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Making the Finale Christmas Tree


In last week’s post announcing free holiday music, we pictured the Finale Christmas tree seen above. One reader replied; “Can you tell me how you made the music Christmas trees?” and inspired this reply.

The trees were copied from a Finale file included in the free holiday music collection. The piece is titled “Tannenbaum!” and it was created by our own Mark Adler, inspired by a Christmas card created by Karlheinz Stockhausen. While some additional details appear here, they don’t actually describe how to create the tree.

To get an official reply, I caught Mark in the hallway as he prepared to leave for the Midwest Clinic, the band and orchestra conference that takes place in Chicago this week. Mark suggest that anyone interested in creating something like this should open up the “Tannenbaum!” file in Finale 2014, and poke around to see how it was done. He also offered the following tips of what to look for:

  • All the tree’s “branches” were created in Finale’s Shape Designer
  • The rotated notes, clefs, text and lyric syllables are all individual custom lines – created by choosing the Custom Line tool from the Smart Shape Palette
  • This post suggests that by “adding text to a custom line, and giving the line a thickness of 0, you can easily rotate text or font characters in any direction”
  • The stump is an inverted down-bow font character (here are some character maps for Mac and Windows)

If you enjoy a challenge and a bit of reverse-engineering, that may point you in the right direction.

If you have additional questions, feel free to ask by clicking on “Comments” below. Alternately, if you’re headed to the Midwest Clinic, stop by the MakeMusic booth and ask Mark in person.

Happy holidays!

Free Finale Holiday Music

Three Trees

Happy holidays from your friends at MakeMusic. We hope your season is filled with traditions that evoke happy memories. One of our traditions is provide a collection of holiday music as a gift to users of Finale, and to add to the pieces included in that collection each year.

This year our new additions include several small ensemble pieces:

  • “Auld Lang Syne” and “Gloucestershire Wassail” for barbershop quartet
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter” for woodwind quintet
  • “Christmas Medley” for brass quintet
  • “Riu Riu Chiu” for string quartet

…as well as the “Christmas Cannon” animated piece seen here.

Also collected are holiday titles we’ve provided in the past, including:

  • Piano pieces from pre-readers to advanced
  • Classical guitar arrangements
  • A caroling collection
  • Instrumental duets, trios, and solos with accompaniment
  • Vocal pieces for SATB and accompaniment
  • Easy Holiday Ukulele Song Book
  • One piece each for beginner band, jazz band, and string orchestra
  • The “Tannenbaum!” graphic notation piece seen above and described here

Download Holiday Titles

Don’t own Finale 2014 yet? Enjoy these files with the free trial.

I hope you are able to use these files to share the gift of music.

Meet Gear Fisher, MakeMusic CEO

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Greetings everyone! I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Gear Fisher, and I’m the new CEO of MakeMusic. I thought I’d take a moment to update you on some of what has taken place since I became involved with the company a few months ago. These are exciting times and a lot has been happening behind the scenes.

First of all, as you may have heard, the company is currently in the process of moving to Boulder, Colorado. We have completely remodeled a new office space and we’ll be starting the move-in during the first week of December. About 30 people from the existing Minnesota-based team will be making the move to Boulder, helping to ensure that we maintain continuity and consistency for all of our customers going forward. I’m incredibly appreciative to them for their commitment and dedication to seeing the future of MakeMusic continue to thrive. We’ll also be hiring for dozens of new positions from product development to marketing, support and beyond. If you are interested in being part of a great new team, keep an eye on our careers page. It’s no understatement to say that we are completely re-imagining the company, and the future holds tremendous opportunity.

This is also a perfect time for me to introduce the new MakeMusic leadership team:

  • Adam Wig, Manager, Customer Success Team
  • Sonia Bertek, Director of Marketing
  • Michael Johnson, Director of Engineering
  • Mark Adler, Notation Product Manager
  • Fred Flowerday, VP of Product
  • Michael Good, VP of Research & Development
  • Stephen Hancock, VP of Sales

This group of exceptionally talented individuals will oversee the future of MakeMusic. If you will be attending the Midwest Clinic, NAMM or one of the many Music Education Association conferences across the country, I hope you’ll introduce yourself. We are dedicated to establishing trust within the community, and delivering excellence in our products. I am personally committed to SmartMusic and Finale, and focused on making those two products better than ever.


