbal and Snare on beat 2, play D#3 (ride cymbal)
and D2 (Acoustic Snare) at the same time.
6. You can repeat the above steps to enter the cymbal and snare on beats 3 and 4.
Don’t worry about the stem direction. Stems will flip automatically when the bass
drum part is entered.
Next, enter the bass drum part in bar 1 in Voice 2.
7. Press Esc.
8. Select the first bar that has the cymbals and
snare entered in Voice 1.
9. Press the letter N or select “Input Notes”
from the Notes menu. (Don’t skip this step!
If you do, you will most likely change the Voice 1 notation already
entered into Voice 2.)
10. Select Voice 2 from the Keypad or select it via the shortcut Alt+2 (Win)
or Option+2 (Mac). The cursor will turn Green.
11. Select a quarter note and the dot on the Keypad.
12. Play C2 to enter the bass drum on the bottom space. Finish the bar by
entering the eighth note, quarter and two
eighth notes.
13. Press Esc
14. Select the first bar
15. Press the letter R three times to repeat the selection in bars 2, 3, and 4 (you can
also select Repeat from the Edit menu.)
Entering Repeat Bars
There are two options for entering repeat bars. Well, actually, there are
three options. The third option would be not to enter repeat bars at all and
just use copy and paste to copy the bars. However, in drum parts, it may
save a lot of space to use repeat bars.
Option 1 is to leave the bars blank and then change the bar formatting to
display repeat bars. This is the best option if playback is not important.
This can be applied quickly to multiple bars and is the fastest option for
1. Select the blank bars—in this example, bars 5 and 6.
2. From the Properties window, open the Staves tab.
3. Select the Repeat Bar from the pull down menu.
The repeat bars from the Properties menu will only work with blank bars.
Option 2 is when you want the part to play back properly but display repeat bars.
1. Copy the pattern into the bars where you want the repeat bar displayed. For
example, select bar 4 and then press R to copy it in bar 5.
2. Select the bar(s).
3. Hide them using the shortcut Shift+CTRL+H (Win) or Shift++H (Mac) or
choose Edit > Hide or Show > Hide.
4. Open the Symbols menu by pressing the letter Z or choose it from
the Create menu.
5. Select the Repeat symbol and drag it to the middle of the bar.
6. Select the bar and use the R key to repeat it as needed. You will
also most likely need to force the repeat bars onto one line. Select the bars and
then choose Layout > Format > Make into system.
Editing Drum Maps
The default Sibelius drum
maps can be edited to
display noteheads as
needed. For example, let’s
move the hi-hat and cymbal
to the 4th and 5th space of the staff respectively, as is taught in the Berklee Arranging
1. Click inside one of the bars of the staff to select it.
2. Choose House Style > Edit Instruments. The drum set should be selected since
you highlighted it in step 5.
3. In the “Edit Instruments” window, click the “Edit Instrument…” button at the
bottom left of the window.
4. Click YES to the warning about affecting the score.
5. In the “Edit Instrument” window, click the “Edit Staff Type” button.
6. Select a sound (such as the G open high-hat) and click the position on staff to
move it to a new staff location, the E space.
Saving Custom Drum Maps
You can save drum maps for later use. Go to House Styles > Export House Styles and
name and save the custom drum map. Now when you open a new document this house
style will be available and you can import it into any document using House Styles >
Import House Styles.
Entering Drum Parts without a MIDI Keyboard or using the Staff Type of Note
Here’s why playing in the MIDI Device’s drum map is faster than the staff type: If you
select Staff Type as the method of note input from the Sibelius Preferences, or use the
letter names to enter the notation, when you input an F on the top line of the treble staff, a
normal notehead is displayed with a playback sound of a tom-tom. To get the ride
cymbal, you have to select the entered note, open the Properties window, and change the
notehead to an X. This will also change the playback sound to a ride cymbal. Playing
with the MIDI keyboard eliminates this step and you hear the correct sound as it is being
If you find yourself without a MIDI keyboard, follow these steps:
1. From the Preferences menu, select Note Input and under Percussion Staves,
change it to “Staff Type.”
2. To enter notes, click them in with the mouse or type the letter name of the note on
the computer keyboard.
You will run into problems when you enter notes that have multiple noteheads on the
same line or space. For example, if you want to enter a closed hi-hat on the 4th line. When
you enter the note using the Staff type the note will be entered as a normal notehead and
playback the sound assigned to it.
3. Enter E on the fourth space. This is the space we re-assigned the hi-hat to. A
normal notehead will appear.
4. Open the Properties Window and open the Notes tab, select the bar and then
change it to an X notehead, number 1 for a closed hi-hat and number 5 for an
open hi-hat. This will have to be done for all entry lines and spaces that have
multiple noteheads.
Creating Percussion Parts
Always use the Instruments Window to select drum staves (shortcut the letter I or select
Instruments from the Create menu). Select “Percussion and Drums” from the Family
window and select the appropriate drum sounds. Always use Drum set for the standard
locations of drum sounds for a set. Many of the options will display on one line and the
percussion sound is on the B line of the treble clef.
TIP: Download the Sibelius 5.1 update is it fixes some bugs with drum maps.
Choose Help > Check for Updates (requires an Internet connection).
Drum Plug-ins:
1. To add a drum set part to a piece, select the bars or the entire piece and choose
Plug-ins > Composing Tools > Add Drum Pattern.
2. To number repeated bars choose Plug-ins > Text > Number bars
Sibelius Learning Resources:
For Drum maps:
1. Use the built-in Reference from the Help menu:
a. Section 2.21 Percussion
b. Page 551 – editing drum maps
2. Book: Sibelius a Comprehensive Guide by Rudolph and Leonard – Chapter 6
covers drum maps.
For general knowledge in Sibelius:
3. Watch the Sibelius Tutorial Videos available in Sibelius via the Help menu.
4. Download Robin Hodson’s quickstart:
5. Book: Sibelius a Comprehensive Guide by Rudolph and Leonard
6. Summer courses on Sibelius at TI:ME locations (
7. 12-week Sibelius online course: (Tom Rudolph, author)
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