… music notation tips & tutorials by Robert Puff & expert contributing authors.
Author: Robert Puff
Robert Puff is a professional music preparer and editor, arranger, orchestrator, score producer, music librarian and educator, and the owner and principal contributor to this music notation blog OF NOTE.
Q: What method(s) do you use to avoid collisions in “busy” scores in Finale, i.e: a tutti section with dynamics, hairpins, accents, chord symbols, etc… I have messed with the Avoid Collisions plugin but that doesn’t seem to do the trick for me.
A: For me, regardless of the notation program you are working in, there are a couple of basic “small things” that make a piece of music look “clean”. The first is a consistent amount of white space between any two objects that are close together on the page. The amount of minimum white space between any two objects is usually a matter of personal taste; a “house style” decision.
The second is that wherever possible, the vertical alignment of similar grouped objects such as dynamics, chord symbols or lyrics should remain consistent. Horizontal alignment should also be consistent. For instance, if you decide that techniques like “arco” and “pizz.” should be right aligned with noteheads horizontally or centered over notes, then you should locate these markings consistently in that position as much as is possible.
I see a lot of music that has dynamics entered in Times New Roman Italic or Times New Roman Italic Bold:
There is something not quite right about this “engraved” looking bar of music, right? The Opus Text Std Music text font would look more “correct” for the dynamics. However, even though this font is assigned as the Music Text Font in many of the Sibelius Manuscript Papers, you may find your dynamics look like the above, rather than:
Let’s walk through a couple of different ways to enter these dynamic text symbols, and importantly, let’s take a look at how to fix them after the fact, using the Change Dynamics plugin in Sibelius:
If you work on multiple monitors, or on a large monitor, you may find this tip for improving the visibility of the cursor to be helpful.
I often have more than one application open on my 30″ monitor, as I move between tasks throughout the day. On my setup, I sometimes lose track of the “Arrow” cursor, particularly when the mouse position drifts outside of the active program window. Additionally, certain applications have special cursors for specific operations which can be hard to see. For instance, the notation program Finale has a “crosshairs” cursor for Speedy Entry that is easy to lose track of if you have a lot of screen real estate at a high resolution.
Fortunately, recent versions of both the Mac and Windows OS have a mechanism for increasing the mouse pointer / cursor visibility.
Mac: One the Mac, go to System Preferences… in the System row (4th row down), choose Universal Access, then click the Mouse tab at top of the dialog. Locate “For difficulties seeing the cursor” and move the slider to increase the cursor size.
Windows 7: Go to “Control Panel > Ease of Access >Ease of Access Center > Make the mouse easier to use”, and select one of the mouse pointer visibility choices.
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
Just changing the cursor settings slightly can make a huge visibility difference. These are global settings, so you’ll be able to take advantage of them even when you are not working in your notation program.
Q: I’ve got a chart with just the parts and I’m re-constructing a score. I want to enter the notes as they are without going through transposing. Is there a way to just enter the notes onto a transposed score? It seems like there must be an easy way to do this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks . . .
A: I’ll walk through the steps for creating a score from an existing set of printed parts in both Finale and Sibelius. You can create a new score from existing transposed parts in either program, but as you’ll see, one notation program has a clear advantage in this particular area.
If you are like me, you may have trouble remembering some of the keystrokes required to enter certain chord symbols into Finale, especially when you start getting into some of the alterations.
For either the Handwritten or Engraved Styles, many chord suffixes are simple to enter, because you can just type in the suffix as you would any string of text, and as you do so, Finale creates the proper chord suffix. For instance, in the Handwritten Style, you can type in “Cmaj7” or “C7(b9)” and you’ll get nice looking chord symbols with the proper vertical alignment both suffixes:
A few years ago, I created two special “Scratchpad” files, one for Finale (.mus) and one for Sibelius (.sib). It was a handy way to quickly copy and paste common notation building blocks which can take time to create, like drum set patterns, from one score into another.
The Ideas Library of Sibelius 7 offers a much better way to collect and organize these building blocks – and it’s integrated right into Sibelius. To start with, you have access to a large number of built-in musical motifs you can use to create new music (Preferences>Ideas>Show Built-in-ideas), and you can add and edit your own.
In this YouTube video from back in 2008, Daniel Spreadbury gives an excellent demonstration of the original “Ideas Hub”, as it was called when it was first introduced in Sibelius 5:
However, to this day, I’m surprised at how many Sibelius users think of the Ideas feature as nothing more than a “Musical Clip Art” feature – fun to play with, but not a tool for serious professional use. You might be surprised to learn that the Sibelius Ideas feature is a powerful scratchpad that has the power to transform the way you work. Let’s take a closer look: