Find Plugins & Information about Finale and Sibelius QUICKLY

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.

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Reposition Staves Vertically In Finale

It’s common practice to include a little extra space between groups of instruments throughout the score. It’s also common to see extra space above staves which are showing tempo or metronome marks. And finally, for vocal scores, a little extra consistent space is typically required for lyrics under vocal staves.

When creating a new score, in the Document Setup Wizard, there is an option to “Add Vertical Space”, which is great for defining a little extra space between specific staves when you are starting a project:

The actual amount of vertical space that is added here is determined by the settings in Finale’s Document Options > Staves dialog. This is also where you can control the default distance between the instrument staves themselves.


But what if I want to adjust vertical positioning of certain staves in an existing score?

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Finale Quick Tip : Align Hairpins and Other Smart Lines

The Contextual Menu for Smart Shapes makes quick work of aligning hairpins, trills and other measure – attached smart lines in your score. For instance, to align trills so their line start and end points match down the score, click and drag-lasso them so their selection boxes are all highlighted, then right – click one of the highlighted selection boxes, and select “Align Vertically” from the Contextual menu.

This tip applies to all measure-attached Smart Lines in Finale, so it can be used with hairpins, trill extensions, ottava lines, bracket lines or custom measure attached smart lines you create.

If you have the full version of TG Tools, be sure to also check out the Align-Move plugin which automates this functionality over a larger selection area.

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Finale Quick Tip : Divisi Stems Up, Stems, Down

It used to be that in Finale, if you wanted divisi stems up / down, you had to enter (or re-enter) each part in as a separate Layer in two passes, or resort to multi-step workarounds. No more. It’s a single step with the freely available JW Explode Layers plugin. And merging two Layers into one is also a single step with JW Merge. Visit the above link, and navigate to Downloads for your OS.

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Finale Quick Tip : Change Measurement Units on the Fly

Finale supports six+ different units of measurement :

  1. Inches
  2. Centimeters
  3. Points
  4. Picas
  5. Spaces
  6. EVPUs (Enigma Virtual Page Units)

While Millimeters aren’t specifically listed as an available unit of measurement in Finale, you can enter mm values when using Centimeters by simply moving the decimal point to the left (25.4 mm = 2.54 cm). 

You set the measurement unit from Preferences > Measurement Units in the Finale Menu, but that doesn’t mean you always have to think in those units. Some places in Finale, such as the Document Options and Page Format dialogs, have a handy Units popup menu which apply only within that dialog:

But Finale gives you even greater control. You can enter values in any unit of measurement in any numeric field of any dialog by simply adding the first letter of the unit of measurement after the number.

For example, if you need to “think in inches” for a moment, regardless of the current unit of measurement setting, type in “1.75i” (“i” for inches) and Finale will enter the measurement correctly, and convert the number to the current unit of measurement for you.

On the off chance you should ever need to enter a value in picas this way, the shortcut is “p0″ (“p” is reserved for “points”.)

.5i, 6s, 144e, 1.27c, 36p, 3p0 are all the same value, just entered differently

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Finale Quick Tip : Create an Opaque Enclosure (Mask) for Text

Sometimes in Finale, it is desirable to place text in the foreground over a line. One common usage is for a text instruction in the center of a hairpin:


Another common usage is to make text stand out against a barline:


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Future-Proofing Finale & Sibelius Notation: Considering MusicXML

A few days ago, I was received an email from fellow music engraver Andrei Pricope on an interesting topic – how can we future proof our  existing notation work in Finale and Sibelius? I found his observations insightful, and I thought I would share some of them here. (I’ve paraphrased in some places.) He writes:

“I am a long time Sibelius user, having invested hundreds of hours of my own engraving and thousands of dollars on out-sourced engraving projects. In addition, I have made a substantial investment in both hardware and music notation software.

Recent developments with Sibelius and now Finale signal that both are now at the whim of parent entities, their corporate visions, agendas, budgets and priorities; a situation less than ideal for our community and music-making at large; hence my deep concern about the long-term blind reliance on any particular music engraving solution.

