Finale : Create Dashed & Dotted Cresc. / Dim. Hairpins Via Graphic Overlay

In previous posts, (1) (2), I’ve discussed Finale’s ability to create an opaque mask for text using its Enclosure Designer in order to bring text prominently to the foreground in front of a line such as a hairpin.

An imported graphic can also be used as a background mask. Note how the graphic completely masks the dotted line across its surface area in this example:


An imported TIFF graphic in Finale has an important additional ability: to display a mix of opacity and transparency. In this example, the same overlay graphic is transparent in its “white” area. Note how the solid line in the background now appears to be woven between the vertical lines of the graphic:


We can use this same ability to create a kind of “picket fence” graphic overlay for crescendo and diminuendo hairpin smart shapes that allows them to show through the graphic at regular intervals, like this:


Here’s how:

In a graphics editing program, we first create an alternating equidistant pattern of white opaque and transparency. This alternating image was created in Photoshop as a Layer with no background:


We now save this as a TIFF image with transparency, and import it into Finale. By default, imported graphics are attached to the page; their position not yet related to any particular measure. Double-click on the graphic to open the Graphic Attributes dialog, and reassign it’s attachment point to a specific staff and measure:


Optionally reducing the horizontal, but not the vertical scale of the graphic will compress the opaque and transparent portions of the graphic equally, effectively changing dashes to dots. Using a numerical percentage rather than drag-resizing ensures that the “look” or spacing of the dashes or dots remains consistent, should you need to make individual edits to dashed or dotted hairpins requiring graphics of different lengths in the same piece, for instance.

You can even resize and move the graphic overlay(s) horizontally relative to the hairpin(s) to visually create custom patterns like this example:


Finale isn’t necessarily a drawing tool, but it’s worth noting that an opaque / transparent masking pattern doesn’t necessarily have to be equidistant dots or dashes. Furthermore, this type of mask will work as an overlay for a variety of objects. As such, you may find this type of graphics import to be ancillary in the production of graphical scores.

To create these dashed hairpins, first enter regular hairpins as you would normally, then (1) Import the “picket fence” graphic via Graphics>Place Graphic… (2) Optionally Link to File (see below) (3) Double click to open the Graphic Attributes dialog (4) Attach the graphic to a staff and measure and (4) Optionally scale the graphic horizontally to reduce dash length, then (5) drag the graphic into position over the hairpin.

Once your imported graphic is Assigned to a Measure, Finale’s Edit Filter will allow you to copy and paste it around your score. In the Edit Filter, select None and then Graphics (Assigned to Measures). You can also filter hairpins and their associated graphics together, which gives you a very fast mechanism to copy and paste these dashed hairpins throughout the score.

A caveat with embedding graphic files into your Finale score is that the file size increases. As you copy and paste them within the document, the file size will increase with each new occurrence. To ensure that your .mus or .musx files remain at a reasonable size, save your graphic(s) alongside the Finale file, then, when you first select the graphic for placement, check the Link to File option as you import. This way, you can copy and paste the linked graphic as many times as you need to within the score without increasing the file size. Just remember to include the Linked graphic file(s) with the Finale file, should you share it with someone else.

A note here about focus and visibility: When you click on a text, graphic or line object in Finale, it pops into the foreground. If you place the graphic after you have entered the hairpins, initially you will see the dashed effect, but note that if you click directly on the hairpin from this point, it will move to the foreground again. In this case, just click on the graphic again, and the hierarchy will be restored.

To help you get started, I’ve created a set of these alternating opaque and transparent “picket fence” graphics at different lengths to allow you to overlay them across different durations as either dashes or dots (higher numbered files are wider):


I hope you find this solution for creating dashed and dotted hairpins in Finale useful, and if you do, I hope you will comment, subscribe and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to this blog. Thank you.


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