Finale Quick Tip : Number Beats for Rhythmic Exercises

If you are a music educator teaching the fundamentals of rhythm, from time to time, you may find the need to count out beat numbers over the notation to help indicate various rhythms for your students.

Sibelius has a useful plugin called “Number Beats” (found in the plugins Text category) which does this automatically, but until recently, I wasn’t aware of a similar  plugin for Finale.

The JW Pattern pluginmac | windows ) will do the job nicely in more recent versions of Finale:

  1. Select a region
  2. Choose JW Pattern
  3. Drop-down the Sequences category
  4. Choose the “Numbered Steps” task.
  5. For “Step Method”, choose Beats in measure”



Finally, you can choose one of Finale’s Text Categories from the Category drop down to control the text style and placement of the resulting text.

The JW Pattern plugin is available free of charge on Jari Williamsson’s website.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Gary Gibson for contributing this tip.


Staying Organized with Finale’s Category Designer

Q: I have a Finale template file that I use often for orchestral music, and I have created several new expression categories with the Category Designer tool. However, I created these categories as they were needed, and they are now arranged in the Expression list without order. I would like to rearrange the order of the categories, but I cannot seem to find a way to do so. Do you know of any way that I can rearrange the order of these categories? Or am I coming up against a shortcoming of this software?

A: More recent versions of Finale have the ability to manually reorganize (sort) Text, Shapes, Lines and Articulations via the “Move Down” and “Move Up” buttons in the Expression Selection, Articulation Selection, Shape Selection and Line Selection dialogs. These sorting buttons also appear in the Document Setup Wizard, Reorder Staves, and in Manage Parts, to allow the user to change a particular instrument’s position in the score.

Unfortunately, Finale’s Document  > Category Designer has no such sorting feature. For those that only use the Default Categories, this doesn’t represent a problem, but for those of us who make use of the ability to create custom categories, the ability to sort them would be useful.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reorganize these expression categories. Let’s take a look…

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On Location : Finale & Sibelius Rehearsal Marks

“From the top ?” . . .

Image source : “The Art of Music Engraving and Processing” by Ted Ross

“Thanks for the great rehearsal marks!” isn’t the type of compliment you’ll hear from musicians at a rehearsal. But even if they don’t always tell you, musicians really appreciate it when you make their job easier by providing clear location info in their parts.

Location info helps the musicians stay in sync. Entrance cues in parts are a good example. Different barline types help to define sections. Multi-measure rests that break logically with phrases can be a location aid. Bar numbers are particularly helpful when navigating linear scores. Key changes or tempo changes can also provide location info.


Rehearsal Marks allow the members of a band or orchestra of any size to quickly navigate to a specific point in the score together, in order to master more difficult passages in rehearsal.  (It’s also easier for the conductor or bandleader to say “Take it from Letter M” than “Take it from bar 167”). Even after the piece has been mastered, Rehearsal Marks continue to provide location signposts for the players, helping them to stay oriented during performances or additional rehearsals.

Finale and Sibelius allow you to easily change the appearance of Rehearsal Marks to make them stand out in your score and parts.

Font, size and attributes can all be customized.

Both programs dynamically update rehearsal marks if you insert, move or delete them, automating the sequence of Rehearsal Marks correctly regardless of the order in which you enter them.

You can restart the Rehearsal Mark sequence at any point in the score. In Finale, choose Edit Rehearsal Mark Sequence from the Expressions menu. In Sibelius 7, choose the drop down menu for Rehearsal Mark in the Text Tab. In Sibelius 6, choose Rehearsal Mark from the Create Menu.

In both Finale and Sibelius, you can choose whether Rehearsal Marks are displayed as Rehearsal Letters, Rehearsal Numbers, or Bar Numbers.

Rehearsal marks are assigned to key shortcuts, which can be customized. Default shortcuts are “M” in Finale or “CNTRL-R” (windows) or “CMND-R” (mac) in Sibelius.

Both programs allow to you insert a non-sequential rehearsal mark if needed, and to hide measure numbers at the locations of the Rehearsal Marks.

more >> “On Location : Finale & Sibelius Rehearsal Marks”

Finale Text Sized, Placed & Styled – Document Options & the Category Designer

There are two main requirements for managing Text in any notation program. First, we want to be able to define in advance how the musical and text elements will look, so that our score is following the same appearance rules throughout. This is part of what music publishers refer to as a “House Style”.  Secondly, we need to be able to “break the rules” easily for special cases (for instance, if the title is to be in an ornate font where text is otherwise a more standard serif or san-serif font.)

For existing scores, knowing how to set up defaults for Text in Finale will also help us quickly locate  font, size and attribute information about a particular string of text, and quickly make changes, if needed.


Initially, there are two main locations where we define Text in Finale. The first of these is found in Document Options > Fonts, and is the place where we determine the exact “look” of the music notation itself, as well as the default font, size and font attributes for some other Finale text.

The second “default setup” area for text is Finale’s Category Designer, where we choose the font, size, style and location of all instructional text for the piece associated with staves or systems. These categories include Dynamics, Expressions, Techniques, Tempo and Rehearsal Marks etc. Let’s take a look …

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Creating Fractions & Other Symbols in Finale & Sibelius using Unicode

noun /ˈyo͞oniˌkōd/

An international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs.

More recent versions of Finale and Sibelius both feature Unicode font support. Among other things, this means a number of new symbols useful for music notation are now readily available in addition to the 256 “regular” characters we’ve always had access to. This cross – application Unicode support represents an important step for digital music preparation, as we not only have access to the comprehensive set of accented and diacritical characters used in Latin based languages, but we can now enter the text and symbols for titles, credits, lyrics and directives in non-Latin based languages such as Russian and Chinese.

One useful type of symbol sometimes used in music scores not built in to the Sibelius Word Menus or the Finale Expressions Selection Dialog in Finale are fractions.  Without Unicode, fractions need to be displayed as two numbers with a slash between them, e.g. “1/2”. Directives such as “½ section trem.” or “Slow ¼ tone bends” or “trill ½” appear frequently in modern scores, for instance, so it is great to finally be able to display these properly and easily in both Finale and Sibelius.

On the PC, you should be able to type the most common fractions directly into either Sibelius 7 or later or Finale 2012 or later using ALT codes. Hold down the ALT key, type 0188 on the numeric keypad, and then release the ALT key to insert the symbol ¼. To insert the symbol ½, use the character code 0189. To insert the symbol ¾, use 0190.

Unfortunately, there are no designated keystrokes for fractions on a Mac, and if you are like me, you may have trouble remembering obscure ALT codes, anyway.

The good news is that with Unicode support, you now can simply copy and paste these characters into your music, and recall them again quickly at any time. It just takes a couple of minutes to set up, and from then on, they’ll always be there when you need them.

more >> “Creating Fractions & Other Symbols in Finale & Sibelius using Unicode”