Finale Quick Tip : Use MIDI Input To Create Chord Symbols

Did you know that you can enter chords on your MIDI keyboard to create Chord Symbols over the staff?


If you would like Finale to recognize MIDI entry to generate chord symbols, choose Allow MIDI Input from the Chord Menu. For many of Finale’s existing chord libraries, this is all you need to do; with the Chord Tool selected, you’ll be able to play in (typically root position) chord voicings on your MIDI keyboard to produce chord symbols at the bar and beat locations you specify.

Depending on the chord library you choose, you might find that an existing chord library or a particular chord symbol within the library doesn’t recognize your chord entry.

Only chords that have been defined for MIDI entry will produce Chord Symbol text.

Fortunately, it is straightforward to enter new MIDI chord definitions which can be used to generate a specific chord symbols:

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Finale Quick Tip : Chord Symbol Playback

Chord symbols in Finale can play back, should you want them to.

To turn on Chord Symbol playback, select the Chord tool, then make sure Enable Chord Playback is checked in the Chord menu.

Chord Symbol playback can be muted for an individual staff in Score Manager > Instrument List > Instrument > Chords in Finale 2012 and later, and in Window > Instrument List > Instrument > Chords in Finale 2011 and earlier.

Some chord libraries, such as the JazzCord suffix library from Finale 2010 and earlier are not defined to play back by default, which is a shame, since the JazzCord suffixes look really nice for handwritten charts. Or perhaps, you’ve created a custom chord suffix and would like it to play back.

Here’s how to define a non-playing chord suffix for playback:

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Lead / Top Line Chord Notation for Rock, Jazz & Pop Charts in Finale & Sibelius

Lead Line Chord Notation, also referred to as Topline Notation is a shorthand notation convention that is sometimes used for rock, jazz and pop guitar or keyboard charts.

Lead Line / Topline notation is a good way to get the chord voicings you are looking for as a composer or arranger, particularly if you don’t actually play guitar (or piano); it allows you to specify melodic motion of the chords without having to supply details of voicings you may or may not know are practical (or possible) on that instrument.

To create this type of notation, visually, the stems are extended past the noteheads to show that the chords are voiced below (or above) the written lead notes. Here is an example:

Let’s take a look at how to create this type of notation in Finale and Sibelius.

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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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Keep it Together in Finale or Sibelius : Score & Parts in the same file

In the early days of Finale and Sibelius, individual parts were generated from a master score via a painful and aptly named process referred to as “Extraction”. The programs would dutifully export twenty or thirty cryptically named parts files onto your Desktop which would then need to be cleaned up and individually prepared for printing. Any subsequent changes to the score *also* required edits to one or more (or all) respective parts.

Today, parts are integrated within the score and the content is intelligently married. Sibelius calls its parts integration feature “Dynamic Parts“, while Finale labels their feature “Linked Parts“. In general, having scores and parts linked in one master file has proven to be a godsend, but there are some caveats.

Woodwind and brass instruments aren’t polyphonic.  With some notable quality control exceptions in currently published music, common practice is to have one instrument per staff in the parts. Ideally, woodwind and brass players should not be required to locate their lines from within a divisi part.

At the same time, the better organized an orchestral score is, the more readable it becomes. Generally scores with fewer systems are easier to read. Quite often, the requirement is for pairs of instruments appearing on a single staff wherever possible: Clarinet 1 and 2 on a single staff, Horn 1 and 3 on a single staff and so on. For this tutorial, we’ll start with divisi or chorded staves in the score, and create individual parts from these.

Let’s take a look at how each program currently integrates score and parts, and some ways we can make Finale and Sibelius best work to our advantage despite any limitations.

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Chord Symbols by the Numbers in Finale

If you are like me, you may have trouble remembering some of the keystrokes required to enter certain chord symbols into Finale, especially when you start getting into some of the alterations.

For either the Handwritten or Engraved Styles, many chord suffixes are simple to enter, because you can just type in the suffix as you would any string of text, and as you do so, Finale creates the proper chord suffix. For instance, in the Handwritten Style, you can type in “Cmaj7” or “C7(b9)” and you’ll get nice looking chord symbols with the proper vertical alignment both suffixes:

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