I thought it might be good to devote some time to reviewing Finale’s Staff Height (Size) controls, since this seems to be a misunderstood area of the program.
There is a reason for the seemingly unrelated numerical values which have remained in Finale’s Page Format Dialog > System Scaling since very early versions. A bit of an historical perspective may be a good place to start.
Prior to the era of computer note-setting, plate engravers (music engravers) used a system of universally accepted staff sizes. There were 8 standard staff sizes, of which 5 were in common use:
Each of these numbered staff sizes was associated with a unique trade name. (Nº3 – Nº7 were the most commonly used):
- Nº1 “Giant” – used for instruction books, elementary band
- Nº2 “English” – for instruction books, elementary band
- Nº3 “Regular, Ordinary or Common” – for sheet music, concertos, classics
- Nº4 “Peter” – for folios, organ works, etc.
- Nº5 “Large Middle” – for bands, sheet music
- Nº6 “Small Middle” – for chorals, condensed sheet music
- Nº7 “Cadenza” – for pocket editions, cue lines in piano parts
- Nº8 “Pearl” – thematic advertisement
While these staff sizes were standardized, if you were to carefully examine the work of different plate engravers using this system, you would see that there was quite a bit of subtle variance in the staff heights between publishers and works. For example, a Nº2 staff used by one engraver might vary as much as the thickness of a line from a Nº2 staff used by another engraver. A similar issue was common with metal typeface sizes in publishing. Variances like this are one of the basic caveats of foundry metal typesetting.
Personal computers offered a way to create a more accurate (and theoretically more consistent) approach approach to typesetting. Adobe Systems was a forerunner in developing fonts and creating computer typesetting standards (like “postscript points” which supplanted the traditional point measurement unit for computer desktop publishing).
In typography, a point is the smallest whole unit of measure.
Adobe was also an active developer in the early days of computer music publishing. Adobe’s venerable Sonata font designed in 1985 by Cleo Huggins was the first truly professional publicly available music font.
My colleague Mark Johnson informs me that in the mid-1980s, Adobe defined staff height for music staves as the distance between the centers of the top & bottom staff lines, regardless of their thickness. And thus a space is conveniently always exactly ¼ of that. Today it is common to refer to staff height as measured in spaces.
So what does this all have to do with Finale?
When you go to Document > Page Format > Score… and look at the values in System Scaling, they may not seem to make much sense:
If the resulting System Scaling is 85%, why is Scale System set to 100%? And why is that number in the Staff Height field an odd number to begin with?
The answer to the last question is that Finale’s default unit of measurement is whatever you happen to have active in Program Options at the time. Here, it is shown in Inches. The unit of measurement can be changed within this dialog itself to Inches, Centimeters, Points, Picas or Spaces.
Finale’s design is much easier to understand if you use spaces for the unit of measurement and whole numbers for the Staff Height. One space is essentially the space between two staff lines (see above), so “a” space is “one” space. Set the Staff Height to be 4 Spaces, and Scale System to 100%.
Your staff height should be showing as 4 spaces. Now, change the unit of measurement to “points” and you will see that Finale defines its basic default staff size as 24 points, which equals 4 spaces (and is a whole number).
So, there are a couple of different takeaways from this. First of all, if you actually want to create a staff size that is a percentage of Finales’ default size, the most clear approach is to first set the unit of measurement to spaces, then start with Finale’s default staff size of 4 spaces. Now type your percentage into Scale System. This way, Scale System and the Resulting System Scaling will match. Tidy, and all of the numbers make sense now:
If, however, you are required to create a very specific staff height such as “20 points”, first set the units to Points, then type “20” into the Staff Height field, and make sure that Scale System is set to 100%.
(If you are asked to create a specific staff height in mm, use Centimeters, and divide the value by 10 – e.g. move the number one space to the right of the decimal point, so 7mm becomes .7 centimeters and so forth.)
That’s all there is to it.