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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How to Create Stemless + Stemmed / Beamed Sections in the Same Finale File

Q: I compose music for Psalms from scripture. The format typically has a REFRAIN or ANTIPHON of 4 to 10 measures of metered (4/4, 6/8, etc.) notation, with stemmed notes and standard notation of quarter notes, eighth notes, repeat signs, etc.

Music example © Mark J. Stenson

When that short section is done, the music for the longer verses uses a “chant like” un-metered melody, usually without stems on the note values. For example, the start of an “unmetered” section below  is made up of sequential bars of 10/4 and 11/4, with the time signatures and stems hidden; giving the impression of “un-metered” notation.

However, when I try to take the stems off of the notes in the un-metered measures, all of the notes lose their stems, including the original 4 measures of metered music.

My current “work-around” is to merge the contents of the two different Finale documents as a graphic. There must be a way to show both a stemmed section and an unstemmed section in the same Finale file?

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Finale : Feathered Beams in Cross-Staff Notation

Feathered Beams in Finale are straightforward to create in a single staff (see this tutorial).

However, creating feathered beams in a grand staff with cross-staff notation is a little more involved, so it seems like an excellent topic.

In this tutorial, we’ll examine several methods for creating cross-staff feathered beaming in Finale. Thanks to Peter Thomsen, Luke Dahn and Zuill for their contributions to this tutorial, and a shout out to Alexander Blank at Indiana University for bringing us all together on the OF NOTE blog!

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Finale Special Tools : Double / Split Stem Tool

Frequently, in orchestral scores, 2 woodwind or brass parts are shared on the same staff. The staff may contain a mixture of divisi and unison notes.

Normally, if the two parts are homophonic, the line shares a stem as well as slurs and articulations. When the line goes to unison for any length of time, a common practice is to indicate “a2” at the start point of this unison. At that point, a single notehead and stem is written, and this carries until the next divisi section:

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