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Sibelius First Review

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PROS / Sibelius First has a virtual piano, an excellent feature set, easy step-time and real-time note entry, and the ability to import MIDI and MusicXML files.

CONS / This software can't export scores as MusicXML or graphic files.

 VERDICT / Sibelius First is a great music notation software product for both novices and professionals.

Sibelius First is a streamlined version of Avid’s full-featured, top-of-the-line music notation software called Sibelius 7. Sibelius First has all of the essential features you need to create professional-quality sheet music, while being affordable for the casual and serious musician.

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Sibelius First is an elegant, powerful and easy-to-use software package and the winner of the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for music composition software.

Music Features

Sibelius First provides a number of Score Starter templates that will give you some great ideas for creating scores in the following musical genres: Choir, Blues, Country, Latin, Reggae, Rock, Classical, Funk, Jazz and Pop. You can click the icon corresponding to the genre you want to compose for and it gives you several styles to choose from, a list of instruments, the key and time signatures, the tempo, and an audio preview.

The program can also automatically create chord symbols above the staff as you play in real time with a MIDI keyboard attached to your computer. The chord voicing you use when playing the keyboard determines how the chord symbols are notated. For example, if you play an inverted D major chord, the chord is notated as D/F#.

If you are creating rehearsal scores for your band or choir and feel like you need to communicate more to the musicians, you can place virtual sticky notes throughout the score with helpful hints and tips.

The copy and paste functions are also powerful and easy to use. You can click the cursor anywhere in a measure to select all the notes in that measure, and then hold down the shift key and click anywhere in another measure to select all the notes in a series of measures. You can copy and paste the selected measures as many times as you want and then edit the copied measures however you want.

Sibelius First is a hefty program, weighing in at 500MB of hard disk space. The program takes up that kind of room because it is packed to the rafters with features to make your music composition experience as easy and fun as possible.

This software has a great full-sized virtual piano keyboard that is absolutely perfect for easy composition. All you need to do is click the keys on the virtual keyboard and the notes are automatically inserted into the score. Creating chords with the virtual piano is incredibly intuitive compared to any of the other virtual pianos we tried.

We like the mixer included with this notation program, which allows you to control the level of each voice in your score. The program also includes a nice MIDI-to-WAV conversion feature that lets you save your score as a digital audio file that can be burned to CD and shared with friends.

This music notation software includes the PhotoScore feature that lets you scan sheet music. The scanned music is then converted into transcribed notation in Sibelius First. This feature is useful if you want to transpose or edit an existing piece of music. The AudioScore feature lets you transcribe notes on a staff by playing an instrument into a microphone.

Avid has done a great job of giving you an impressive set of tools and features that will help you create professional-quality sheet music in an outstanding and affordable entry-level music notation software package. There are just too many features to adequately review.

Input/Output Features

Sibelius First can import MIDI music files and MusicXML files so you can edit and modify scores that were composed in other music notation programs. You can export compositions as digital audio or standard MIDI files. Unlike some other music notation software packages, Sibelius First does not export your compositions as MusicXML files or to a graphical format.

Editing Features

Entering notes is very easy using the computer keyboard, the mouse or the virtual piano. We found the computer keyboard note entry method to be extremely easy to use. Simply press an "A" on the computer keyboard to place an A on the staff; type "B" to place a B; type "C" to place a C, and so on.

You can compose by simply clicking with a mouse, typing with the keyboard or using MIDI devices. If you don't like where you have placed notes, you can simply click and drag them to another position on the staff.

This program will not let you enter too many notes to any measure. In other words, if you select quarter notes, you can only add four notes or chords to a measure that has four beats. Deleting notes is as easy as pressing the Backspace key or pressing Ctrl+Z. You can also click individual notes or the entire measure with the Erase tool. You can easily add chord symbols, dynamic markings, slurs, lyrics and more. This is a nice feature for those who want to give their compositions a professional look.

Technical Support

The website provides a lot of information on the exciting features of the software. A helpful video is included to introduce you to the software’s basic features so you can get started composing music in minutes. The software also includes a PDF copy of the user guide and access to online technical support.


Sibelius First is the best composition software we’ve tried that is targeting both the casual music hobbyist and the music professional. This is a great software package for students and teachers alike. It has everything you’ll need to get those melodies out of your head and onto paper. You will love how easy it is to use and will find that you won’t want to stop using this program.

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