Music Spacing Between Layers in Finale

Q: In this screenshot, you’ll notice that the G natural accidental in the third bar is colliding with the previous F sixteenth note between the two layers:


I have tried all sorts of ways to fix it, using the Document Options’ minimum spacing, space between, etc. I have tried Note/Beat/Time Sig. Spacing, all the JW note spacing alternatives and nothing fixes this issue automatically. Is it only fixable manually?

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The Convolutions of Hidden & Independent Key Signatures in Finale

UPDATE: If you have updated to Finale 2014, take a look at the new Keyless Scores feature which is related to the issues covered in this post.

Q: I’m formatting a Timpani part with key signatures hidden. The score contains a number of keys changes / signatures. The timpani part itself is fine with all accidentals in place.

However, I need cued notes from other parts to appear in the Timpani part. The source parts all show key signatures. I used the TG Tools Add Cue Notes… plugin to make the cues, but none of those accidentals appear in the timpani part. For example, the flute is in the key of G major, and has a passage with F-sharp in it. If I cue that passage in the timpani part, Finale doesn’t show the sharp to indicate F#.

I can’t believe this is an uncommon problem. How can I globally make these diatonic accidentals appear in a part without Key Signatures?

A: As you are already aware, historically, Classical scores displayed some instruments without Key Signatures. Timpani and French Horn are probably the most common of these “keyless” instruments, although you will find examples in the repertoire for Trumpet and even Clarinet.

For Timpani, since it is not a transposing instrument, one would think that all you’d need to do to hide the key signature is to uncheck Key Signatures in Items to Display of the Staff Attributes, and any diatonic accidentals would then automatically appear in the staff:


However, to see how this really works (and how it doesn’t), let’s (1) define a Key Signature, then (2) set our Timpani not to display the Key Signature as above:


(3) Now, enter some notes using your MIDI keyboard. If you enter a sequence of non-diatonic naturals, you get (redundant) naturals displaying on every note; if you enter notes that are diatonic to the hidden Key Signature, the accidentals aren’t displayed at all, neither of which is very useful:


So, as you can see, simply hiding the Key Signature isn’t really an ideal solution at all. If you’ve already entered music in the staff with “Items to Display>Key Signatures” unchecked, there is a partial solution for showing accidentals more correctly after the fact, which I will cover at the end of the blog post. But first…

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Sibelius : How to Keep Flexi-time From Adding Unwanted Measures to Your Score

Q: I have been unable to solve the problem whereby Sibelius 7 appears to add numerous measures to the end of my score as I am recording (in Flexi-time) when I input notes via MIDI controller. I am not sure what I am doing to cause the score to expand in that way. This is not a major problem, but having to delete needless measures every so often is a bit of irritation. I would be delighted if you could suggest a solution.

A: By default, the Flexi-time feature of Sibelius 6 and 7 is designed for you to be able to  begin recording with no previous sense of the form of the piece – e.g. the idea is that you are simply going to begin recording your recorded ideas into Sibelius, and much the same as you would if you were recording with a tape recorder or DAW, within reason, you will want to be able to record until you make a mistake (or run out of ideas).

To facilitate this, when you first begin recording in Flexitime, Sibelius adds blank bars to form a “container” for the transcription it will create. By default, this is set at 100 bars. The good news is that if you are using Sibelius for a scratchpad to record your ideas, Sibelius will generally capture everything.

But, if your score is past the stage of plunking in thematic ideas on the MIDI keyboard, it’s likely you’ve already determined the  “form” of your piece – perhaps you are trying to record the trumpet lines in an existing orchestral score, or a sax line at rehearsal letter B in your big band chart. The last thing you need in an existing score is an extra 100 bars added every time you turn on Flexi-time to record 8 bars in the middle of the piece!

Fortunately, it’s very simple to keep Sibelius from adding these additional bars.


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Realization Reversed : from Performance to the Page

Western music notation is a fixed set of rules devised for expressing something that, by nature, is not fixed. Our current notation system has been culled and pruned over the last several centuries from numerous musical symbols and instructions down to the current set.

Professional musicians not only understand the meaning of these, but are able to interpret them with appropriate variation and nuance based on context.

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Finale Special Tools : Double / Split Stem Tool

Frequently, in orchestral scores, 2 woodwind or brass parts are shared on the same staff. The staff may contain a mixture of divisi and unison notes.

Normally, if the two parts are homophonic, the line shares a stem as well as slurs and articulations. When the line goes to unison for any length of time, a common practice is to indicate “a2” at the start point of this unison. At that point, a single notehead and stem is written, and this carries until the next divisi section:

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Entry Workflow for Piano Music in Sibelius 7


Having a consistent workflow routine when engraving a piano score can increase efficiency and accuracy. This guide provides the series of steps I follow to stay on track.

Sibelius has a very good piano template which will produce a nice looking piano score. Of course, you can always adjust the layout, and change various house style elements, but for now, let’s start with provided New Score Manuscript Paper (template).

Start by setting the score up with the proper title, composer, meter and key.

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West meets East – Notation & playback of Quarter tone music using Sibelius

As a composer and teacher, I often have the chance to explore areas of music and musical notation with which I am unfamiliar. A few years ago one of my students expressed an interest in composing “outside” the traditional Western idea of the equal tempered 12-tone scale. We decided to start our exploration with the concept of quarter tones. As so often is the case, the resulting study benefitted me as much as my student. Along the way, I was delighted to find my notation software was up to the challenge of creating and playing our various compositional attempts.

A very brief history of quarter tone music

The simplest way to describe a quarter tone is a pitch falls halfway between what we think of as a half step (semitone) in the traditional western chromatic scale. A quarter tone scale contains twice as many notes (24) as its 12 note chromatic cousin. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the origins of quarter tone music:

Known as gadwal in Arabic, the quarter tone scale was developed in the Middle East in the eighteenth century and many of the first detailed writings in the nineteenth century Syria describe the scale as being of 24 equal tones. The invention of the scale is attributed to Mikhail Mishaqa whose work Essay on the Art of Music for the Emir Shihāb (al-Risāla al-shihābiyya fi ‘l-ṣinā ‘a al-mūsīqiyya) is devoted to the topic but also makes clear his teacher Sheikh Muhammad al-‘Attār’ (1764-1828) was one of many already familiar with the concept.

The quarter tone scale may be primarily considered a theoretical construct in Arabic music. The quarter tone gives musicians a “conceptual map” with which to discuss and compare intervals by number of quarter tones and this may be one of the reasons it accompanies a renewed interest in theory, with instruction in music theory being a mainstream requirement since that period.

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