In today’s rapid-changing technology environment, and with the recent dramatic and uncertain changes for both Sibelius and Finale I’ve recently adopted a new system of file archival:

In addition to saving my files in the current version of my notation program of choice, I plan to save and archive all of my music notation files using the MusicXML file format. A number of companies currently support MusicXML, and it meets several important criteria for longevity:

  • It is currently supported by a diverse group of music programs.
  • The file format is essentially ASCII text so MusicXML is platform and OS-version agnostic.
  • It is also fairly mature at this point, which means the files can be successfully imported / translated in the future, hopefully by a variety of programs that support music notation.

In summary, moving forward, I plan to archive my files in multiple formats: (1) The original Finale or Sibelius File (2) PDF files and (3) MusicXML format.”

Thanks, Andrei!

Note that while MusicXML is currently pretty robust, some musical symbols are not universal to all notation programs, and so MusicXML conversion will fail in these cases. An example between Finale and Sibelius are tremolos. Sibelius supports tremolos with up to 5 slashes, Finale supports tremolos only up to 3 slashes. If you save a MusicXML file from Sibelius with 4 and 5 slash tremolos, these trems will not be converted. When the file is imported into Finale there will be no tremolos in these locations.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to future proof your music notation work? Please leave a comment.

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Sibelius Quick Tip : Quarter-tone playback

In the Sibelius Keypad, there are preset symbols for microtonal accidentals (6th keypad). There are separate symbols for “Quarter sharp”, “Quarter flat” as well “Three quarter sharp” and “Three quarter flat”. While keypad entry allows you to graphically display the accidentals, they do not play back automatically.

Microtonal playback for these accidentals can be created using MIDI pitch bend.


If you are using the microtonal accidentals to visually create your quarter-tone notation, the most straightforward solution is to use the shipping Sibelius plugin called “Quarter-tone playback” which completely automates the process of creating playback for microtonal accidentals. If you want playback for the microtonal accidentals in the Sibelius Keypad, that’s all you need.

To see the hidden Technique Text that contains the MIDI commands the plugin generates, check Hidden Objects in View.

For those interested in “how it works”, the visible microtonal accidentals in Sibelius are set for playback to what might be considered the “closest” chromatic interval by default:

  1. A chromatic or diatonic sharp and a three quarter-sharp sound as the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  2. A natural and a quarter-sharp sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  3. A chromatic or diatonic flat and a quarter-flat sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.
  4. A double flat and a three quarer-flat sound the same pitch until the plugin is applied.

The plugin works by sharpening occurrences of any microtonal accidental by a quarter-tone via MIDI pitch bend to get the correct playback pitch, halfway between two chromatic tones.

After running the plugin, you’ll see the following string of Technique Text: ~B0,80 for any microtonal accidental and ~B0,64 for any diatonic or chromatic pitch.

Only one MIDI pitch bend command per instrument is possible at a time, so, for instance, different notes in a chord cannot be tuned differently from each other in the same staff.


Sometimes you might want quarter-tone pitch bend on a diatonic or chromatic note (e.g. a note without a microtonal accidental). An example might be to create a “blue note” in a jazz line. For this type of application, the plugin won’t work.

Using Technique Text (which only affects one specific staff / instrument), select the note or beat where you want the tuning change to occur. The syntax is tilde, B (for Bend) zero, comma, then the value.

Make sure to use the text string ~B0,64 to return the affected staff to normal tuning.

Basically, add or subtract 16 from the “centered” value of 64 for each additional quarter tone, sharp or flat:

  • ~B0,64 = normal tuning
  • ~B0,80 = quarter-tone sharp
  • ~B0,96 = half-step (semitone) sharp
  • ~B0,112 = three quarter-tone sharp


  • ~B0,64 = normal tuning
  • ~B0,48 = quarter-tone flat
  • ~B0,32 = half-step (semitone) flat
  • ~B0,16 = three quarter-tone flat


Note that while the tuning will be correct with the internal Sibelius sound sets, the actual tuning result depends on the value of pitch bend range on your sound source, so you may need to adjust the pitch bend range on third party sound sets or devices.

related: West meets East – Notation & playback of Quarter tone music using Sibelius

microtonal, microtone, quarter-tone, quarter tone

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