With today’s release of 2014d, I want to reassure everyone that we are fully dedicated to Finale’s future. You’ll note that I’ve appointed two professional musicians, Mark and Fred, to oversee its development. They are both longtime MakeMusic employees, highly respected, and incredibly passionate about enabling improved workflows, speed and quality within Finale. The first order of business will be to shore up and modernize the systems and processes we use for building Finale, which means we are not racing to release another upgrade. Look for us to deliver several more incremental updates over the coming year to improve stability and speed. We’re going to take the time to get it right. Quality is paramount; it leads to trust, and I’m focused on earning it. It will take time, and it will take action, and it will take some patience on everyone’s part.


The 2014 back-to-school season saw growing adoption of SmartMusic across thousands of schools. We have continued to develop exciting new content for SmartMusic and we’re working to add much, much more.  From a product development standpoint, we have a lot of work to do to improve the user experience for both educators and students. We need to improve workflows and make it easier to onboard both the educator and an entire classroom of students. Gradebook usage continues to grow, but it is still underused by the vast majority of teachers. This incredibly useful and powerful resource provides qualitative, objective assessment as well as straightforward tools to deliver and receive assignments. Look for us to make it easier for every student to use SmartMusic, both on their computer and iPad in the coming year.

Overall, I want to see Finale become more integrated with SmartMusic. We need to make it easier to publish content into SmartMusic and help teachers, students and performers discover and use that content. This will be an over-arching goal for MakeMusic going forward.

With all the change going on, it would be easy to be overwhelmed, but we have tremendous enthusiasm and commitment across the company and the future is bright. I’m out to build a world-class company that delivers world-class products. That’s my life’s work, that’s what I care about, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead MakeMusic into the future.

Finale 2014d and News from MakeMusic

Ongoing Finale Development
Today we are pleased to release Finale 2014d, a free update to owners of Finale 2014. It offers more palette options, a means to disable Smart Shape snapping, and many Mac-specific improvements including updated support for Quick Look, Spotlight, and Yosemite.

In addition to providing popular feature requests, 2014d also gives users an option to share anonymous Finale usage data with MakeMusic. This data will be used to better inform the design of future versions of Finale; no personally-identifiable or document-specific information will ever be collected, and you can change your mind about sharing at any time by choosing Help > Help Improve Finale.

Finale 2014 users can update by following the automated prompts upon launching Finale, or manually from within Finale itself. To do so:

  • On Windows, navigate to Help > Check for Update…
  • On Mac, navigate to Finale 2014 > Check for Update…

Full listings of the benefits included in 2014d are found in Read Me files for Mac and Windows.

Technical Support
Effective January 1, 2015, MakeMusic will discontinue support for Finale 2011. This change will allow us to provide a higher level of service to our users by focusing our expertise on the current versions of our products. We encourage Finale 2011 users to continue to find support through our on-line Knowledge Base, Learning Center and through the community offered in our MakeMusic Forums.

Finale and Yosemite
While MakeMusic continues to support Finale 2012, Finale 2012 is not compatible with Yosemite, the latest Apple operating system. If you plan to use Finale 2012 (or earlier versions), we recommend not upgrading to Yosemite. If you do plan to use Yosemite, we recommend upgrading to Finale 2014.

Have any questions? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Finale Spotlight on Isaac Roth Blumfield

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Meet composer Isaac Roth Blumfield. Isaac is a five-time first-place winner of Minnesota Music Educators Association composition awards, an MMEA Composer of the Year, and a three-time Schubert Club Composer Mentorship participant. He’s also a student at Central High School, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Isaac and I spoke recently about his music, inspiration, plans, and Finale use.

Scott Yoho: What was your introduction to composition?

