Creating Tone Clusters in Finale, part 1

Q: Sometimes I need to notate cluster notes (tone clusters). But the Finale software doesn’t seem to support these. How can I create them?

A: Finale allows you to notate tone clusters following a couple of different conventions easily in a few steps…

First, let’s look at how to create a cluster where no exact pitches are specified (e.g. no exact range of the cluster.)

First, enter your cluster pitches using a MIDI keyboard, Speedy Note or Simple Note. This method will allow the pitches in your file to play back as well as appear in the proper notation:

Next, hide any accidentals by going into Speedy Note Entry. Place the cursor over each  chromatically altered note and press the Star Key, which will hide its accidental:

While there are some variations in how clusters are displayed, one common feature is a rectangle shape. To create this, we’ll change all of the noteheads on the left side of the stem to square noteheads. Select the Noteheads tool from the Special Tools (it’s the icon in the palette with the hammer, wrench and screwdriver on the it). If you click in the bar, you’ll see rectangular selection boxes on each note. Select the notes which line up vertically and double-click into the notehead selection dialog. Slot 208 is the square notehead for Maestro or Engraver Font:

We can then remove the round noteheads which appear on the right side of the stem using the same change notehead technique. Replacing these noteheads with the space character will hide them. Select Slot 32 or you can just type the spacebar from within the Noteheads selection dialog to hide these noteheads:


All that is left to do is to hide the ledger lines, which is easily done using Plugins > Note, Beam and Rest Editing > Ledger Lines (Hide) plugin:

Q: That’s great, but what if you want to specify the exact range of the cluster?

A: In this case, you can use a combination of actual pitches and Smart Shape lines.

First, enter the top and bottom notes of the cluster as normal notation, in two Layers:

Next, shorten the stem length of the Layer two (bottom) note to zero, using Special Tools > Stem Length tool.

If you want the cluster to play back correctly, you can optionally use a third Layer to create all of the pitches inside the cluster, then hide them (by typing H from within Speedy Note Entry):

Finally, Select the Smart Shapes tool, and enter the Custom Line tool (Alt-click on Windows or Option – Click on Mac.) Create a solid line .75 spaces wide (.0625 inches). Ok the dialog, and draw a vertical line between the upper and lower pitches of the cluster.

If you want to save yourself some work later on, you can create a little “scratchpad” Finale file with the various clusters you have created. Once saved, it’s simply a matter of copying and pasting from one file to another to quickly recreate them, and from there, it’s quick work to transpose the cluster up or down etc.

That’s it!


leger lines, ledger lines


7 Replies to “Creating Tone Clusters in Finale, part 1”

    1. Hi Ruben

      For a chromatic tone cluster within the range of a tritone, I would use the steps outline above, after:

      Q: That’s great, but what if you want to specify the exact range of the cluster?
      A: In this case, you can use a combination of actual pitches and Smart Shape lines.

      First specify your outside pitches with the top note a G# in Layer 1 and the bottom note, D nat in Layer 2 (the example above shows a much wider range, D to D across two octaves, but it is the same technique to create).

      Then create the smart shape thick line to connect them, etc. as above.

      (e.g. this technique works to show a chromatic cluster within *any* range of pitches, and allows you to specify a specific lowest and highest note)

  1. Hey Robert, many many thanks for sharing all this information
    Recently discovered this blog, and it is saving me a lot of time!
    Thanks, from Brazil

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