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:

Most of the time, when doing a “commercial” style score or part layout, there is plenty of space between slashes or notes to allow for the chord symbols:

However, when the chord structure is more complex, such as a chord with an altered bass or an extension with several alterations, or when using “beat” style slash notation, the chord symbols can wind up bumping into each other.

When chord spacing starts getting too tight, the first setting to check is to make sure that “Avoid Collisions of : Chords” is checked in Document Options > Music Spacing:

A good deal of the time, this will solve most problems in “normal” spacing scenarios.

However, there is an interesting special spacing case in Finale, which occurs where slashes are used. In Finale, the “beat” slashes are created with a Staff Style. Staff Styles are simply a graphical overlay for a staff, and as such, don’t have any punctuation (note spacing) properties of their own. And Finale’s music spacing centers around notes. So in this case, it is quite easy to wind up with a bar of slash notation where the chords are colliding with one another:

The solution here is to include some real rest data behind the Staff Style. Rests are preferred over notes, since they won’t play back in your file. Adding four quarter rests to the measure (under the Staff Style) solves this particular spacing problem:

Tip: the “Music > Fill… > Fill With Rests” plugin, found in the full version of TGTools can automate this for you – quickly adding “beat” rests to any selected region of measures which are displaying the Slash Notation Staff Style.

In a few really extreme cases with extended chord suffixes, you’ll still run into collisions between chords, in spite of the fact that collision avoidance for chords is set, and in spite of the fact that actual notes and / or rests (visible or under a staff style) are in the bar.

First, if your spacing issue is occurring where you are using a Staff Style, try using 8th rests instead of quarter rests to increase spacing for a specific chord:

If required, even smaller rest values can be used to divide up and spread out the beat further. 

To gain additional space for chords with altered bass notes (slash chords) in extreme spacing cases, one option is to put the altered bass directly underneath the chord, rather than following it. In the Edit Chord Symbol dialog, use an Underscore ( _ ) rather than a forward slash ( / ) between the chord and bass note.

But what if you are still running into chord symbol collisions where notation, rather than slashes is being displayed? The following solution for non-slash chords is definitely a “Sanseiru” move, so only use it as a last resort (sorry, I couldn’t resist the Karate Kid “Crane” reference.)

Right click the handle of the specific chord you want to allow more space for, to enter the Chord Definition dialog. Here, put the cursor to the left of the chord symbol and type a couple of “hard” spaces (on Mac, this is Option-Space). Now, put the cursor after the chord Symbol and type a couple of “hard” spaces here, too, to “center” the chord symbol:

Alt+0160 is the hard space code for Windows. In later versions, Control+space also works in many areas of Finale.

When you OK the dialog, Finale will ask you if you want to include what you just created as a new Chord Suffix.  Even though there is no chance you’ll never need this again as a chord “suffix” in the current (or any) document, just click OK.

The payoff comes when you respace; you should find that you have the clearance you need. Again, you aren’t going to need this workaround very often, but there it is, just in case.

Finally, there is a lot to be said for simple solutions. You may want to consider increasing the Document Options > Music Spacing > Spacing Widths > Reference Spacing Width to respace a few bars of tight chord symbols, and of course, you can also change the reference spacing width for the entire piece. See also : Understanding & Improving Music Spacing in Finale and Sibelius.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it.

for Florian Ross, Germany

3 Replies to “Finale Chord Symbol Spacing”

  1. I was researching the internet for some info on chord spacing in Finale & found your blog post. Fantastic webpage – however it is a little hard to see on my mobile phone.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been looking into doing what is called a “Responsive” website design update, which allows the text and images on a website to lay out properly and text to be more readable on all media: computer screens, tablets and mobile phones.

      I’ve already done this on my company website.

      Hopefully, I will be able to make this update soon for the blog site.

      ~ robert


  2. Hey Robert,

    Thanks for putting so much work into it! Finally, after Finale learned to put chords over bars, even when there’s no music underneath (a few versions back) I have to come back to putting eighth-note rest into empty bars, so the chord symbols are spaced correctly – Murphy’s law.

    Too bad, I’ve been through all of your suggestions and there’s no ‘automated’ way to fix this. I think your tutorial is going to help loads of people, though!

    Thanks again!

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