This post explores a couple of ways to redistribute your music notation on the page for better balance and readability. Regardless of the notation program use, hopefully these tips will help you improve the presentation of your music, and help your musicians in the process.
Q: “I’d like to create a document with one measure per system in Finale, with a different time signature per system, and where the width of each measure varies according to the time signature so that the distance between quarter notes is the same for each measure, regardless of the time signature.
I can do this by manually dragging the Edit System Margin handles, but was hoping that this spacing (measure varies according to time signature) can be done automatically somehow.”
A: It’s a great question. I hope you won’t mind if I reel this out a bit, since it will allow us to look at the relationship between note spacing and the measures and systems which encapsulate that spacing:
Q: I have been trying to figure out how, or if it’s possible to add a staff (for an instrumental solo, etc.) later within a score, as opposed to having that staff appear at the beginning of a piece. I can’t find a thing regarding this issue in the Finale tutorials or other help options. If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it!
A: Good question. A common convention for score layout is to show all staves for all performers on the first score page. This establishes the instrumentation, and also provides a head’s up to the conductor about custom instrument ordering etc.
After the first page of music, in published music, a convention is to show only staves of the musicians who are actually playing, with tacet staves being hidden. It’s worth noting that for commercial scores such as film or video game recordings, pops concerts, etc, any resting staves continue to be shown. This helps the conductor stay oriented, as rehearsal time is typically very limited.
However, there are situations where there is no need to show every staff on the first page of score, and in fact, it would serve no purpose to show these staves until the performer is playing. For instance, the strings are notated on single staves at the top of the piece, but at some later point, break out into additional staves of divisi. Another example is where one player within the section is given a solo passage which is written into the regular ensemble part.
Finale allows you to control staff visibility globally or on a per system basis, so whether you are showing the first staff and then hiding resting staves or hiding an instrument until its entrance, the following technique will work.
Let’s take a look at how we might show a short solo string passage in an ensemble score.
FinaleScript™ can be used to create fairly complex changes to your score, but you can also use it to do simple tasks like call a single menu item quickly and easily. Since FinaleScripts can be mapped to keystrokes, you can use this to fill in the gaps in MakeMusic’s own shortcuts.
In orchestral scores, it is common to combine two similar instruments onto a single staff:
Text indicators like “1”, or “2” are used to show when a specific player plays a particular portion of the line. Following a passage where one player rests while another plays, a directive like “a2” or “tutti” shows that both / all players play the same line in unison from that point. By default, these text indications appear in both the score and parts, making it easy to identify who plays where.
Note the hidden text expression “both”. This technique serves a useful purpose, which I’ll explain in a moment.
Back before there was such a thing as computer notation software, commercial music copyists working with pen and ink used a technique called “Advancing the Layout”.
To illustrate, I’ll use French Horn parts in an orchestral score. In this hypothetical score, there are a lot of commonalities between the four horn parts:
- The four horns always enter together.
- Horns are in unison for a good portion of the score.
- Rhythms are generally homophonic when they are playing chords.
- They share a common transposition.
To advance the layout, common elements such as Page Text, Key and Time Signatures, Rehearsal Marks and other System Text, Barlines, Repeats, Endings are laid out in ink on the page. Next, any common unison passages are copied into the chart, as well as any common rests for homophonic chord passages.
The copyist then takes this “master page”, which functions as a partially filled-out template to the photocopier and runs copies so that the notes for each part can be filled in. As you can imagine, this technique of capitalizing on the commonalities within the parts saved hours of work, back in the day.
Before photocopiers, the ozalid process was used to reproduce music for commercial recording sessions and concerts.
These days, because of the way Finale automatically applies music spacing as you go, the page layout can change dynamically as music is entered into your score. A byproduct of this is that user attention to page layout is typically at the end of the workflow rather than the beginning. This reorganization of workflow is not a bad thing as long as you are, in fact, paying attention to the page layouts at some point!
In more recent versions of Finale, the business of having to ink different notes into a copy of a parts template, or copy and paste notes from the score into a separate part staff or file during the part creation stage has largely been replaced with Linked Parts; specifically the “Voicing” feature in the Manage Parts… dialog. You can enter diads or triads in a line of score, and then for any given part, choose rules for Finale to select which specific notes from that staff will display for that part.
However, even though we can control which notes go where using this dialog, the page layout for the parts themselves is not addressed in the Manage Parts dialog.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to create the layout for Horn 1 and then copy that layout to the other Horn parts so we don’t have to recreate this page layout manually 4 different times? Turns out, there is a plugin for this very task.
Enter the very useful “JW Copy Part Layout…” plugin by Jari Williamsson. Once you have manually created your layout for the first part, with the second (or subsequent) part frontmost, run the plugin. The dialog looks like this:
The plugin displays the name of the Current (open) Part which will inherit the new layout. You select the part you want to copy the page layout from in the instrument list.
Note there are a couple of useful options in this dialog besides the Copy Layout button. If you have sections where the Multi-measure rests are not identical you can uncheck the “Multi-measure Rests” option so that the majority of the layout will still be copied. You can then manually adjust the layout of the region with the differences manually.
You can switch to a specific part while the plugin dialog is forward by selecting a part, and then clicking the “View Selected” button. This will bring the selected part forward. Note that the “Current part:” name will then change in the dialog, allowing you to Copy the Layout from any other selected part in the dialog.
JW Copy Part Layout is free (donate to the developer if you would like), and works with Finale 2012 or newer. While there is no direct link to individual plugins provided by the developer, you can download the JW Copy Part Layout plugin here:
For Finale 2011 and earlier, a good solution is the Transfer function of the full (paid) version of the TGTools plugin suite to copy locked measure groups (measure layout) as well as system margins and attributes between parts..
Q: I’m composing a piece for full orchestra plus large percussion ensemble / steel band). In order to save space, I’m using shared staves for most of the winds (two of each, and usually tutti).
Ordinarily I really like this feature in Finale that allows each player to see their own part, but it isn’t properly spacing the music within each part…specifically the grace notes (of which there are MANY).
Furthermore, because Note Entry tools are disabled when looking at the part from a shared staff, I can’t simply manually drag the notes left to make the proper space. Have you run into this?
And, as you point out, there is no way to manually edit an individual note’s horizontal location (note spacing) in the part once Specify Voicing is active for the part. Fortunately, for these cases there is an excellent workaround.