Isaac Roth Blumfield: I first started writing little ideas I had down around third grade. Back then, I just wrote things by hand, but didn’t really imagine sitting down and writing a whole piece. Then, in fourth grade, my band director, Maggie Burton, introduced me and a few other kids to Finale. Suddenly, the idea of writing a real piece of music wasn’t nearly as daunting. After messing around with the program for a few months, I wrote a little piece called “Chamber Sonata” for my school band. I didn’t really know much about music theory at that point, but using MIDI playback, I more or less wrote the piece by ear. Our director did the parts and, to my delight, had the band perform the piece. That experience, of my classmates performing my own music, totally turned me on to how fantastic being a composer could be.

SY: How would you describe your compositional style?

IRB: I’m hesitant to name any specific genre of contemporary classical music to identify with, mostly because I’m still right in the beginning of my compositional life and am still trying on different styles. My biggest influences, though, are probably mid-20th-century American composers, like Copland, Schuman, and Bernstein, and contemporary Americans, some of whom are often dubbed neo-romantics like Corigliano, Rouse, and Kernis, as well as so-called minimalists like Reich, Glass, and the whole Bang-on-a-Can type of sound. A lot of what I focus on in my music is the tone that I’m conveying. I try to use my rhythmic and tonal language in a fresh, almost informal way. I figure, if I’m only 18, my music should have the same young energy that I do!

SY: What is your creative process today? Do you sketch on paper first?

IRB: Generally, I like to think big picture at first, and have a concept and direction for the piece before I begin writing it. It’s good to know whether it will be multi-movement, what the mood will be, what forms I’ll use, etc.

Once it comes to the actual writing, I start sketching in total abstract. I write down little phrases I like, any idea I have, and just collect material and concepts before I start to organize. Recently, I’ve started sketching on paper first. It’s a bit more challenging, because all of the sounds are only in my imagination, but it definitely is helpful in terms of being able to think outside the box. Often I’ve found that there’s some crazy notation thing I want to do that I wouldn’t think of while I’m actually at the computer.

However, once it comes time to engrave the music, Finale is totally able to notate anything easily, which is extremely helpful. I use Finale for all of my engraving, and use Human Playback a lot as well to give me a more precise and accurate of how it will sound.

SY: What do you like about Finale?

IRB: One of the main reasons that I use Finale is simply how beautiful and clear the music looks. It looks very professional and straightforward. I also love how easy it is to use and how flexible it is. Like many contemporary composers, I like to use somewhat unconventional notational practices from time to time, and Finale lets me do that easily. Another great benefit is having wonderful MIDI Human Playback recordings of pieces. While nothing beats working with musicians, Finale does a pretty incredible job of rendering life-like, extremely usable recordings, which is a huge help.

SY: Have a Finale tip to share?

IRB: One of my favorite things to do in Finale is to set the Human Playback channels to instruments other than what I’m writing for in order to hear the piece in a new way. I’ve found this is especially helpful for choral music, or anything where all parts have similar tone qualities, in order to differentiate the parts. It’s a fun way to hear different textures and view your work from a new angle.

SY: I understand you recently completed six weeks studying under Sam Adler, former professor of composition at Juilliard. How did that come about? Can you tell us what it was like?

IRB: I studied with Dr. Adler through the summer composition course at Freie Universität Berlin. I met with Dr. Adler for the first time last October, and he told me about the program. I applied, and I ended up being lucky enough to participate.

It was pretty surreal to have the chance to study with such a legend. I mean, this is a composer who studied with Copland, Hindemith, and Koussevitsky, etc., knew Bernstein, and wrote one of the most ubiquitous music textbooks, “The Study of Orchestration.” Having him look at my work felt like a dream come true.

One of the most inspiring things about Dr. Adler as a teacher was how remarkably invested he was in our works. Whenever I brought in music I’d written, he would go through it carefully, checking every single note and detail to make sure that it was correct. Even in busy, chromatic contrapuntal sections, he still paid amazing attention to harmony and texture. He has an amazing ear and incredible knowledge of all things musical. Most of all, he is really dedicated to making his students the best composers they can be.

Hear Isaac’s “Wo?” written as part of this summer composition course: and see the title page.

SY: What are you working on now?

IRB: I just finished editing and preparing parts for an orchestral piece, “Open City,” which will be premiered by the St. Paul Central Orchestra this December. I’m writing a choral setting of “Before the Summer Rain,” a Rilke poem, for the choir that I sing in, the Central Chamber Singers. I’m also working on a viola sonata for one of my friends from school, and a horn trio that will be premiered by Melange a Trois next April as a part of the Schubert Club Composer Mentorship program.

SY: What plans to you have for the near and distant future?

IRB: I’m currently in the process of applying for college. Wherever I go, I’m planning on being a composition major, and after that, most likely graduate school for composition. I’m trying to leave a lot of options open though. I also sing and play piano, so hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate those somehow into what I do. I also took a conducting class recently and loved that, as well, and I’m a total music theory nerd, too. I’m not totally sure what combination of those I’ll end up doing professionally, so for right now, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about all facets of music, and leave a lot of doors open.

I’d like to thank Isaac for sharing his time with us and I’d like to wish him the best of luck in his application process. I like concluding our interview with his open door metaphor, as think of Finale as an open door that can lead us anywhere.

What are you up to with Finale? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Finale Blog: Keyboard Playback Tips


Sometimes I’m so focused on how my notation looks I utilize playback only for proofing. Other times I’m all about fine-tuning the playback. Today I’d like to share one of my favorite keyboard playback tips I use when I’m in a fine-tuning mood.

To join in the fun, open up the following piece, included with Finale:

File > Open Worksheets & Repertoire…> Worksheets & Repertoire > Repertoire > Classical > Piano Keyboard > Bach Invention 1

In the first measure, add the two dynamics I’ve added in the example above.

Upon playback the right hand begins forte, but drops to piano when the left hand starts playing. If you’d prefer that the two staves respond to dynamics and articulations separately, this is easily accomplished in Finale, and it opens the door to more refined playback possibilities. One way to do this is to assign each staff to a separate MIDI channel.

Here’s how:

  1. From Finale’s Window menu select Score Manager (or use the shortcut Ctrl+K on Windows or COMMAND+K  on Mac).
  2. In the Name column, click the triangle next to [Group 1], which expands to show both staves.
  3. Finally, on [Staff 2] change the playback channel from 1 to 2. To do so select the “1” listed in the Channel column, type “2,” then hit the Enter or Return key. The result should look like this:

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Now when you play the file, the right hand will remain forte when the left hand begins: each staff will respond independently to dynamics. Best of all, this change applies to articulations, hairpins, and pedaling.

If you’d like to see a Finale file that’s already set up with independent piano channels, check this out:

File > Open Worksheets & Repertoire…> Worksheets & Repertoire > Repertoire > Classical > Piano Keyboard > Liszt Consolations no. 3

In this piece you might also notice some “ghost” expressions, which appear on screen, and impact playback, but don’t print. Interested in how to do that? Let me know by clicking on “Comments” below and I’ll share in a subsequent post.

Finale and OS X Yosemite

The new Mac operating system, OS 10.10 (Yosemite) will be here soon. Rumors suggest that it could be available as early as tomorrow.

We have been actively testing our notation programs on the Yosemite beta builds, and are pleased to report that Finale 2014 runs well. We are tracking a few issues, including performance of pinch zoom gestures, but overall things look very promising.

We have, however, come across a potential crash when using Human Playback in older versions of Finale.

Finale 2012, 2011, PrintMusic 2011 and SongWriter 2012 can crash if Human Playback is enabled. In Finale 2012 and SongWriter 2012, this crash can occur when pressing “play” or exporting to an audio file. In Finale 2011 and PrintMusic 2011, we have also seen crashes occur after creating a new file with the Setup Wizard.

Changing HP to “none” can prevent the crash in Finale 2012 and SongWriter 2012, and in Finale 2012 the “Apply Human Playback” plugin can be used as an alternative to HP.

This crash is NOT present in Finale 2014, PrintMusic 2014, or NotePad 2012.

To be clear, options for users of older versions of Finale include:

  • Postpone updating to Yosemite until more information is available, or
  • Turn off Human Playback, or
  • Upgrade to Finale 2014. Learn more here.

Of course, Yosemite is still subject to change until its official release. As additional information becomes available, we’ll share that in future Finale blog posts. If you wish, you can automatically receive all Finale blog posts in your mailbox by clicking on “SUBSCRIBE” near the upper right hand corner of this page.

UPDATE 10/22/14: To be clear, Finale 2012 and earlier are not supported in Yosemite. While results vary, there are known problems. If you’re using Finale 2012 or earlier, I don’t recommend updating to Yosemite at this time. We’ll provide more information on this blog as it becomes available.

Finale Blog: Tim Davies’ Orchestration Screencast

Regular visitors to the Finale Blog are likely aware of Tim Davies, the Los Angeles-based arranger, orchestrator, and Grammy Award-nominated composer who’s also a busy conductor, drummer, and bandleader. His recent film projects include work as conductor and orchestrator on Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” which opened last week, and as the conductor and score arranger on “The Book of Life” (which opens this Friday). Visit the bio page on Tim’s website to see a few more of his many high-profile projects.

I know part of the secret to Tim’s productivity: He’s crazy efficient. He also clearly enjoys leveraging technology to increase this efficiency. Tim not only uses third-party software like QuicKeys to create additional keyboard shortcuts for Finale, but he also uses a separate iPad app to provide instant access, via MIDI, to all of his many QuicKeys scripts.

Tim recently created a screencast, titled “Extreme Australian Orchestrating,” that offers a glimpse of his workflow. In it he orchestrates a cue – from beginning to end – and details many of his productivity tricks, both in and outside of Finale. Be sure to check out the “picture-in-picture” view of his hands, input devices, and tricked-out iPad:

If you’re interested in learning more about Tim’s world, I encourage you to explore deBreved, Tim’s orchestration and arranging blog.

Let us know what you think – or how you’re using Finale – by clicking on “Comments” below.

Finale Blog: Halloween Pumpkin Fun Again

In anticipation of Halloween, we’re reposting this fun piece that Mark Adler created with Finale last year.

This traditional Halloween song can be sung as a round. Feel free to download the file and play it back in Finale. Mark suggests: “For added fun in the classroom, delete the eyes and mouth before printing and let your students create their own pumpkin faces.”

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Are you curious about how this piece was made? Mark explains:

“People often ask how I create files like this, assuming that I have imported graphics into the Finale file. This file contains no imported graphics or customized fonts; it was created entirely in Finale. To start, I create a playback staff and entered the round that the file would play back. I chose G minor because it places most of the notes within the staff. While having notes with ledger lines is really not a problem, it does add to the time it takes to tweak the finished file. Next, I hid all of the notes and staff lines in the playback staff.

“I then created the pumpkin shaped staff lines using the shape designer. The eyes were entered as expressions made with triangle noteheads from the Broadway Copyist font. I considered using a mordant for the mouth, but was not too happy with the expression it produced, so I created a more friendly mouth using the shape designer. The pumpkin stem is actually an eighth note flag from the Jazz font. Most everything else on the page, all of the notes and lyrics, was entered as a custom Smart Shape. By using a Smart Shape, I was easily able to rotate each element to match the contour of the pumpkin.”

We hope this pumpkin puts a smile – spooky or otherwise – on your faces, too.

Happy Halloween!

Quick Finale Tips From Jon Senge – Align/Move Dynamics

If you have ever wrestled with aligning your dynamics and hairpins under a staff, this Finale tip is for you.

TG Tools is a collection of Finale productivity plug-ins created by Tobias Giesen. A subest of this collection is provided for free with Finale, and includes one of my favorites: Align/Move Dynamics. This plug-in can horizontally align hairpin markings and dynamics, and move them together – up and down – as desired.

Situations like the following are no sweat with Align/Move. Just use the Selection tool to choose which area to align and run the plug-in. In most cases involving normal expressions, you’ll see perfectly aligned dynamics and hairpins.

Align move dynamics

Here are some Align/Move details. I hope you try it out on your next score.

Jon Senge engraves music for several notable publishers and loves talking notation. Tweet him at @jonsenge.