Create Lead / Top Line Chord Notation for Rock, Jazz & Pop Charts in Finale

Lead Line Chord Notation, also referred to as Topline Notation is a shorthand notation convention that is sometimes used for rock, jazz and pop guitar or keyboard charts.

Lead Line / Topline notation is a good way to get the chord voicings you are looking for as a composer or arranger, particularly if you don’t actually play guitar (or piano); it allows you to specify melodic motion of the chords without having to supply details of voicings you may or may not know are practical (or possible) on that instrument.

To create this type of notation, visually, the stems are extended past the noteheads to show that the chords are voiced below (or above) the written lead notes. Here is an example:

Let’s take a look at a couple of different ways to create this type of notation in Finale.

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Finale: Getting Started With JW Lua

In my opinion, Finale is a great music notation program, and probably the most flexible one available. However, there are little quirks about the program that can cause more frustration than they need to.

That’s where plug-ins come in.

Because plug-ins are created by Finale users just like you and me to solve these quirks and make our engraving lives faster, easier, and less frustrating.

And luckily, a while back Jari Williams created JW Lua, a scripting language for efficiently coding your plug-ins. With this plug-in, several developers have started to develop custom scripts that you can start running today.

In this post, I’m going to share with you how to install and run scripts with JW Lua as well as sharing several resources for scripts. more >> “Finale: Getting Started With JW Lua”

Finale: Shape Designer

Finale’s Shape Designer is a built-in vector drawing program that can be used to address all sorts of little notational problems. It crops up in all sorts of places:

Expression Tool – Select “Shape” from the bottom of the Expression Designer.

Articulation Tool – Select “Shape” for the main and/or flipped symbols

Custom Arrowheads – This is available when designing a Smart Line, or when adding a line from within the Shape Designer itself (see below).

Executable Shapes – This can be found under the Playback tab of the Expression Designer.

Clef Designer – Accessed through Document Options. Choose “Shape” instead of Character:

Multimeasure Rests – Accessed through Document Options. The multimeasure “H” shape is actually a set of three lines grouped together: By ungrouping these you can adjust the thickness or appearance of your multimeasure rests.

Custom Stem Tool   – Double click a note’s editing handle to bring up the shape selection box.

Here is a brief overview of some of the things the Shape Designer can do, along with a few examples of ways I’ve used it recently.

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Beyond Defaults : Take Control of Note Spacing in Finale

Music spacing (historically referred to  as “punctuation”) is controlled by a mathematical ratio in Finale. At any point in time, this equation determines the horizontal placement of notes and related musical objects within each measure and across each system to create the appropriate balance of music notation density on each page.

Note spacing is more than simply assigning a specific width for each note duration; a number of variables interact to affect how the final music music notation output looks on the page. These variables include stems, flags, accidentals, articulations, ties, chord symbols, lyrics and much more.

Finale’s music spacing acts on three key areas to achieve consistent note spacing results: (a) mathematically perfect spacing between notes of different durations (b) additional event spacing or “padding” of specific objects to prevent collisions, and (c) lyric spacing, where music is theoretically spaced to fit the words instead of the words fitting the music.

If you examine music  note spacing (punctuation) from various published sources, you’ll see that while there are definitely variations between publishers, as a general rule, all music publishers follow similar practices.

Historically, plate engravers of music measured widths from the left side of the characters. For instance, the distance between two quarter notes is measured by the space from the left side of the first notehead (or rest) to the left side of the next notehead (or rest).

Finale provides professional looking note spacing results by default, so that even casual users can achieve properly balanced looking scores and parts. However, as you might expect, Finale offers a great deal more flexibility and control than these defaults. You might be surprised at how much power Finale has under the hood here.

Let’s take a closer look…

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Beyond Defaults : Create ½, whole-tone, flat, natural & sharp trill lines in Finale

There are a couple of common approaches for indicating trills with specific trill-to pitches in your music score. One way is to indicate the trill-to pitch as a stemless, cue sized note in a parenthesis.


This is an extremely clear and elegant way to present the trill-to information. However, for “commercial” scores, this method is somewhat labor-intensive to create in the current software, and furthermore, isn’t completely bulletproof in terms of the trill-to pitch maintaining its horizontal positioning after music spacing .

Trills containing an intervalic jump larger than a whole step are commonly referred to as “fingered tremolo”, and displayed as pairs of notes with tremolo slashes.

Another method of displaying trills, which is very common in popular and commercial orchestral music as well as film and video game scores, largely because it is so efficient for entry, is to include a flat, natural or sharp symbol above, or just to the right of the “tr” symbol. For commercial scores, you also frequently see the trill-to note indicated as an intervalic distance, like a ½ step or a whole-tone (wt).

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Restore Finale Customizations after Upgrade

Finale 26 is quite a bit faster in graphics performance and stability than 25, and well worth the upgrade, with quantum improvements in management of articulations, particularly.

Whether or not you choose the “replace Finale 25” option in the installer (I didn’t!), assets such as plugins, FinaleScripts, soundmaps, Device Annotation Files, Libraries, ensembles.txt etc. manually need to be copied over to their corresponding places in the new Finale 26 Application Support folders by users with any customizations they’ve added while using 25 and earlier.

Let’s take a closer look…

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