Rebarring in Finale : 5/4 becomes 3/4+2/4

Q: Here’s the “easy” problem: I have a score in 5/4. It’s always the same grouping 3/4 + 2/4. I would like to convert all the 5/4 measures into two measures of 3/4 and 2/4, separated with a dashed bar line. I tried the JW Meter and Rhythm plugin & TG Tools but I didn’t find a solution there. Maybe I can create a FinaleScript for it?

I hope there’s an answer out there I missed. Regardless, I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

A: Thank you. It’s a great question, and it would be the perfect type of task for a plugin to automate, I agree. You are correct that there are currently no available plugin solutions for this. It is possible to do manually, although depending on the complexity of your score, the solution is somewhat involved. Here’s a how-to breakdown.

You don’t say whether this is for the entire score or just a section, so for the purpose of keeping this walkthrough as simple as we can, let’s assume you have 32 bars of music, ALL in 5/4 which you want to edit to bars of 3/4 + 2/4 with a dotted barline in the middle of each pair of measures.

*Note that because you are bifurcating each bar into two parts, you will end up with twice as many total measures when you rebar the music.

Fairly recently, Jan Angermüller posted a JW Lua script designed for just this purpose on the Finale Power user’s group page on Facebook. You will first need to download and install the freeware JW Lua plugin from in order to run the script. It doesn’t have a front end interface to define the new time signature, but you can edit the new time signature numerator and denominator values in a text editor before running the script. There is a section within the script labeled OK for modification:

You can download the script from Jan’s website here:

But how does the script work? Before the script existed, we had to do this manually. So, for the curious, here are steps:

Start by making a current backup copy of your existing 5/4 score in a different location on your drive. This is pretty destructive stuff, with enough discreet steps to warrant a preemptive save.

Add two empty measures to the end of your current 32 bar score. Make those a bar of 3/4 followed by a bar of 2/4. For extra style points,  use the Measure Tool to change the barline between these two measures to a dashed barline.

Now, go into Finale’s Edit Filter and uncheck ALL, then check only Time Signatures and Barline Styles. Note that this is going to be a Stack selection and so it is going to be global for all staves of the score.

Now, you’ll need to make a STACK selection of your two new bars. If your piece has only one staff, this is automatically a Stack selection.

A Stack selection is a selection of all the staves down the score.

Make sure you are viewing the full score and not a Staff Set with some staves hidden, and have selected both the 3/4 bar and the 2/4 bar down the score. Copy this filtered selection to the Clipboard.

Now, select all staves of the first bar of the piece (still in 5/4) down the score, and choose Paste Multiple from the Edit Menu. We need to know how many bars we are converting, as we will want to enter this number of pairs into the Paste Horizontally field, unless we are doing the piece in sections:

You may prefer to do this operation in sections, a few bars at a time, rather than all at once. The reason has to do with Finale’s Default Whole Rests, which I’ll get more into in a moment. If you have a few bars where everyone either plays or rests all the way through, then rebarring this section by itself is a valid approach, and easy to keep track of where you are.

You can also use the Measure Groups task in the JW Meter and Rhythm plugin on a selected area to create the new metrical container. The difference here is that you will then have to go back and change every other barline to a dashed one if you want that, but this is a powerful plugin option regardless:

This will create the meter container you are looking for, but we aren’t quite there, since we still need to address the music content itself.

Got your waders on? You may wish to get back to this point once you start this next bit, so now would be a good time to make a second, separate incremental backup copy of your file.

Make sure that Check for Extra Notes is selected in the Speedy menu.

Now, you can go through each staff entering and exiting the Speedy Frame, and each time this dialog comes up:

You can either move the notes into the next measure or keep moving the notes into the next measure until all measures contain the correct number of beats.

However, there is an additional wrinkle here, particularly in an odd meter like 5/4. If the music in a particular staff does not enter in bar 1, or you have short resting points between entrances which are Default whole rests, you can run into trouble when, for example,  the rebarred music from the first entrance encroaches on music from the second entrance because of the new bar structure.

It is important to note that Default Whole Rests do not keep appropriate duration space for you in this type of operation; in fact, they aren’t counted at all!

If your source is 4/4, then the solution is easy; you can use the Change to Real Whole Rests plugin, and these “real” rests are factored as real durations in the form chain when you change the meter and reflow the music.

But in 5/4, all bets are off, so you must remain vigilant and careful so you don’t blow away entrances after default whole rests. Additionally, you will find that because of the now double number of bars, you must add an appropriate offset to each entrance, which in terms of entrance bar is coming later and later.

This is why I stated earlier that a solid approach to this is to do the steps to smaller sections of score and repeat – you can define the short sections, insert some bars of default rest to sandbag off the section from the rest of the piece as the bar count for that section is doubled, create the new metrical container for these  few bars (including the sandbag bars), move the extra notes until all measures contain the correct number of notes. Next section. Wring dry. Repeat.

That said, it would be terrific if “Default Whole Rests” in Finale were recognized as being a durational object with the qualities of the active Time Signature it is being displayed in. This would make re-barring chores like this a snap (“keep moving the extra notes AND ALL RESTS until all measures contain the correct number of beats”).

A Finale update that addressed this could very likely encourage plugin authors to create a tool to automate re-barring in Finale so it could be done in one operation.

in the meantime, in spite of all of the labor involved for this particular task, I hope this information is helpful.


for Rolando Gori

2 Replies to “Rebarring in Finale : 5/4 becomes 3/4+2/4”

  1. This made me think “how would you do this in Sibelius”? The easiest thing I could think of would be:

    1. Create a 3/4, 2/4 pair of bars at the end of the score. If it were not for the dashed barline, I would use the “Insert bars with multiple time signatures” plugin for all the bars, but in this case I could use it for one pair or just add 2 bars and change the time signatures.
    2. Create a dashed barline between the 2 bars.
    3. Make a system selection (purple box) of the 2 bars and hit R as many times as you want to create new copies of the pair of bars.
    4. Select the 5/4 bars (normal blue passage selection), and copy.
    5. Make a passage selection of at least the first bar in the added 3/4 2/4 bars, and then paste.

    I think that should handle most of it. If there are tuplets in the 5/4 bars that would cross the dashed barline, then the paste will not work, and you will have to copy the bits that do not have tuplets at that location, paste them, and then manage the tuplets by hand.

    If you don’t want to have all the time signatures, you could use the Filter Other plugin to select them, then delete them. You could have removed the time sigs when you first created them, and then used R, but you would need to split up the whole rests before you duplicate the bars, because empty bars take on the current time signature and would not stay 3/4 2/4 pairs.

    The devil is always in the details.

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