Using Music Fonts to Create Woodwind / Brass Fingering Charts in a Score

Q: I need to notate some complex fingerings within a score. How do I create fingering Charts? Is there an easy and quick way or any way at all?!

A: It’s a good question. Sometimes, particularly with woodwinds, it is desirable to be able to indicate specific fingerings for multiphonics or extended techniques (sample PDF).

While you can certainly import pictogram graphics into Finale or Sibelius as graphics and place them in your score, probably the most straightforward approach is to use one of the several specialty music fonts available for this purpose.

Fonts are particularly well suited to this task, as they work equally well in Finale or Sibelius, and TrueType fonts are cross platform as well.

The main advantage of a font vs. a graphic is that fonts are not a “fixed” proposition; Individual font characters can be dynamically updated to show any custom fingering via a string of specific keystrokes. The resulting diagram shows specific keys open, and shows other keys covered fully, or as partially covered (“half-hole”) for altissimo or special effects. Side and trill keys can be shown as “down or up”.

You will need to refer to the specific character map provided for each font to show the “state” for each fingering.

Once you’ve installed the fonts (and have printed out the keystrokes for the various symbols), you can make quick work of adding them to subsequent scores by creating a new Text Style and associated Word Menu (Sibelius) or saving the specific text in that font as an Expression Library (Finale).

Here are some currently available fonts that are worth investigating:

MusicEd Fingerings – is a woodwind and brass fingering font with individual symbols corresponding to letters on the computer keyboard that enables you to write woodwind and brass fingerings easily into your music.

There are symbols for nearly all fingerings you might require, including half-hole, quarter-hole, three-quarter-hole, and ring-only keypresses for woodwinds, as well as half-valve and F or B-flat triggers for brass.  Fingerings for Multiphonics, special effects, and extended techniques can be created easily.

The MusicEd Fingerings font is available on the musicteachertools.com site for $40.

Tristan Durie has created several specialty fonts for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Saxophone called Woodwind Fingering Fonts. The fonts provide the ability to notate full hole, half hole, trills and in some cases quarter hole and three quarter hole fingerings, etc.

Woodwind Fingering Fonts can be purchased as a complete set for $45, or you can buy any of the individual fingering fonts ala carte.

ClarFinger, as the name implies, is a clarinet-specific font for placing fingerings into scores, created by Michael Cuthbert. It includes glyphs for half-holing keys. Note that ClarFinger is a work in progress, so there are no detailed instructions or tech support beyond the basic instructions on the website.

The freeware Tin Whistle Tab font by Blayne Chastain can be installed on Windows or OSX, works in either Finale or Sibelius, and may be freely distributed. The author requests credit in any publication in which this font appears with the following copyright notice: “Tin Whistle Tab font © Blayne Chastain www.blaynechastain.com“.

If you are a Sibelius user, the process of displaying the fingerings is automated with the free Tinwhistle Fingering Plugin by Bob Zawalich.

When I visited Blayne’s site, the font was not yet available. For now, Finale users can simply download the Sibelius plugin, and toss everything but the font and license agreement.

Finally, if you are looking for a font to create saxophone or recorder fingerings specifically, check out Matthew Hindson’s fingering fonts, which are also freeware.

(see also) woodwind.org (online fingering charts)

Are you aware of a fingering chart font not shown here? Please email me so I can include it! Thank you.

 ~robert

for Angela Hook, UK


Related: Legni Woodwind Fingering Font for Finale & Sibelius

3 thoughts on “Using Music Fonts to Create Woodwind / Brass Fingering Charts in a Score


  1. I note that the Sibelius Tinwhistle Fingering plugin has an editing mode so that instruments with the same approximate range as a tin whistle (2 octaves) can be accommodated by providing a pitch to font character map.

    So if you have a font suitable for other instrument fingerings you may be able to use the plugin to position the font characters for you. Could be worth a try.

    Bob Z

  2. Pingback: Of Note: Finale and Sibelius tips and tutorials by musician, arranger and music notation expert Robert Puff

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