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Jocelyn Hagen’s Finale Tip for Piano Writing


Jocelyn Haugen - Finale Piano Writing tip

Jocelyn Hagen

This week composer Jocelyn Hagen shares a tip with the Finale Blog. Here’s Jocelyn Hagen’s Finale tip for cross staff beaming:

“I’ve been using Finale for over 15 years and I still don’t think I have everything figured out with the program! But I have mastered many skills that help me engrave my music fast and beautifully.

Because I am a pianist, many of my piano parts are quite detailed and virtuosic. Pondering how to make the score look the simplest and easy to sightread takes up much of my time. I tend to compose lots of arpeggiated chords in which there is a seamless switch between the left and right hands. Using cross-staff beaming is the most effective method to notate this kind of technique. Here are a few examples of cross-staff beaming from my scores:

 

Too See the Sky Jocelyn Hagen

Too See the Sky excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)  Order the full score at jocelynhagen.com/order

Mood Goddess excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)

Mood Goddess excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)      Order the full score at jocelynhagen.com/order

 

With this kind of notation, the pianist does not have to contemplate which hand to play which note, or have to negotiate unnecessary rests. It’s clean & simple ~ just what pianists like!

The first couple times I did this in Finale, I always had to refresh myself on the notation technique, because I could never remember. Years ago the steps to achieve cross-staff  beaming were lengthy, yet, I had it down to a science. You can probably relate if you’ve been using Finale for as long as I have.

Today’s Finale makes it easy. First introduced in Finale 2011… here is the keyboard shortcut for creating cross-staff beaming:

1. Choose the Selection Tool then click + drag to select the notes you wish to move.

2. Press Alt+up/down arrow on Windows or Option+up/down arrow on Mac.

Hope this helps! I use this trick all the time, and I encourage you to use this technique when composing piano parts. It’s a very natural way to play, and very effective.”

Thanks again to Jocelyn Hagen for providing her Finale piano writing tip. To find out more information about Jocelyn’s recent projects and performances, visit http://www.jocelynhagen.com/

Listen to Jocelyn’s MASHUP of Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” and Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Children’s Corner. Available now on iTunes.

Have a Finale question for Jocelyn? Leave a comment below!

Finale 2014: Looking Back, Looking Forward


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Michael Good, third from right, in West Bay Opera’s L’elisir d’amore. Photo: Otak Jump

Since I’m new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Michael Good, and I invented the MusicXML format for sharing digital sheet music. I joined MakeMusic in November 2011 as director of digital sheet music when MakeMusic acquired the assets of my previous company, Recordare. My first project was to design and develop MakeMusic’s new notation file format. Shortly after MakeMusic went private, I was promoted to vice president of research and development, where my responsibilities now include Finale product strategy. Musically, I sing tenor in opera and symphony choruses. I sang on the San Francisco Symphony’s SACD recording of Beethoven’s 9th conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Above is a photo of me in the chorus of West Bay Opera’s 2014 production of L’elisir d’amore. You can find more about me on my blog and on Twitter.

Last week’s SmartMusic update, supporting MakeMusic’s new notation file format, marks a major point of closure in my work over the past 3 years. In May 2011, Beth Sorensen, MakeMusic’s vice president of products, and I had dinner at Madhuban Indian Cuisine in Sunnyvale, California. Recordare had been contracting with MakeMusic for 9 years to supply Finale’s MusicXML import and export software. Based on that experience, Beth asked if Recordare would be interested in contracting on a new forwards and backwards compatible file format for Finale, SmartMusic, and any new notation apps that MakeMusic might create in the future. I asked if MakeMusic would be interested in acquiring Recordare, and the rest is history.

Finale 2014 introduced this new file format to our customers for the first time. Until the next version of Finale comes out, people won’t enjoy the full benefits of including both forwards and backwards compatibility within the file format. However, we used the same technology to allow export of Finale 2014 files to Finale 2012 format, fulfilling one of our most frequent and long-standing customer requests.

Finale 2014 also exports custom SmartMusic accompaniments in this new notation file format. This meant that we once again had the problem that the latest version of Finale created accompaniments that SmartMusic customers could not use until the SmartMusic application was updated to support the new Finale file format. This year, customers were at least able to export Finale 2014 files to Finale 2012, which could then create custom SmartMusic accompaniments in the old format. Now that SmartMusic for iPad, Mac, and Windows all support the new file format, we won’t have this problem in the future. Accompaniments created in a newer version of Finale will be able to be opened in an older version of SmartMusic.

The new notation file format has additional benefits beyond compatibility between versions. The format adds flexibility for supporting new features for Finale, SmartMusic, and possible future applications. We hope to roll out some of the new features enabled by the new file format in our next major release of Finale.

