Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS review

The notation workhorse which started as a university project has scaled great heights. Now it’s available on the small screen too…

  • $6.99 per month upwards (or free)
Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

An attractive proposition for anyone needing to do score work while mobile, with a price point for all levels and abilities.


  • +

    Very attractive subscription pricing.

  • +

    Ideal entry for score work.

  • +

    Great integration with desktop version.

  • +

    Very usable sound-set.


  • -

    Pencil-based note entry is a little lack-lustre.

  • -

    Not all features available.

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Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS: What is it?

Sibelius is something of a strange beast; while many DAW aficionados will be unaware of its credentials, others use it on a daily basis. The notation software package makes light work of producing pro scores, extracting parts or even providing a compositional sketchbook for professionals or students. 

It’s important to stress that what it does well, it does really well, but what it doesn’t do is provide a studio or production solution. That’s where Sibelius’ owners, Avid, will happily direct you to one of its partner products, such as Pro Tools.

Going mobile

Given that the more static graphic environment of Sibelius doesn’t require quite the same level of CPU grunt that other, more common DAWs would, it’s a perfect product for porting to a tablet-based format. In this case, Sibelius is only open to the iPad/iOS

As a starting proposition, Sibelius for iPad chimes with its entry-level desktop counterpart known as Sibelius First. Both are free to download and use, although capacity is limited. Initially, you are only able to work with four instruments within a score. For some, this might be enough, but there are other limitations that might prevent you from doing exactly what you’d like to do. 

As Sibelius is subscription-based, you can jump on the next rung up for $6.99 per month, which extends the instrument count to 16 per score, or even to an unlimited staff count.

The interaction between the desktop version and the iPad version is exceptionally useful; if you have a monthly subscription in play already, you can just sign in to your Avid account, and you’ll find a degree of duplication between platforms. 

Save your score in the cloud and you can seamlessly switch from one platform to another, using the iPad when on the move, and pick up from where you were, once you’re back in front of your computer.

Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS: Performance and verdict

We must mention how wonderfully pleasant the iPad experience is. Inputting notes is an utter joy, and will be second nature to any existing Sibelius user. The ubiquitous Sibelius keypad format forms the mainstay for note inputting, much like the desktop version. 

If you’re not familiar with the desktop form, fear not, as it’s as simple as selecting and holding a note value, while dragging your finger up/down to position the note on the score. You do, of course, have to select the bar and instrument first, but it’s otherwise extremely simple.

Also consider...

Steinberg Dorico for iPad

(Image credit: Steinberg)

Steinberg – Dorico for iPad
A worthy contender to Sibelius, now available in iPad form. It’s also available for free.

A true Apple pencil drawing experience. Linkups with Spitfire mean excellent playback options.

There is a provision for note entering with an Apple pencil, but it requires an additional tap on the screen. There’s no method for literally drawing on your score as if it were paper, but even so, it’s elegant, useable and just really nice in use.

There’s a similar method for adding your own selection of icons, such as dynamics, key signatures, repeat marks and the like, which all appear from an itemised menu, which can be found via the plus icon/button.

The iPad edition also provides a relatively generous 900MB of samples; they don’t sound entirely like their acoustic counterparts, but for the purposes of representation, work fine.

It is so nice to see Sibelius in this new format, but noticeably, this edition is perfect as a freebie for anyone needing to do occasional or light score work, while pros can get all the bells and whistles, alongside their desktop accounts.

MusicRadar verdict: An attractive proposition for anyone needing to do score work while mobile, with a price point for all levels and abilities.

Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS: Hands-on demos


NYC Music Services

Avid Sibelius for iPad/iOS: Specifications

  • Available as a free app download from the App Store.
  • CONTACT: Avid
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