Assigning Sounds to Different Libraries

Article applies to:
  • Sibelius 5, 6, 7


When using multiple sound sets in the same playback configuration Sibelius doesn't assign sounds to the desired plugin.


Controlling where sounds are allocated is one of the most frequent issues users face when mixing sample libraries in Sibelius. In fact, it's not terribly difficult to do, however it is important to know the right and wrong way of telling Sibelius which sounds to use.

Using the Mixer to assign sounds to a specific device is the first thing users generally try. This can have unexpected consequences though, such as incorrect articulation/technique switching and can cause allocation problems through the score, even for staffs/sounds that haven't been manually assigned (see: Articulations Don't Switch Correctly). Because of this, the Mixer should be considered a very last resort when instructing Sibelius from which device each sound should play, and any manual assignments already made in the Mixer should be reset to the "(auto)" option.

When allocating sounds, Sibelius looks at essentially two things:

(1) The "Best Sound" assigned to the staff in the score

(2) The available sound IDs in the playback configuration

With this information Sibelius attempts to match as closely as possible the "Best Sound" to an available sound ID. When an exact match is found, Sibelius assigns the staff to that sound; if an exact match is not found, Sibelius selects the closest matching sound based on the SoundWorld hierarchy.

This system works well when the sound IDs in the available sound sets are all unique, however, even unique ID's can cross paths and, in general, use of unique sound IDs is not commonplace.

In cases where there are multiple active sound sets, it's likely that the same instrument sound will be available in two or more devices. Because the sound IDs are the same, Sibelius sees all of these sounds as being equivalent.

Sibelius has a feature designed to handle this sort of routing, "Preferred Sounds". The Preferred Sounds setting is available from the "Playback Devices" dialog. When working with Preferred Sounds, sound IDs are assigned to specific devices in the current playback configuration which tells Sibelius "Even though this sound ID is available in multiple places, this is the one that should be used."

For example, if working with two libraries, "A" and "B", both of which have a violin section sound, but the sound in "B" is preferable to that in "A", in Preferred Sounds, we would select "strings.violin.*" from the sound ID tree at the left, and then using the "Device" dropdown menu at the right would select the plugin assigned to Library B. Finally, we would click "Apply" to set our assignment.

It is not necessary to use Preferred Sounds if a given sound is not available in more than one active sound set.

Building on the previous example, let's say that Library A has a timpani sound but Library B does not. In this case there is no reason to use Preferred Sounds since Sibelius has only one choice for a timpani sound.

Preferred Sounds can be set broadly or for specific sounds, articulations and techniques. These settings are also useful to overcome limitations in articulation switching prior to Sibelius 7.0.3, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

If you are using a sound set package that came with playback configurations, chances are we have made heavy use of Preferred Sounds in those configurations to make sure everything responds correctly. These can serve as great "real-world" usage examples while you are familiarizing yourself with the Preferred Sounds options.

Last Modified: April 9, 2012