Have you noticed that a typical internet search doesn’t always produce relevant results for music notation? For instance, if you do a Yahoo, Bing or Google search for “articulation”, you’ll get dozens of results, with none of them related to Finale or Sibelius, and only a handful related to music . . .
‘NET SEARCH (see sidebar) is a useful resource that can help.
One of the features lacking even in the latest version of Sibelius are straight lines which snap-to notes. All of the straight lines, including the gliss lines, attach to the staff, and actually don’t snap to noteheads. The gliss lines and other straight lines do play back in Sibelius, but they are fussy to position correctly between notes.
Bob Zawalich’s excellent and highly recommended “Lines Between Notes” plugin for Sibelius takes a great deal of the work out of positioning lines between notes accurately; indispensable if you write a lot of music with gliss lines, for instance.
The “Lines Between Notes” plugin is an amazing productivity tool, but it’s not a “dynamic” solution. If you apply the plugin in a concert score you’ll most likely have to make a second adjustment in the part if it transposes. If you change the start or ending note pitch after the fact, you’ll have the run the plugin again. A way to create a real, honest-to-goodness straight, note-attached lines would be a useful feature.
In Sibelius, slurs are a part of the larger Lines group. One of their unique properties is that they snap to noteheads, unlike other lines. However, they are curved, not straight lines. But it turns out that slurs are actually flexible enough to provide us with note-attached straight lines.
Not only can these note attached slurs be made to display as a straight line so they can display as a gliss line, their thickness can adjusted, and any of these settings can be applied to single slur, independent of the House Style. Let’s take a look…
In orchestral scores, it is common to combine two similar instruments onto a single staff:
Text indicators like “1”, or “2” are used to show when a specific player plays a particular portion of the line. Following a passage where one player rests while another plays, a directive like “a2″ or “tutti” shows that both / all players play the same line in unison from that point. By default, these text indications appear in both the score and parts, making it easy to identify who plays where.
Note the hidden text expression “both”. This technique serves a useful purpose, which I’ll explain in a moment.
In Finale, we can use the Specify Voicing feature of “Manage Parts…”, to control the part appearance so that the Clarinet 1 notes show up in the proper part. To do this, Finale offers flexible rules for how the Clarinet 1 notes are selected for display in the part.
For instance, if the Clarinet 1 and 2 notes are different, but in the same Layer, we can make sure that Clarinet 1 is always assigned the top note and Clarinet 2 is assigned the bottom note. If a measure contains multiple layers, as in the second measure above, we can always display Layer 1 for Clarinet 1 and Layer 2 for Clarinet 2. Here’s an example of the Clarinet 1 part:
There is a visual style preferred by many composers and orchestrators in which instrument group names are shown bracketing two or more staves, with numbers (1., 2. or I., II.) rather than individual instrument names showing for the specific instrument staves:
This is a nice presentation, which clearly shows how the orchestration is organized with a minimum of clutter. The method to create Multi-Stave Groups like the above in Finale, as well as a cool variation for group name display are covered in this post by my colleague Jon Senge.
However, while this works great for the score, it’s quite another thing if you are also creating the parts, because there are no longer unique identifiers for each instrument. When you get to the parts phase, you first have to figure out which staff goes with which instrument, and once you do, you have to manually type in each instrument name in the Linked Parts! Ideally, the instrument names should remain in the template for parts. So, how can we do this?
Back before there was such a thing as computer notation software, commercial music copyists working with pen and ink used a technique called “Advancing the Layout”.
To illustrate, I’ll use French Horn parts in an orchestral score. In this hypothetical score, there are a lot of commonalities between the four horn parts:
- The four horns always enter together.
- Horns are in unison for a good portion of the score.
- Rhythms are generally homophonic when they are playing chords.
- They share a common transposition.
To advance the layout, common elements such as Page Text, Key and Time Signatures, Rehearsal Marks and other System Text, Barlines, Repeats, Endings are laid out in ink on the page. Next, any common unison passages are copied into the chart, as well as any common rests for homophonic chord passages.
The copyist then takes this “master page”, which functions as a partially filled-out template to the photocopier and runs copies so that the notes for each part can be filled in. As you can imagine, this technique of capitalizing on the commonalities within the parts saved hours of work, back in the day.
