Create Parenthesized or Bracketed Hairpins in Finale

Finale has a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating Custom Smart Shapes. You can create a line shape of any thickness, make it solid, dotted, dashed or even invisible, control its start and end locations and add hooks, arrows or text to either end of the line and / or to the center.

Hairpin crescendo and decrescendo are sometimes bracketed (parenthesized) by publishers to show that they were added later by the editor – e.g. not in the original composer’s manuscript:


These types of brackets can also be used for other reasons; for instance to show that the marking is optional or implied.

In Finale, crescendo and decrescendo smart shapes have controls for line thickness and opening width, found in Smart Shapes > Smart Shape Options, but unlike the shapes available in the Smart Line Selection dialog, there is no obvious way to add a parenthesis to the start and end of these defined hairpin Smart Shapes.

So, how would we create this type of Smart Shape in Finale?

I learned this trick from my friend and colleague Philip Rothman, over at SibeliusBlog (like me, Philip uses both programs professionally). His solution is to create a custom Smart Shape that is *just* the opening and closing parenthesis, then combine it with the regular hairpin shape.

Why not just use text for the brackets? One advantage to this method is that because they are both Smart Shapes, they will expand and contract horizontally with the layout (for instance if the spacing is different between score and parts), maintaining their relative horizontal positioning to one another, and they can easily be aligned vertically.



  1. Enter the Smart Line Selection dialog via Alt-Click (Win) or Opt-Click (Mac
  2. Click the Create Button
  3. In the Text Section, click Left Start Edit…
  4. Type in the ( character
  5. Select and change its font to Maestro 24pt**
  6. OK the sub-dialog
  7. Click Left Start Position
  8. Drop the vertical position so the bracket is centered (Try -.33 sp)**
  9. Repeat the same steps above for the Right End character
  10. Under Line Style, set the line width to zero
  11. Check Horizontal (assuming this is also the hairpin behavior)

**The choice of font here for the bracket characters will affect the exact vertical placement for these text characters. The desired placement is centered on the (invisible) line.

Now, you can apply this new “shape” right “over the top” of any regular hairpin. If you are using Finale 2014 you can take advantage of the snap-to beat feature to line everything up even more precisely horizontally.

To align the pair under the staff, select the Smart Shape tool, lasso the two shapes, then right-click to select Align Horizontally from the Contextual Menu:


If you own the full version of TG Tools you can also use the Align-Move plugin to quickly align a larger region of these with one keystroke.

As of Finale 2014, you also have the option of creating these parentheses as expressions. Just use the same anchor points for smart shape ends and expressions.

That’s all there is to it.


4 Replies to “Create Parenthesized or Bracketed Hairpins in Finale”

  1. Tell us how to make a dashed hairpin in Finale 2014 and we will be truly grateful. Brackets, parentheses, and slashes are ‘desperation’ editorial indications. Dashed ties and hairpins are much more intuitive.

    1. Hi Paul,

      I would agree that an integrated feature to create dashed hairpins would be a most welcome addition to Finale. In the meantime, I’ve posted a solution in this blog post.

      Other common workaround solutions are discussed on the Finale forum here.


    1. For diminuendo al niente, I most often use the dynamics symbol for the niente @ the end of the hairpin, positioned as any other dynamic. The keystroke for Maestro on Mac is Opt-N, N – e.g. (e.g. — ñ — apologies – I don’t know the keystroke for this on Windows)

      The other symbol that is sometimes used for silence at the head or tail of the hairpin is the little circle that looks a bit like a harmonic — o — : you’ll probably want it a bit larger than what you would use with a notehead, but you can create this as a dynamic text and place as well.

      As an aside, it would be extremely cool if Finale allowed custom versions of the existing hairpin shapes so you could place text and symbols on their ends as you can for regular lines, but of course, those smart shapes can’t be customized in this way.

      And, yes, you can use the lines approach for the niente symbol but I would try the above approaches first to see if you get satisfactory (and efficient) results.


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