… music notation tips & tutorials by Robert Puff & expert contributing authors.
Author: Robert Puff
Robert Puff is a professional music preparer and editor, arranger, orchestrator, score producer, music librarian and educator, and the owner and principal contributor to this music notation blog OF NOTE.
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.
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:
Finale has an enormous wealth of features under the hood, but getting to some of these power tools quickly is not always straightforward or intuitive.
Finale has a few keyboard shortcuts hardwired to various tasks. For instance, number keys correspond to durations during note entry as they do with all scoring programs. However, as of Finale 26. Finale still does not offer user programmable keyboard shortcuts to access the majority of its menus and functionality.
So, historically, users of Finale have had to figure out their own solutions to speed up workflow. Finale itself offers some very powerful plugins, and two different scripting languages; FinaleScript and JW Lua designed to increase productivity.
But, how are you supposed to access all of these productivity tools quickly without something as basic as user customizable keyboard shortcuts?
This is an addendum to the announcement yesterday of the Finale v26.2 update; This is mostly important for users who already installed the original v26.2 update; version 18.104.22.1686.
Shortly after releasing Finale version 26.2 yesterday, MakeMusic became aware of an issue in which the document setting for “Under/Outer Note” ties was placing the tie end too far to the left of the notehead.
The good news is that this problem lives in Finale’s drawing engine, meaning that your document data is safe and unchanged.
Another issue was reported for documents set to “Keep Current” for grace note spacing, where if Music Spacing is applied, horizontal positioning of grace notes can unexpectedly be altered.
MakeMusic has already fixed and fully tested these two issues, and have pushed out a hot fix today. If you have already installed v 26.2, you will get another in-app notification to install the 26.2.1 hotfix next time you launch Finale.
The main installer downloads have been updated as well as of today.