Finale Note Spacing, Beat Spacing, Beat Groups & Time Signature Spacing

Q: I am using Finale 2011, and I am having a music spacing issue. If I am inputting beamed notes, and add an accidental, the space between that note and the one before it becomes unnecessarily larger, and the beamed notes are no longer evenly spaced.

Unchecking the “Avoid Collision of Notes and Articulations” has no effect on the spacing whatsoever. I have viewed several Finale scores that lead me to believe that even spacing with accidentals is possible, but I am at a loss as to how to accomplish it. Have you any ideas for solving this issue?

A: In addition to the spacing parameter controls found in Document Settings>Music Spacing, Finale has three different types of automated spacing: Note Spacing, Beat Spacing and Time Signature Spacing. Additionally, Finale provides a way to fine tune the spacing between individual note objects.

Let’s take a look…


Utilities>Music Spacing>Apply Note Spacing to Current Part / Score (select region, then 4 on the regular keyboard) is the most familiar type of music spacing in Finale. In this method of spacing, the space between each note is controlled individually, and results depend on your settings in Document Settings>Music Spacing. This previous post goes into more detail about Apply Note Spacing and the associated control settings in the Music Spacing dialog.

With Finale’s Note Spacing, each note is independently spaced non-linearly.

One important control in this dialog is “Minimum Distance Between Items:”, which sets the minimum amount of allowed space between any two notes. If you set this to zero, no additional space is added between the notes themselves or for accidentals when you Apply Note Spacing to the selected region:

However, Apply Note Spacing assumes that you always want to avoid collisions between any accidental and the previous note as well as note without accidentals, and so the “Minimum Distance Between Items” control is just that – controlling the distance from the right edge of the first notehead to either the next notehead or its preceding accidental; whichever comes first.


Finale has a second type of spacing which is based on beat groupings rather than individual notes and their attached accidentals. Select a region, then go to Utilities>Music Spacing>Apply Beat Spacing to Current Part or Score.

With Finale’s Beat Spacing, each beat is spaced non-linearly first, then spaced within the beat linearly.

If you have Document Options>Music Spacing>Minimum Distance Between Items set to zero when you apply beat spacing, you will note that the spacing between notes with accidentals and without is more consistent. In this type of spacing, Finale is averaging the distance between each group of objects within one beat rather than adjusting the distances individually between each note.

Because the spacing is averaged between each note for the entire beat group rather than calculated individually, the notes with accidentals and notes without will typically appear to be more equidistant from one another.


In general, you’ll want to use either the Music Spacing>Apply Note Spacing or Music Spacing>Apply Beat Spacing commands to automatically space the music for you, but sometimes, a bit of individual control would be nice. Finale makes this possible.

Finale has a feature called “Beat Charts” which allows extreme fine-tuning of individual note spacing. Beat Charts is a set of handles that lets you manually reposition any beat (and the notes that fall on it):

It’s important to note that in a multi-staved score, moving any of these beat handles will move that beat vertically down the score in every staff at once.

Beat Charts can be a useful tool to control tight spacing situations more exactly, or to force extra space into a measure at a specific point. As you experiment with Beat Charts, you will notice that the beat charts for Note Spacing and Beat Spacing are quite different.

Here is the beat chart for a passage to which Note Spacing has been applied. Note the amount of additional space allocated for the notes with accidentals:

Compare that to the beat chart for the same passage to which Beat Spacing has been applied. The only beat handle that exists is for the downbeat itself, and the spacing between noteheads with accidentals appears more similar to the noteheads without them:


As if all of the above options weren’t enough, Finale offers yet another spacing control, called Time Signature Spacing. When you apply Time Signature Spacing, Finale is simply spacing each note linearly:

There is no Beat Chart available when using this type of spacing, and Finale doesn’t take the accidentals into consideration at all; it is merely applying the values from its spacing table or scaling factor linearly. This type of spacing works well for chord charts using slash notation, for instance, because of the linear nature of that type of notation.

Keep in mind that in Finale, spacing doesn’t have to be a global proposition; you can apply different types of Music Spacing to different areas of your score or parts.

You may want to turn off Automatic Music Spacing in Program Options to facilitate different spacing types for selected regions in the same score or part. 

 ~ robert

for Zachariah Milby

See also:

One Reply to “Finale Note Spacing, Beat Spacing, Beat Groups & Time Signature Spacing”

  1. Sir, thank you very much! You have answered my question with your usual thoroughness, and I believe I now have the information I was looking for. Again, my highest thanks for sharing your knowledge.


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