Finale: Understanding Expression Positioning

Expression Positioning in Finale

I used Finale for years knowing that there were all sorts of options in the Expression Designer for how the Expression should get positioned, but without necessarily understanding what all the different terms meant, or how they would actually affect the resulting position of the Expression. Looking at dropdown menus like these tended to make my eyes glaze over:

I have come to appreciate the power of understanding how these settings work and setting them properly. The more things naturally pop into the places I want them to by default, the less time I spend adjusting them by hand later!

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Adjusting Tracking, aka Letter-Spacing in Finale & Sibelius

Q: Is it possible to make title text appear more “expanded” (as I might do in a Word doc?) My client has a specific font request, but his letter spacing looks wider than the same font on my computer, which is more “tight”: title-text-w-tracking A: This difference is due to letter-spacing, referred to as “Tracking” in typography. Tracking refers to a consistent degree of increase (or sometimes decrease) of space between letters to affect density in a line or block of text. more >> “Adjusting Tracking, aka Letter-Spacing in Finale & Sibelius”

Finale : Create Dashed & Dotted Cresc. / Dim. Hairpins Via Graphic Overlay

In previous posts, (1) (2), I’ve discussed Finale’s ability to create an opaque mask for text using its Enclosure Designer in order to bring text prominently to the foreground in front of a line such as a hairpin.

An imported graphic can also be used as a background mask. Note how the graphic completely masks the dotted line across its surface area in this example:


An imported TIFF graphic in Finale has an important additional ability: to display a mix of opacity and transparency. In this example, the same overlay graphic is transparent in its “white” area. Note how the solid line in the background now appears to be woven between the vertical lines of the graphic:


We can use this same ability to create a kind of “picket fence” graphic overlay for crescendo and diminuendo hairpin smart shapes that allows them to show through the graphic at regular intervals, like this:


Here’s how:

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Finale Quick Tip : Number Beats for Rhythmic Exercises

If you are a music educator teaching the fundamentals of rhythm, from time to time, you may find the need to count out beat numbers over the notation to help indicate various rhythms for your students.

Sibelius has a useful plugin called “Number Beats” (found in the plugins Text category) which does this automatically, but until recently, I wasn’t aware of a similar  plugin for Finale.

The JW Pattern pluginmac | windows ) will do the job nicely in more recent versions of Finale:

  1. Select a region
  2. Choose JW Pattern
  3. Drop-down the Sequences category
  4. Choose the “Numbered Steps” task.
  5. For “Step Method”, choose Beats in measure”



Finally, you can choose one of Finale’s Text Categories from the Category drop down to control the text style and placement of the resulting text.

The JW Pattern plugin is available free of charge on Jari Williamsson’s website.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Gary Gibson for contributing this tip.


Staying Organized with Finale’s Category Designer

Q: I have a Finale template file that I use often for orchestral music, and I have created several new expression categories with the Category Designer tool. However, I created these categories as they were needed, and they are now arranged in the Expression list without order. I would like to rearrange the order of the categories, but I cannot seem to find a way to do so. Do you know of any way that I can rearrange the order of these categories? Or am I coming up against a shortcoming of this software?

A: More recent versions of Finale have the ability to manually reorganize (sort) Text, Shapes, Lines and Articulations via the “Move Down” and “Move Up” buttons in the Expression Selection, Articulation Selection, Shape Selection and Line Selection dialogs. These sorting buttons also appear in the Document Setup Wizard, Reorder Staves, and in Manage Parts, to allow the user to change a particular instrument’s position in the score.

Unfortunately, Finale’s Document  > Category Designer has no such sorting feature. For those that only use the Default Categories, this doesn’t represent a problem, but for those of us who make use of the ability to create custom categories, the ability to sort them would be useful.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reorganize these expression categories. Let’s take a look…

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On Location : Finale & Sibelius Rehearsal Marks

“From the top ?” . . .

Image source : “The Art of Music Engraving and Processing” by Ted Ross

“Thanks for the great rehearsal marks!” isn’t the type of compliment you’ll hear from musicians at a rehearsal. But even if they don’t always tell you, musicians really appreciate it when you make their job easier by providing clear location info in their parts.

Location info helps the musicians stay in sync. Entrance cues in parts are a good example. Different barline types help to define sections. Multi-measure rests that break logically with phrases can be a location aid. Bar numbers are particularly helpful when navigating linear scores. Key changes or tempo changes can also provide location info.


Rehearsal Marks allow the members of a band or orchestra of any size to quickly navigate to a specific point in the score together, in order to master more difficult passages in rehearsal.  (It’s also easier for the conductor or bandleader to say “Take it from Letter M” than “Take it from bar 167”). Even after the piece has been mastered, Rehearsal Marks continue to provide location signposts for the players, helping them to stay oriented during performances or additional rehearsals.

Finale and Sibelius allow you to easily change the appearance of Rehearsal Marks to make them stand out in your score and parts.

Font, size and attributes can all be customized.

Both programs dynamically update rehearsal marks if you insert, move or delete them, automating the sequence of Rehearsal Marks correctly regardless of the order in which you enter them.

You can restart the Rehearsal Mark sequence at any point in the score. In Finale, choose Edit Rehearsal Mark Sequence from the Expressions menu. In Sibelius 7, choose the drop down menu for Rehearsal Mark in the Text Tab. In Sibelius 6, choose Rehearsal Mark from the Create Menu.

In both Finale and Sibelius, you can choose whether Rehearsal Marks are displayed as Rehearsal Letters, Rehearsal Numbers, or Bar Numbers.

Rehearsal marks are assigned to key shortcuts, which can be customized. Default shortcuts are “M” in Finale or “CNTRL-R” (windows) or “CMND-R” (mac) in Sibelius.

Both programs allow to you insert a non-sequential rehearsal mark if needed, and to hide measure numbers at the locations of the Rehearsal Marks.

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