Finale: Use Percussion Pictographs for Staff Names or Instrument Changes

This tutorial is also available for Sibelius.

I recently typeset a piece of music for children’s choir and percussion. The percussion part, which was on three different instrument lines, needed to be as clear and readable as possible for the kids performing. The publisher requested that we use percussion pictographs instead of abbreviated text for the percussion instrument names after the first system:


I thought this would make an interesting tutorial, useful for worksheets and other specialty applications (like my kid’s choir project). I hope you agree. Let’s take it from the left edge…

Percussion pictographs are standardized graphical symbols used to represent percussion instruments in music scores. Percussion Pictographs were first proposed and developed at the International Conference on New Music Notation held at the University of Ghent in Belgium in 1974. The current set of symbols / icons includes instruments, mallets and beaters:


Finale supports this standard with its “Finale Percussion” font. The pictograph symbols can accessed directly from the Expression Selection Dialog (once entered).

If you know the keystroke for a particular Percussion symbol, you can also type it directly anywhere that text entry is supported in Finale, which includes the Expression Designer, a Staff Name or a Staff Style (Finale 2011 and earlier) or an Instrument or Instrument Change (Finale 2012 and later).

For instance, in Finale 2012 or later, to create a Percussion Instrument Name or Instrument Change pictograph / icon that shows a percussion symbol as the instrument name in a score, go into the Score Manager (CMND-K on Mac, CNTRL-K on Windows). Under Staff Settings for Selected Instrument, click on Full or Abbreviated Name, type in the keystroke the corresponds to the specific percussion symbol (see links below), and then change the font to “Finale Percussion”. Once you exit out of the Score Manager, you will see your changes.

Here is a list of all the percussion symbols available in the Finale Percussion font for Mac OS and Windows PC (these are located in Finale’s Online Reference Guide). Print this list out so you have a handy reference of all the keystrokes that correspond to each percussion instrument’s icon / symbol.

In Finale 2012 or later, instrument names are changed in Score Manager > Instrument List > Name > Staff Settings. (In Finale 2011 and earlier, Staff Names can be changed in the main Staff Attributes dialog or in Staff Styles).

In addition to changing the staff names directly, should you choose to, you can also add symbols to your score above the staff as Expressions.  This is especially appropriate for mallets and symbols representing performance techniques. To help you create a percussion symbols  expression libraryhere is a Finale 2012 file which has an Expression Library of Finale’s Percussion Instrument Pictographs built into itOpen the file in Finale 2012 or later, then Save Library > Expressions. You can then quickly load the library into other scores or worksheets.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Thanks for reading, and as always, I appreciate your comments and questions about this topic.


5 Replies to “Finale: Use Percussion Pictographs for Staff Names or Instrument Changes”

  1. Thanks for all the great tips. Really enjoy them and very helpful.

    The link “here is a Finale 2012…” seems to be broken. It opens a Charter search result page for me and won’t download anything. Thanks.

  2. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for your good words, and for spotting this. The Finale file directory should be loading properly now. Let me know if not!

    Robert Puff

  3. I have Finale 2014 and tried for a long time to get these percussion pictograms. If you could, please make it more clear on how to get them into your score.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Philip,

      I see that the links to the character maps from the Finale manual either changed or were incorrectly linked. I have fixed the links in the above article now, so if you download for your OS, and print out the character set for Finale Percussion font, it should be easy to add these pictographic instrument names to your score.

      For instance, capital “G” in the Finale Percussion font is the Glock symbol. Go into the Score Manager (CMND-K on Mac, CNTRL-K on Windows) and under Staff Settings for Selected Instrument, click on Full Name. Type in a Capital G, then change the font to Finale Percussion. Note that the dialog itself won’t show the actual font display; it only shows the “G” in the regular system font (at least on Mac). But once you close the Score Manager and are back out on the page, you should see the Glock percussion pictogram.

      If you got the above working, it is just a matter of using that same series of steps, but using whatever keystrokes correspond to the instruments in your percussion list.

      Let me know how you get on. (mac keystrokes list for Finale Percussion font) (windows keystrokes list for Finale Percussion font)


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