Before photocopiers, the ozalid process was used to reproduce music for commercial recording sessions and concerts.
These days, because of the way Finale automatically applies music spacing as you go, the page layout can change dynamically as music is entered into your score. A byproduct of this is that user attention to page layout is typically at the end of the workflow rather than the beginning. This reorganization of workflow is not a bad thing as long as you are, in fact, paying attention to the page layouts at some point!
In more recent versions of Finale, the business of having to ink different notes into a copy of a parts template, or copy and paste notes from the score into a separate part staff or file during the part creation stage has largely been replaced with Linked Parts; specifically the “Voicing” feature in the Manage Parts… dialog. You can enter diads or triads in a line of score, and then for any given part, choose rules for Finale to select which specific notes from that staff will display for that part.
However, even though we can control which notes go where using this dialog, the page layout for the parts themselves is not addressed in the Manage Parts dialog.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to create the layout for Horn 1 and then copy that layout to the other Horn parts so we don’t have to recreate this page layout manually 4 different times? Turns out, there is a plugin for this very task.
Enter the very useful “JW Copy Part Layout…” plugin by Jari Williamsson. Once you have manually created your layout for the first part, with the second (or subsequent) part frontmost, run the plugin. The dialog looks like this:
The plugin displays the name of the Current (open) Part which will inherit the new layout. You select the part you want to copy the page layout from in the instrument list.
Note there are a couple of useful options in this dialog besides the Copy Layout button. If you have sections where the Multi-measure rests are not identical you can uncheck the “Multi-measure Rests” option so that the majority of the layout will still be copied. You can then manually adjust the layout of the region with the differences manually.
You can switch to a specific part while the plugin dialog is forward by selecting a part, and then clicking the “View Selected” button. This will bring the selected part forward. Note that the “Current part:” name will then change in the dialog, allowing you to Copy the Layout from any other selected part in the dialog.
For Finale 2011 and earlier, you can use the Transfer function of the full version of the TGTools plugin suite to copy locked measure groups (measure layout) as well as system margins and attributes between parts..
Simple Vertical Group Names
I was recently asked to create a score layout that evoked some old Hollywood styles. One of the aspects discussed was a different way of formatting instrument families. Vertical instrument labels can be found on some old manuscript papers but are all but forgotten in today’s computer notation.
Creating vertical staff group labels are easy work in Finale. If you already have staff groups established, as in the excerpt below, it’s just a matter of reformatting the label itself. If you don’t, here’s a brief explanation.
Some Sibelius plugins (for example, Respell Sharps as Flats) run without taking any input from a user. They do not display a dialog, but just run and do what they were designed to do.
Other plugins take input from users by putting up a dialog box that has boxes to type into, or check boxes, list boxes, or radio buttons. You might see a dialog that looks like this:
In this dialog there is a great deal of data, but the initial values in the edit boxes will change every time the plugin is run, because they are pulled out of the current score. The plugin does not save anything from the previous run, but instead always starts fresh.
Other plugins, however, remember what a user typed in the last time the plugin was run, assuming that the same settings might be used again. Here are some different ways plugins can save these settings.
Q: I’m writing a piece with semi-quaver runs full of accidentals. The finished score shows the note heads crammed together with the accidentals and it’s not readable. The bar won’t increase its width to properly display everything. Is there a way for me to make the bar wider so everything in it would fit and not be crammed up?
To apply standard Note Spacing on Mac, select a passage and then type CMND-SHIFT-N. To apply standard Note Spacing on Windows: CONTROL-SHIFT-N
A: Assuming you have already run Note Spacing on the score, if it is ok for your score layout to change, the most straightforward method to increase space is to select the region in question, unlock the systems up to the next major event (e.g. rehearsal letter, key change etc.) and reapply note spacing to increase the spacing between the notes. in the selected region.
To spread out a passage of music on Windows, select the passage and type
SHIFT+ALT+ → a few times. On Mac, SHIFT+OPTION+ → spreads the passage out. You can also hold down Ctrl (Windows) or CMND (Mac) at the same time to move in bigger steps. You can make make a selected passage narrower by using the left arrow rather than the right arrow, e.g. Shift+Alt+ ←