Finale : Vertical Placement of Bar Numbers, part 2

Q: When preparing a musical theater orchestration, one of the “parts” I want to extract is actually a Piano/Vocal score, which has the piano staff and all the vocal staves. Copying standards in the musical theater world generally call for bar numbers to be on the top staff for these Piano/Vocal scores, but on the bottom of the staff for orchestra parts. Any thoughts on how you’d approach that particular conundrum in Finale?

A: In Sibelius, because Bar Numbers are individual Text Styles, this is easily achieved by simply making a copy of the Bar Numbers for Parts Text Style and then assigning it a different vertical location than the original (see Bar Number Flexibility for Score & Parts in Finale & Sibelius), where Finale’s design only offers one global position for all parts.

You are absolutely right – for master piano / conductor parts for musical theater, the bar numbers are frequently located above the staff; a different location from the other single line and braced grand staff parts, where the bar numbers are typically below.

Here is an example from the musical “Rent”:


…and another example from “Fiddler on the Roof”:



An obvious approach to create independent bar number positioning for a specific part in Finale is to Extract the part (separate it from the master parts score) and position the bar numbers in that individual part which is in its own separate file.

It’s a solid enough solution, but a bit of a blast from the technological past which isn’t really an efficient way to work, particularly in a commercial setting like musical theater where there may be ongoing edits to the score and parts even after opening night, and these need to be handled quickly and efficiently.


In fact, since it’s important enough to keep the music all in the same file as much as possible, you may want to consider doing all of your layouts as you normally would, and then, right before you print the multi staff part, go into the Measure tool’s Edit Measure Number Regions, and make a temporary Position… edit so the bar numbers appear above the top staff, instead of below the bottom staff. You won’t normally run into collision issues as long as the bar numbers are centered over the bar line, the font isn’t too large, and the bar numbers aren’t consistently in triple or quadruple digits.

If you anticipate the need to do this type of temporary “for printing” edit frequently, and have a macro program like Keyboard Maestro or Quickeys, you can edit these settings very quickly as a specific need arises.


While I wouldn’t recommend this next approach as a good option for commercial music preparation under tight deadlines, it does produce the desired result, if somewhat circuitous, and allows all of the parts to stay in one file with Finale’s bar number placement limitations.

We’ll come back to bar numbers in a moment. I briefly want to talk a bit about Finale’s Text Expression Categories. In addition to variations of font and size, each Text Expression Category can have its own unique  position relative to the staff. For instance, it’s possible to create duplicates of p, mp, mf, f dynamics etc and move these into a copy of the Dynamics Expressions Category, where you can assign positioning over, rather than under the staff for vocal dynamics.

Additionally, using Finale’s Score Lists feature, System Text expressions like Tempo, Tempo Alterations and Rehearsal Marks can be set to display only on specific staves , and these assignments can be different between score and parts. Each score can utilize up to 8 unique Score Lists.

The Rehearsal Marks Text Expression Category offers another powerful function; Auto-Sequencing. This feature, while not intended for the purpose of creating bar numbers specifically, actually offers us the ability to do just that.

Start by going into the Category Designer, and create a duplicate of the Rehearsal Marks Category. Name it something like “Bar # (Above)” and set the font and size to match the regular bar numbers in use in the other parts. Set the positioning as appropriate (in this case, over the staff):


Next, (for obvious reasons) make sure “Break Multimeasure Rests” is unchecked. Choose an unused List from the Score List popup, then click the Edit… button. When the dialog opens, uncheck everything and then locate the top staff of the part that you want these special “text expression” bar numbers to appear on. I’m creating a piano / vocal, so I want these to only appear in that specific part, above the female voices:


Be aware that any part that contains this staff will also show these expressions. So, if you have a piano / vocal and also a vocal part by itself, these expressions will show in both of these parts.

OK the Score Lists and Category Designer dialogs. If you got to the Category Designer from the Expression Selection Dialog, you’re right where you need to be. If you entered the Category Designer via the main menu, select the Expression Tool and enter the dialog.

Select your newly created “Bar # (Above)” Expression category and create a new expression. You don’t need to enter anything in the text field. Simply check “Use Auto-Sequencing Style”. As you can see, you can select Measure Number from the popup list, just what we need:


Assigning a keyboard shortcut to your new bar number expression will make quick work of entry (well, at least if you are only showing bar numbers at the start of every system!)

If your Piano / Conductor part shows bar numbers only at the start of each system, you will want to complete your layout before applying these faux bar numbers, so they remain visible in the correct locations. If you are showing bar numbers on every bar, you can enter them at any point.

We now come to the (biggest) caveat of this workaround, and that is that, if your main Parts Measure Number assignment is set to show on Bottom Staff Only, under the staff, you are now going to have bar numbers in this multi-staff part both above and below each system:


But, since you had the tenacity to read this far, presumably you already know that there is a workaround for this, too. If nothing else, Finale is flexible.

The workaround is to create *another* duplicate category of the Rehearsal Marks text style. Assign this an unused score list to appear only on the bottom staff of your multi-stave part; not in the score, then go back to the Expression Designer to create a special kind of score / system expression; one that automatically hides measure numbers.

The Rehearsal Marks Text Style has another useful feature, which is the ability to hide Measure numbers that occur in the same bar, on the same staff. Create an expression that is simply the space character, then check “Hide Measure Numbers”:


Now, apply this to the bottom staff in your multi-staff part, where you don’t want measure numbers to show under the staff:


Note that you can still use regular Rehearsal marks as you would in any score, and these new Expression Categories should not conflict with them in any way.

Usually, this is the part where I say “That’s all there is to it!” but unfortunately, there is yet another consideration with this workaround, and that is; if you are going to *also* use the same piano part by itself without the vocals, the measure numbers under the left hand of *that* staff will be hidden in that part, too.

Frequently, for the type of scenario being described above, the Rehearsal Piano / Choir or a Piano / Conductor multi staff part contains cues and other info which the braced grand staff piano in the score does not (see the example above from “Fiddler”), so this may not be a problem. If they *are* the same, in order to use this method, you would need to create a duplicate piano part used for the purpose of the piano / conductor part.


In summary, for the following type of situations:

  • Bar numbers required on every measure in parts
  • Bar numbers below on all parts except the piano / conductor (or vocal) part
  • Ongoing edits expected
  • Fast turnaround required

For this case, I would opt for the second approach above – temporary bar number positioning adjustment. This keeps everything in the same file, which is desirable for edits which might be required for recording sessions or new works.

  • Bar numbers required on every measure in parts
  • Bar numbers below on all parts except the piano / conductor (or vocal) part
  • No ongoing edits expected
  • Fast turnaround time required

Here, because no further edits are expected, I would extract the lone multi-staff part and adjust the bar number positions in the separate part file. If further edits end up being required, I’ll have to deal with working in two separate files.

  • Bar numbers below on all parts except the piano / conductor (vocal) part
  • Bar numbers only required on every system
  • Ongoing edits unknown
  • Reasonable turnaround time

I would consider the Text Expression approach for this scenario because of the lower frequency of the bar numbers and the turnaround time. However, note that if further edits end up being required, changes to the layout would require additional labor relocating existing bar numbers.


for C.O. Stine

See also:

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