Finale Collision Avoidance Part 2 : Articulations

Q: How do you avoid collisions in Finale, i.e: dynamics, hairpins, accents, chord symbols, etc.? I end up manually moving a lot of stuff, and then I have to manually adjust each part as well.

A: I typically start with the smallest elements and work my way out to the big ones. It’s important to make as many placement adjustments as you can in the score, because in doing so, you are also updating their relative positions in the parts (location changes to articulations, text or shapes made in the parts are *not* reflected in the score). I covered collision avoidance of staff text, dynamics and lines in my post from 10/31/11, so let’s talk about articulations . . .


Finale articulations will automatically pop into their proper location when applied. They do this because the Finale Default files have the placements of all the standard articulations defined to be a particular distance from the notehead or stem. Furthermore, there are actually two definitions possible; one for when the stem is up and one when the stem is down.

Finale’s Articulation Designer also allows you to create new articulations and precisely set their default positions.

This design work great, but comes with a caveat, which is, any time you apply more than one articulation on the same note, they will often compete for the same location in relation to the notehead or stem.

The dotted accent is an example of this. If you enter staccatos, then enter accents on the same notes, the staccatos and accents on the stems down notes will collide. Additionally, the two articulations will become separated on the stems up notes:

To avoid this, use the combined articulations that Finale has provided. There are also combined articulation symbols for accented tenuto, dotted tenuto and dotted marcato.

But what if there is no combined symbol?

It’s a good question, because you want each of the articulations by themselves to pop into their normal position. However, when both of them are coexisting on the same note, there needs to be a consistent amount of white space between the articulations as well as from the notes. For instance, bowing articulations when placed by themselves behave perfectly well, however, when combined with other articulations, they fight for the same vertical space:

A quick way to resolve this is to first enter all of the articulations *without* moving anything manually, even if they overlap. Once you’ve entered everything for this section of the piece, you can use Finale’s “Change” utility to reposition the upbows or the downbows together.

Decide which of the articulations you want to move first. For instance, let’s adjust all of the upbows that occur where there are staccatos on the same note:

  1. Highlight the region that contains the upbows with staccatos.
  2. Choose the Utilities > Change > Articulations… menu item.
  3. The Change Articulation Assignments dialog will appear.
  4. Select the Position Selected Articulation radio button.
  5. Press Select and when the dialog opens, choose the Upbow articulation.
  6. Double click your selection, or press the highlighted Select button to confirm.
  7. Confirmation returns you to the Change Articulation Assignments dialog.
  8. Popup menu can remain “Add to Default Position” for this situation. If you haven’t moved any articulations, you can also use “Add to Current Position”.
  9. In the vertical column, type “1s” (the “s” is added so the adjustment is made in spaces).
  10. OK

At this point, your upbow articulations in the selected region will all move clear of the staccatos. Use the same technique for the downbows. In order for the downbows to clear the accents, you’ll need a little more clearance, because the accents take more vertical space than the staccatos. Try 1.75s or even 2 spaces.

Using the Utility takes less time than fussing with individual articulation placements, and also, because you used the Utility to specify a consistent distance, rather than dragging individual articulations into place, your music will look much more professional.

that’s it!



2 Replies to “Finale Collision Avoidance Part 2 : Articulations”

  1. Another topic might be to show people how to avoid articulation collisions with slurs using TGTools “Modify Slurs” plugin. Nice blog!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.