Adding an Ossia Staff in Finale

A previous OF NOTE post, “Controlling Staff Visibility of Tacet Bars in Finale”, illustrates how to hide unused empty staves in Finale:

Controlling Staff Visibility of Tacet Bars in Finale

A score where string sections are broken out into divisi on several staves for part of the score, but confined to their separate staves for other parts of the score would be an example of this. (e.g. typically, the ancillary 2nd or 3rd divisi staves would be hidden where music for that instrument section is confined to a single staff. )

Ossia bars have a similar visibility requirement. Ossia staves are frequently used in instrumental solo literature to indicate an editorial (or original) ornamentation for a well-known classical passage, or to show alternate chord voicings, rhythmic variations or a different transposition for a double  in a jazz chart.

Let’s take a look at how we can create ossia bars for an instrumental solo, as in this example:

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Controlling Staff Visibility of Tacet Bars in Finale

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.

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Hide Notes to Create Multi-rests in Voiced Linked Parts Using a Staff Style

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.

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Instrument Name Positioning in Finale

As a professional music copyist, I’m always interested in the alternate solutions and workarounds that composers and arrangers use in Finale to achieve specific tasks. Instrument names is an area where I’ve seen a number of interesting workarounds.

If you review typeset works by different publishers, you’ll discover there are several different concurrent standards for placing instrument names in a full score. My goal with this blog post is to show you the proper way to achieve these standard placements in Finale, and hopefully, ultimately save you some time in the bargain.

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Finale Chord Symbol Spacing

Question: I was wondering if you’ve found a quick way to get a little bit more space around chord symbols in Finale. I keep having to correct the width of bars in order for chord-symbols to fit in and/or move them around. Is there an automated solution?

The short answer is yes, although the automated solution is only part of the story:

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