Finale 25.2 update available

Finale 25, released this last August, is one of the most successful and feature rich efforts from MakeMusic in quite awhile. The point release for Finale v25.1, announced only a couple of months later, surprised Finale users with a small number of useful new features as well as the usual incremental bug fixes.

Multiple free-of-charge releases are part of MakeMusic’s new continuous development and release initiative; e.g. they have announced that they plan to share bug fixes and new features more frequently rather than saving them up for a single larger release.

As it turns out, this free point release to 25.2 released today (12/08/16) also feels substantial, with a couple of very nice feature enhancements along with fixes for a number of bugs (some of which have been around for awhile). Let’s dive in.

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Finale Concert Scores @ Written Pitch : Using Nonstandard Key Signatures

This post builds on concepts presented in these previous tutorials:

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Finale : Six of One ; ½ Dozen of the other – the Simplify Key Conundrum

When working with scores in keys of four sharps or more, it’s frequently desirable for transposing instruments such as Bb Clarinet or Trumpet to show their respective transpositions in flat keys. For instance, the key of B major concert (five sharps) will automatically display in Finale’s Clarinet or Bb Trumpet staves as the key of Db (5 flats), rather than C# major (7 sharps).

This desirable behavior happens because in the Transposition Definition for these instruments, “Simplify Key” is checked by default:


Finale’s rule for “Simplify Key” is: always show the enharmonic key signature which displays the fewest accidentals when transposed. For concert keys of five sharps or more, Bb transposing instruments will always show flat keys (which, coincidentally, many wind and brass players prefer).

However, you may have noticed that “Simplify Key” doesn’t work in four sharps concert, because, technically, the two possible enharmonic key signatures of six sharps or six flats, are equally “simple”.

That being the case, how can we coax a concert key signature of four sharps (E major or C# minor) to appear as six flats (rather than six sharps) for Bb instruments?

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Octave-Displaced Staves in Concert Scores with Transposed Parts in Finale

Before reading this article, please see: Concert Pitch, Transposing and Octave Displaced Instruments : A Prelude.

Instruments which are not considered “transposed” per se, but written in a different octave than where they sound are referred to as octave-displaced instruments. Examples of octave-displaced instruments are Glockenspiel, Piccolo, Guitar and Contrabass.


The current convention for scores in Concert Pitch specifies that instruments which transpose at the octave-only be displayed at their written pitches, e.g. mostly within the staff, rather than requiring numerous ledger lines.

Reading a full score is complicated enough without forcing the conductor to always count ledger lines!

Additionally, in modern scores, It is understood that instruments such as the piccolo, guitar, contrabassoon and contrabass sound an octave above or below where written, and so the small reminder number 8 (or 15 if two octaves) above or below the treble or bass clef has fallen out of popular use.

If you think about it, the convention of written pitches makes a great deal of sense; The Glockenspiel sounds two octaves (15ma) above where written; the highest written note for Glockenspiel, C above the staff, requires nine (9) ledger lines to display at concert pitch!

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Concert Pitch, Transposing and Octave-Displaced Instruments : A Prelude

Music scores, whether orchestral, concert band, big band, or a pop chart etc. typically contain a variety of differently pitched instruments. Because factors like instrument length, size and acoustical properties affect each instrument’s range / tessitura, certain instruments need to be written transposed, in a different octave, or both to produce pitches in common with other instruments.

This system of written pitch notation allows the music to remain largely within the staff for each part as well as the transposing score. Instruments written in a different octave than where they sound are referred to as octave-displaced instruments.

Additionally, it is common practice in Concert Scores to show octave-displaced instruments at written (rather than concert) pitch. This allows these instruments to be notated largely within the staff. (For Finale users, more on this later.)


Regardless of whether a pitched instrument produces its sound by vibrating metal, membranes, strings or air, it falls into one of the following four transposition / octave displacement types:

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The Convolutions of Hidden & Independent Key Signatures in Finale

UPDATE: If you have updated to Finale 2014, take a look at the new Keyless Scores feature which is related to the issues covered in this post.

Q: I’m formatting a Timpani part with key signatures hidden. The score contains a number of keys changes / signatures. The timpani part itself is fine with all accidentals in place.

However, I need cued notes from other parts to appear in the Timpani part. The source parts all show key signatures. I used the TG Tools Add Cue Notes… plugin to make the cues, but none of those accidentals appear in the timpani part. For example, the flute is in the key of G major, and has a passage with F-sharp in it. If I cue that passage in the timpani part, Finale doesn’t show the sharp to indicate F#.

I can’t believe this is an uncommon problem. How can I globally make these diatonic accidentals appear in a part without Key Signatures?

A: As you are already aware, historically, Classical scores displayed some instruments without Key Signatures. Timpani and French Horn are probably the most common of these “keyless” instruments, although you will find examples in the repertoire for Trumpet and even Clarinet.

For Timpani, since it is not a transposing instrument, one would think that all you’d need to do to hide the key signature is to uncheck Key Signatures in Items to Display of the Staff Attributes, and any diatonic accidentals would then automatically appear in the staff:


However, to see how this really works (and how it doesn’t), let’s (1) define a Key Signature, then (2) set our Timpani not to display the Key Signature as above:


(3) Now, enter some notes using your MIDI keyboard. If you enter a sequence of non-diatonic naturals, you get (redundant) naturals displaying on every note; if you enter notes that are diatonic to the hidden Key Signature, the accidentals aren’t displayed at all, neither of which is very useful:


So, as you can see, simply hiding the Key Signature isn’t really an ideal solution at all. If you’ve already entered music in the staff with “Items to Display>Key Signatures” unchecked, there is a partial solution for showing accidentals more correctly after the fact, which I will cover at the end of the blog post. But first…

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Alternate Key Signatures for Transposing Instruments

One thing we take for granted with music notation programs is that, for transposing instruments in a transposing score, the software automatically displays the correct key signature and transposes by the appropriate interval.

Most of the time, we don’t have to think about it. Both Sibelius and Finale will even, by default, “wrap” the key signature of the transposing instrument to prevent unnecessarily complex or remote key changes, ensuring that, for instance, an Alto Sax playing in the concert key of B major will display the key signature of A flat instead of a very unusual G sharp.

Occasionally, though, we need to display an enharmonic key signature other than the one the program chooses. Consider a B flat Clarinet playing in the concert key of E major. Both Sibelius and Finale will show the transposed key as F sharp (6 sharps), but we may want the key instead to be G flat (6 flats). Here’s how to do it:

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