Let’s face it. With competition between music notation software programs heating up as never before, Finale, long the patriarch of modern notation software programs, continues to improve, but in some ways, is showing its age.
It’s not that Finale doesn’t have the power and flexibility of its competitors. Far from it. After 26 years, you can still make a valid argument that Finale is every bit as powerful as its competitors, capable of producing high quality output on par with anything else out there.
I was recently asked to rebar an extended section of a score containing various time signatures 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 into 3/2 time. Fortunately, what could have been a hugely labor intensive and messy operation became a whole lot easier in Finale, thanks to Jari Williamsson’s “JW Meter and Rhythm” plugin. This plugin consolidates quite a number of useful operations related to meter and rhythm into one suite.
MakeMusic today released a maintenance update; Finale 26.2.2. Select Check for Updates in your Finale menu if you have not already been notified. Here are a few of the fixes and improvements; notably in MusicXML.
(Windows only) Note entry input times for large scores and scores using NotePerformer now match 26.1.
(Mac only) Finale maintains the page layout when opening a file with the Automatic Update Layout option deselected from the Preferences – Edit dialog box.
Exact slur positions are now exported. Hidden clefs now export as hidden. Hidden Smart Shapes are no longer exported. Hidden time signatures at the start of a part now export as senza misura. Hyperlinks for measure-attached text blocks are now exported. Metronome font information is now exported. Parts with no visible clefs are now imported without clefs displaying. Positions of text repeats at the end of multimeasure rests export more accurately. Staff Style changes in the middle of the first measure are now exported. Text in the JazzText, Broadway Copyist Text, and Finale Copyist Text fonts now exports more accurately, especially for codas, segnos, and metronome marks. The Scale Expression with Attached Note setting found in the Expression Assignment dialog box is supported during export.
Sometimes you want to change the pitches in a score without doing a normal transposition. There are a number of Sibelius plugins that can change a pitch to any other pitch.
This shipping plugin (Note Input > Transformations
> More>Pitch Mapping) was one of the very early plugins in Sibelius.
The default dialog lets you map all the spellings of a given
pitch to a single spelling. In this example, C, B#, and Dbb will be respelled
as C (or any other name you choose from the list). This mapping will apply to
all selected notes with the same pitch name, in any octave.
For respelling, you can choose natural notes, single or
double sharps or flats, or leave some notes unchanged, so you can respell some
but not all the selected notes. The
plugin will ignore quartertones, and it cannot respell to quartertones. Even
now, in 2020, plugins are unable to create notes with quartertone accidentals.
New Pitch Higher… gives some options for determining
whether the replaced pitches will be higher or lower than the original pitch.
The details are explained in the dialog that comes up.
Not only can you respell notes this way, you can also change
a note to any other valid pitch. C can be mapped to G# or Fbb if you so desire.
As before, all notes with the same pitch name in any octave are mapped to the
same new note name, in an appropriate octave.
If you choose More Options…, you get a dialog that
lets you map each spelling or a given pitch separately, so you can spell C, B#,
and Dbb to different notes if you like.
The downloadable plugin Transform Scale is a “front end” for the Pitch Mapping plugin. It lets you transform the selected notes to a different scale or mode, and/or change the root of a scale. Changing the root without changing the scale type is the same as transposing.
There are 22 built-in scales, plus you can edit the existing
scales or add your own. Scales are all chromatic (12-tones) scales. You can
specify fewer than 12 notes, and the plugin will choose pitches for any you
leave out. Details are in the Add/Edit scales dialog.
The Percussion Pitch Map plugin
I wrote Percussion Pitch Map to help deal with pitch
and notehead mapping for percussion instruments, but it was pointed out to me
that you can use it to map any pitches, and, unlike the other plugins, it
allows you to choose the octave for both the source and destination notes.
To use it this way, you need to create your own pitch map,
which is a simple text file. You can create it in a text editor, and move it to
the appropriate folder location, or create and edit a pitch map in the plugin.
One detail to note: if you are using Percussion Pitch Map
strictly as a pitch map, the first line in your custom pitch map file should
// Strict pitch, C4
Thanks to Robert Puff, who came up with the concept of the Percussion Pitch Map plugin and wrote the built-in percussion pitch maps, and to James Batty, who came up with the idea of using it as an octave-changing pitch mapper (and pointed out a nasty bug, which has been fixed).
It’s the holiday season, so what better way is there to celebrate than by creating a sparkling Christmas tree directly in Finale. And yes, this tree sparkles and the lights twinkle as well. Even if you aren’t planning on recreating the tree, learning the process will give you lots of insights into Finale.
I remember first hearing in early 2018 that some copyists working at JoAnn Kane Music in LA were using a new type of gaming controller called Elgato Stream Deck to speed up their workflow in Finale and Sibelius (in the case of Finale, no doubt in conjunction with with some sort of Macro program such as Keyboard Maestro).
While not designed specifically for music notation, the original Stream Deck is a perfect productivity companion for Finale. Stream Deck expands on the best features of previous hardware and software controllers.
Like the XKEY system, the original Stream Deck has tactile hardware keys (there is now also an iOS version).
One advantage of the hardware version of Stream Deck for a controller is that the tactile button design allows you to keep your eyes on the music on the main computer screen as you work.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
The XKEY system allowed you to print custom graphics icons and slide them under the key covers; the idea is great for music notation, but while it’s practical, it’s not very flexible. On the other end of the spectrum, iOS apps can be more flexible with color coding and other graphical attributes for virtual buttons, but to date haven’t contained useful iconography related to music notation software. (MetaGrid has note duration icons and some other related graphics, but even this is more generic).
Stream Deck takes a completely different approach. Each of Stream Deck’s 15 keys is a fully customizable backlit LCD. (the newer Stream Deck XL hardware has 32 keys).
As an example, here are some buttons for selecting tools in Finale, showing how they might appear in a TouchOSC or Lemur layout for iOS. Users will quickly learn what these buttons do, but initially, seeing these words representing Finale tools without any additional context isn’t very clear:
But Finale users will instantly know what each of these tool buttons represent in Stream Deck, because each of these familiar icons is associated with a specific tool selection in the Finale application itself: