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Alexandre Desplat on his Imitation Game Score



Are you done thinking about the Academy Awards until next year?

I thought I was until a coworker shared this fantastic podcast, from Song Exploder, featuring Alexandre Desplat. In it the composer describes the orchestration of the main theme from his Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated “The Imitation Game” score, both in terms of orchestration as well as the emotional responses he sought to invoke.

Check out Episode #29 here.

I often find inspiration from hearing music creators describe their work; perhaps you do as well. Song Exploder is described as “a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.”  This is clearly an intriguing project worth checking out.

I hope you enjoy it.

Finale and the 2015 Academy Awards



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While I’m not as passionate about watching professional sports on TV as some of my friends, I always enjoy a good contest. Sometimes I wonder, however, about the investment we make in our state team, when few members of that team or its management are from our state.

That said, I don’t have any problem feeling a personal connection whenever I see the names of Finale users appear in the credits at the movie theater, and I always root for their films to win at the Academy Awards. Next Sunday I’ll have many opportunities to cheer.

While my research methods are not comprehensive, here are some of the films, nominated for multiple awards, in which Finale was used:  The Grand Budapest Hotel (9 nominations), The Imitation Game (8), American Sniper (6), Interstellar (5), Into the Woods (4), and Unbroken (3).  (To tell the truth, I’m a big Wes Anderson fan, and would cheer for The Grand Budapest Hotel even if Alexandre Desplat’s fine score had been prepared on grocery bags with a purple crayon.)

Other nominated films in which Finale played a role include: Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Nightcrawler, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Gone Girl and The Lego Movie.

Do you enjoy prognosticating the Academy’s picks? I’ll give a free Finale T-shirt to whoever does the best job of predicting the winners of the following eight categories: Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Animated Feature Film, Music: Original Score and Music: Original Song.

To play, submit your list of winners as a comment to this post before midnight (Mountain Time) on 2/21/2015 (limit one entry per person, please). Good luck!

Photo Credit: Juan Camilo Bernal / Shutterstock.com

Robert Piéchaud and November 2.0



Robert crop 625Photo by Alejandro Guerrero

Parisian Robert Piéchaud really is a Renaissance man. Among his many and varied interests he’s a composer, a performer, and a veteran Finale software engineer, having created Human Playback, FinaleScript, Score Merger, the Medieval plug-in, and more. Clearly a proper interview on the Finale Blog is long overdue.

Recently Robert has returned his attention to music font design and today has released a greatly improved and expanded version of his beautiful font, November 2.0. So for today, we’ll limit our conversation to font matters.

Scott Yoho: Can you give us some background on the origin of the November music font?

Robert Piéchaud: November goes back to November 1998. I had decided to go to London for a couple of months to work with an engraver named Paul Ewers. In addition to engraving, I discovered something that piqued my interest even more: music font design. So I switched from engraving to font work – Paul was fine with that – and began reading scores and scanning them so that I could magnify the glyphs and examine them, enlarge them and print them out at as many as fifty times their size. I played with glyphs all day long!

At first I would scan existing characters and transform them into vectors – mathematical curves – which all digital fonts are. Fonts used to be made of pixels, or bitmaps, but then when the computers got more powerful you were able to define a glyph from points and the perfect curves that pass through them. And those curves are what make up a font. Once you free yourselves from the pixels you can go quite far with the curves. You can get really deep into the glyph; it’s fascinating. Then, little by little, manipulating curves on my own, I started designing a font: November!

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SY: Did you perceive a need for new music fonts at the time?

RP: I guess you could say I just wasn’t satisfied with the other fonts I was seeing. There was little else on the market besides the standard default fonts. I felt the looks of these fonts weren’t enough alive. They were colder than what I personally wanted as a musician. I imagined a font you could say was human. Something that had really been engraved, etched with a stylus, like engravers used to do before we had computer notation. I wanted to be able to “feel” the ink.

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And so I tried to reproduce the microscopic irregularities that scores had back then. My great source of inspiration was Universal Edition Wien around the turn of the 20th century, when they started to publish the Vienna School composers. The style is also present in Boosey & Hawkes scores from that time, maybe a little later. I find a great elegance in those scores; they make you want to play the music. And that’s what a font is about – giving the musician the desire to make music. It works much in same way as books: a book that is beautifully made, well-bound, printed on good paper – that’s a book you want to pick up and read!

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SY: It’s certainly a beautiful font. What inspired the new version you’re releasing today?

RP: There were so many new characters to be added! November 2.0 has over 1000 symbols compared to the initial 330. And the thing is, font standards have changed since 1998; we used to need to have different versions for Mac and Windows, and there were different formats. Also, music fonts were limited to just a bit more than 200 characters… and it was all kind of messy. Now all fonts can be distributed via OpenType Format (OTF) and Unicode. And the other thing is that I’m now in touch with the SMuFL group.

SY: We should probably provide some background on SMuFL.

RP: Yes indeed! SMuFL stands for Standard Music Font Layout. It’s the future of music font design! It’s basically a subset of Unicode for music characters, a new attempt to define what the ideal music character set ought to be.

SY: And SMuFL greatly expands the number of characters previously available in a music font?

RP: Yes. SMuFL has the potential to offer access to thousands and thousands of different characters. The project started in 2013 and has reached its maturity now, thanks to the work of Daniel Spreadbury and many others, world-wide, who have been working hard on it. The goal is to cover the widest variety of music possible, assigning individual spaces in Unicode to each character. All of the characters you might need for music from medieval times to the avant-garde, and everything in between: it’s all there, or just about.

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SY: How many spaces might this represent when it’s all finished?

RP: The core of SMuFL is 2,400 or so. And then there’s space for alternates, different styles and shapes, and even new characters. For a font to be SMuFL compliant, though, you don’t need to include all 2,400, although the more the better. It just depends on the kind of music your font represents. For today’s music font designers, SMuFL is a great source of inspiration, but it’s also very challenging to reach the optimal compliancy. November, for example, has a wide range from the early Renaissance to today’s music with over 1000 characters, which is really a lot; some are included in SMuFL, some are unique to November, and some like advanced chant notation are less present in the font because they are covered specifically in another project of mine, Medieval 2.0. And beyond the character map, SMuFL also specifies some important “metadata”, such as the stem-notehead attachment point and so on. Overall November 2.0 fully complies with SMuFL, and is actually the first commercial font to do so!

SY: Can you describe how November can be used with Finale?

RP: November 2.0 is a package that includes the font files, component files (with libraries and templates), and documentation. It’s compatible with Finale, and now also with Sibelius and LilyPond. It is true that Finale is the easiest way to use the font because Finale has been very advanced in terms of Unicode since version 2012. With Finale 2014, compatibility is even better. Also the legacy set of characters (from spaces 32 to 255) is shared between the fonts – that’s the unique hybrid structure of November 2.0. And the package even supports legacy versions of Finale, as old as Finale 2001! In one word it’s really straighforward in Finale to switch from the standard Maestro or Petrucci font to November 2.0.

If you’re interested in learning more about November 2.0, you can download an extensive PDF presentation or purchase it here.

I’d like to thank Robert for sharing his perspective and images of November 2.0, and have invited him back for a proper interview about his music and his long relationship with Finale.

MusicXML at NAMM 2015



If you collaborate with musicians who use programs other than Finale, you have probably used MusicXML to share files back and forth. MusicXML is the industry-standard exchange format for digital sheet music, used by over 180 applications. MusicXML is also the best way to share Finale 2014 files with people using Finale 2011 or other earlier versions that aren’t supported by Finale 2014’s new file format.

There was quite a lot of MusicXML news at last month’s NAMM show. First, MOTU demonstrated MusicXML export working in their preview of Digital Performer 9. This was popular with the film composers and orchestrators in the audience. Digital Performer is one of the few major music programs that had not yet added MusicXML support. It is great to see that DP9 will join other DAWs like Logic, Cubase, and SONAR in making it easier to move music into Finale with much greater accuracy.

With MusicXML’s success in music notation exchange, people in the industry are wondering what else we can do with the format. How can MusicXML best help the music industry make the transition from printed to digital sheet music? What type of organizational structure is best suited to future stages of MusicXML development? Should it stay owned by MakeMusic, move to a consortium like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), or to an international standards body like the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)?

These topics were discussed on the last day of NAMM at a session hosted by the MIDI Manufacturers Association on “An Introduction to eScore Standardization Efforts in W3C and IEC.” I presented on the efforts at the W3C, and Mr. Taro Tokuhiro from Yamaha presented on the efforts at the W3C. Our presentations are now available online:

MusicXML remains crucial to MakeMusic’s products and services. It is a key feature of our Finale notation product line, and is essential to expanding the repertoire available for musicians to practice in our SmartMusic software. MusicXML support continues to improve in Finale 2014 and our Dolet 6 plug-ins for Finale and Sibelius.

If you are interested in MusicXML and can attend the Musikmesse show in Frankfurt, we plan to have another of our annual MusicXML community meetings there this year. If all goes well it will be on Friday afternoon, April 17. We will publish more information on the MusicXML blog and MusicXML forum as the details are finalized.

Finale Spotlight on Composer Quest Host Charlie McCarron



Charlie crop 625Photo by Mathieu Lindquist

Composer Quest is a songwriting and music composition podcast created by freelance composer Charlie McCarron. Past episodes have featured Grammy-winning songwriters, music psychologists, rappers, video game composers, and even a polka expert.

When I learned of the Composer Quest, I thought it would be a cool resource to share with others on the Finale Blog, and was delighted when Charlie agreed to answer my questions about the podcast and his Finale use.

Scott Yoho: What did you set out to do in the creation of Composer Quest?

Charlie McCarron: I’ve been an avid podcast listener for years, and I wasn’t really satisfied with the composing podcasts out there at the time. Although I’m not a “radio personality” by nature, I figured I’d give podcasting a shot. One of my main goals with the show is to edit in as many music examples as possible, so listeners can hear exactly what techniques my composer guests are talking about.

Another goal with Composer Quest is to inspire listeners to practice their composing. So about every two months, I challenge them to complete composing “quests” based on a theme. For each quest, I ask an ensemble to put on a performance of the submissions from my listeners.

SY: What are some of the quests you’ve done?

CM: Some of my favorites include: writing a song based on a fortune cookie, creating a children’s Christmas musical (called “Elfluenza”), and co-composing with a randomized partner from across the globe. The most exciting quest was our MNKINO Film Score Fest last summer. We paired up filmmakers and composers to create new short films and original scores. Then an 18-musician ensemble performed the soundtracks live at our screening. We’ll be doing it again this summer, so if you’d like to be notified as soon as sign-ups are posted, please join my mailing list.

SY: Can you share a best experience story from the creation of the podcast?

CM: It’s always fun hearing from listeners who’ve randomly stumbled across Composer Quest. My favorite fan interaction has to be when a composer in Taiwan submitted his beautiful song for our fortune cookie quest. It turns out he had to go on an epic quest to find a fortune cookie in Taiwan (not as easy as you’d think), and he created a hilarious video documenting his adventure.

SY: Can you point us to some of your favorite podcast episodes?

CM: I recently chose some podcast awards for my favorite Composer Quest episodes. Among my favorites are an interview with musical-illusion-discoverer Diana Deutsch, drumming-robot-builder Patrick Flanagan, synesthetic composer Mary Beth Huttlin, and Nintendo 64 composer Grant Kirkhope (Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie).

SY: What was your introduction to Finale?

CM: I started working with Finale in junior high orchestra, thanks to my tech-savvy director, Ms. Deger. I composed a detective-style violin duet, which I’m sure is still as amazing as I thought it was at the time.

SY: What do you like about Finale?

CH: I appreciate that Finale caters to composers who sometimes need to go beyond basic notation. It might take a little researching, but there’s a way to do everything you need to in Finale.

SY: Can you share a Finale tip?

CM: I’ve recently realized the power of the copy/paste filter (“Edit Filter” and “Use Filter” in the Edit menu). It’s especially useful if you need to copy slurs, articulations, dynamics, or lyrics to other very similar parts.

I’d like to thank Charlie for providing this great resource, and for taking the time to talk about it with us. Charlie even kindly encourages fellow Finale users to tweet him @CharlieMcCarron.

