I am creating a drum chart in Sibelius. In a particular bar, I want the kick to play two semiquavers at the same time as the first hi-hat dotted quaver. I am using Voice 1 for kick/snare notation and Voice 2 for hi-hat notation.

the bar in question

This is the result. As you can see, the first dotted quaver hi-hat is not vertically in line with the first semiquaver for the kick drum. I think this would be confusing for a drummer to read quickly, as they might instinctively think that the semiquavers should come after the first dotted quaver. No matter which order I put the voices in, or which voice I assign each part to (I've tried both ways), this is invariably the result.

Is there any fix for this? I know I'm nitpicking but this is incredibly frustrating to me. I can't understand why they wouldn't automatically be in line with each other, like the crotchet and quaver are on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th beats.

  • 1
    To my eye, all of the notes are vertically misaligned. Some experiments to try if you haven't already: 1) swap the voices -- maybe Sibelius doesn't like Voice 2 above Voice 1; 2) Does it align properly if both voices use standard note heads? Or both use the same note head style? 3) Try manually adjusting the note placement.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 14:20
  • Already tried 1) and 2), I'll give 3) a go!
    – yerman
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 15:03
  • Let us know if that works. If yes, I'll add it as an answer; if no, it will add information for someone else's answer.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 16:05
  • Yes, it worked.
    – yerman
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


Try voice 2 for bass drum and voice 1 for hihat.enter image description here

The snap above is from my copy of Sibelius 7


Brian already gave the right answer, I'll just add example screenshots from Sibelius 6.

The upper voice with stems up has to be voice 1, and the lower voice with stems down has to be voice 2, or else the notes won't line up.

This is with hi-hat in voice 2 (green), looks awful, and Reset Note Spacing won't help:

BAD drums, hi-hat in voice 2

And then the following is with hi-hat in voice 1 (blue), after the following fixes:

  • Voice 1 & 2 swapped, Edit / Voice / Swap 1 and 2
  • Layout / Reset Note Spacing
  • Flip stems (keyboard shortcut X)
  • Fix vertical placement of the 8th note rest

Less bad drum notation, hi-hat in voice 1

I don't know where that voice 1 vs 2 non-alignment comes from, that's just the way it has been. Maybe there's a setting for it somewhere.


Use Voice 1 or 3 for stem-up notes, Voice 2 or 4 for stem-down ones.

Don't 'flip' stems until there are notes in both Voices. Yes, if you enter the bass drum (voice 2) notes first, the stems will go up. Don't worry. When you put some hi-hat (voice 1) notes in, they'll flip automatically.

If you've inadvertently reversed Voices 1 and 2, there's a quick fix. Select the passage and press Shift-V.

enter image description here

If you've entered something complicated and alignment has gone haywire, try Reset Note Spacing (Shift-Ctrl-N). In fact, in Sibelius ALWAYS try Reset Note Spacing when anything looks wrong. (Unless you've been deliberately making X- or Y-offset adjustments, which it will reset.)

If you've got in a mess with stem-flipping, select the passage and click the Flip box in the Inspector until it clears (might take a few clicks).

enter image description here


Since swapping the voices and changing the note heads didn't work for you (see comments on the OP), your best bet might be to manually adjust the note placement. As long as the problem is localized (i.e., not an entire, lengthy score) this will at least get you where you want to go.

To adjust note placement in Sibelius

  1. First try selecting the measure (or affected passage) and then choosing Appearance > Reset Notes > Reset Note Spacing.
  2. If step (1) didn't work, try selecting and dragging the note into position. (This will reformat the entire beat associated with that note, or the entire selected passage.)
  3. To adjust a single note, select it, and then choose Home > Inspector. This will give you access to that note's X (i.e., horizontal) offset.

The above is distilled from, and expanded upon in, "Horizontal note spacing in Sibelius" by Philip Rothman (Scoring Notes, 5 Nov 2014)

  • The downvotes on this are genuinely confusing. OP already acknowledged in the comments that this was the procedure that resolved the problem after other solutions didn't.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 14:15
  • I gave your answer a -1. This thing with aligning drum notation is a common thing in Sibelius. I don't write drum notation very often, and I hit the same problem almost every time, I've got used to it. "Oh, the voices are the wrong way around again." Adjusting individual notes' graphical offsets manually one-by-one, ouch! Disaster. If you have to do that in Sibelius, for basic drum notation, something is seriously wrong. If OPs say something, take it with a grain of salt. ;) Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:24
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica Thanks for explaining. I can accept the difference in philosophy.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:27
  • I've used Sibelius for 20 years. It's a venerable piece of software, and even though it was originally a clean and fast competitor to the older programs, it grew and accumulated lots of "details" and some clunkiness in the basic structure was never fixed. It requires a specific mindset and approach, which might not be what a new user would intuitively assume. Drum notation isn't one of the strongest areas in Sibelius IMO. I can get it done, but it doesn't feel particularly fast and easy to do. I can totally understand how someone just can't get everything to work the way they want. Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:36
  • Thanks for this discussion, I'm going to try swapping the voices around again and see if I made an error the first time.
    – yerman
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 20:50

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