Finale 2014 Wins Music and Sound Retailer Award



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The Music and Sound Retailer is a magazine that reports on the musical instrument industry. Every fall, in anticipation of NAMM, they poll their readers – owners and operators of music instrument stores across the county – regarding the best products of the year.

Yesterday Finale 2014 was recognized as Music and Sound Retailer’s 2014 Best Book/Video/Software.

Pictured with the award above is, left to right, MakeMusic CEO Gear Fisher, Antonio Ferranti, vice president of sales at Alfred Music (distributor of MakeMusic products), and Fred Flowerday, vice president of product at MakeMusic.

“This award is particularly gratifying as it is comes from music products retailers in direct contact with consumers,” said Fred Flowerday. “They are keenly aware of both what defines a successful product and what delights thier customers.”

MakeMusic and NAMM 2015



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Do you know the feeling of putting everything you’ve got into preparations for a recital or concert? That’s what the NAMM Show is to folks who make musical instruments, software, and accessories. Each January around 100,000 people from around the world wind up in a convention center in Anaheim, California to be the first to see the latest products and services created for musicians.

This year the show runs January 22- 25, and we’ll be there sharing the latest MakeMusic news.

If you plan to attend, please stop by and say hello at the MakeMusic booth, #6210. If you’re not attending, we’ll share some highlights with you via Facebook and Twitter.

Have a guitar manufacturer you’d like me to check out? Let me know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Turning Finale Files into PDFs



Have you ever needed to turn several Finale files into PDFs?

You could open each file and choose File > Export > PDF, but if you have a lot of files, that can become laborious. A PDF printer can help.

You can install a PDF printer to print to PDF from any application in Mac or Windows. The PDF printer will add a new virtual printer to your list of installed printers. When you print any document to the PDF printer, it will create a new PDF file on your computer instead of printing it to a piece of paper in a physical machine.

The key benefit of a PDF printer is that you can use it with the batch printing script in FinaleScript to process multiple files. Most PDF printers have settings that allow you to determine where the files will be saved, and just like a regular printer, you can change the page size settings in the printer to match the Finale file page size.

While there are many to choose from, here’s a few I’ve had success with:

OSX:
– pdfwriter http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfwriterformac/

Windows:
– CutePDF http://www.cutepdf.com/products/cutepdf/writer.asp
– PrimoPDF http://www.primopdf.com/

Interested in exploring FinaleScript as a means to convert multiple files to PDF? First select your PDF printer and specify your destination folder (before running FinaleScript), then:

  • Within Finale, go to Plug-ins > FinaleScript > FinaleScript Palette
  • Expand the Batch Process folder
  • Double-click on Batch Printing
  • Click Run Script and follow the prompts about specifying the Batch Process Folder
  • When prompted, specify desired names for each file, or simply click Save to retain the same name.

I hope that points you in the right direction and saves you time. If you have any questions, please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Combining Measure Numbers and Rehearsal Marks



A fellow Finale user asked on Twitter if there was an automatic way to create measure numbers that reflect the most recent rehearsal number. If I understood the question correctly, he was looking for the measures in the piece’s A section to be numbered A1, A2, A3… and the measures in the B section to be numbered B1, B2, B3.

For me, the quickest way to accomplish this is to create an expression that numbers A1, A2, A3… and apply this expression to the measures in A section, and then create a second expression for the B section and so on.

To try this, choose the Expression tool and double-click on the first measure in the A section. In the dialog box that appears, choose Rehearsal Marks and the click on the sequenced number expression I’ve highlighted below. To edit this expression to look the way you’d like, click Edit.

R1dIn the dialog below I’ve simply typed an A in front of the existing number sequence. Note, too, that I’ve also left Hide Measure Numbers checked. At this point click OK and manually assign this expression to every measure in section A.

R2For section B, I’d duplicate this expression, then simply edit the A to B, and assign the new expression to measures in section B, and so on. Here’s an example of what the resulting score might look like:

R3

If I were creating many files like this I might make these changes in a template, or save them as an Expression Library to be loaded into other files. One additional trick I often employ is to create a new category name, such as “Special Rehearsal Numbers”, to make them easy to find.

If this isn’t the result you’re looking for, or if you have any additional questions about measure numbers and rehearsal marks, please let me know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Making the Finale Christmas Tree



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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!