The new file format was only one part of the tremendous amount of software modernization that took place in Finale 2014. Another huge effort was making the transition on Mac OS X from the old Carbon technology to the current Cocoa technology. This transition provides a more modern appearance for Finale on Mac, and allows full support for native Mac features like full screen mode and pinch to zoom. We also changed Finale’s audio engine to provide better performance and a stronger technical foundation for the future. We added better integration of Human Playback into Finale with a centralized preference control.

Along with all these technology improvements, we also focused on new features that offer better productivity. Keyless scores allow for much faster creation of music without key signatures, with features designed for specific situations like atonal scores, tonal scores, or instruments that traditionally show without key signatures like horns and timpani. Linked Parts now allow many more adjustments between score and parts, particularly in the formatting-specific details of Finale’s special tools. Beat-attached Smart Shapes add more musical intelligence to hairpins, trills, and other shapes.

For the future, MakeMusic looks to extend Finale’s role as the most powerful tool for creating high-quality music notation, extending our capabilities for “music notation perfection.” The sheet music world is in the midst of a major transition from creating music for print to creating music for both print and digital applications. MakeMusic’s experience with both the MusicXML format and creating repertoire for SmartMusic gives us unparalleled insights into the issues behind this transition. In particular, our improvements for keyless scores and Linked Parts are models for where we see many of our future improvements coming. We also plan to continue our work in technology modernization.

We also look to maintain Finale’s preeminent position in standards support, including our industry leadership support for the MusicXML format – both the format itself, and its import into and export from Finale. Many digital sheet music app developers tell us that MakeMusic’s free Dolet for Sibelius plug-in exports MusicXML files better than Sibelius’s own built-in MusicXML export. Finale was also the first music notation program to export files in the standard EPUB format for electronic books. We have also been actively involved in the development of the Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL) standard for music notation fonts.

The past two years have been a tumultuous time in the music notation software industry. MakeMusic’s move from public to private ownership has only enhanced our focus on music notation and literate musicians, both in music creation and music education. When our ad campaign invites you to Own The Future by using Finale, we really mean it.

Finale and SmartMusic in Sync



Yesterday a SmartMusic update was released that includes full support for accompaniments made with Finale 2014. Finale and SmartMusic are again in sync, so users of Finale 2014 can now save SmartMusic files directly.

This SmartMusic release is much more than good news for those using Finale 2014c who wish to make SmartMusic accompaniments. It’s good news for anyone creating SmartMusic accompaniments.

Why?

Finale 2014’s new file format makes Finale 2014 forwards and backwards compatible. The next version of Finale, and the version after that, will use the same file format. Not only does this mean that Finale 2014 and subsequent versions will be able to effortlessly exchange files back and forth, it also means that the current (and subsequent) version(s) of SmartMusic can already read whatever files you’ll create in future versions of Finale.

In short, we’ve eliminated the interdependency of each version of Finale and SmartMusic, so you will always be able to save SmartMusic accompaniments in the current version of Finale, and open them in the current version of SmartMusic, even the very day new versions of either program are released.

Are you creating SmartMusic accompaniments for the 2014-2015 school year? Please let us know how it’s going for you, or ask any questions, by clicking on “Comments” below.

Now Available: Finale 2014c



Finale 2014c is a free update now available to registered Finale 2014 owners.

Finale 2014c addresses the following issues for both Windows and Mac users:

  • MIDI key velocity information is now played back in all layers.
  • Stop and start values are now interpreted correctly by Human Playback.

…it also addresses this Windows-specific issue:

  • Crashing behavior introduced in Finale 2014b on some Windows computers has been resolved.

…and these two Mac issues:

  • The audio sample rate is now retained in the Finale preferences.
  • Documents no longer print off-center when selecting crop marks or registration marks.

While all the improvements found in 2014c are listed above, they can also be viewed in the associated read me files available for both Mac and Windows.

Finale 2014, 2014a, and 2014b users can update by following 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…

Please let us know how Finale 2014c is working for you by clicking on “Comments” below.

Finale Spotlight on Brian Balmages



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Brian Balmages is an American composer, conductor, producer, and performer whose music for winds, brass, and orchestra is played around the world. His schedule of commissions and premieres includes groups ranging from elementary schools to professional ensembles. Check out Brian’s website to get a sense of the breadth of groups who have performed his music and have invited him to guest conduct. Brian has also served as an adjunct professor of instrumental conducting and acting symphonic band director at Towson University in Maryland, and is currently the director of instrumental publications for The FJH Music Company.

In our offices Brian is best known for his 75 compositions for band and orchestra found in SmartMusic, which are extremely popular with students and directors alike. Brian was kind enough to speak with me recently while simultaneously making final preparations to leave for Hawaii.

Scott Yoho: You have a unique gift to write music for student ensembles that sounds right – as if great music was the primary goal, and this great music just happens to be within the grasp of a younger ensemble. How does writing for a student ensemble compare with writing for professional groups, and how to you approach each?

Brian Balmages: People are often surprised by my answer to this question. My approach never changes, regardless of whether it is a student group, professional group, chamber group or large ensemble. One of my main issues concerns the words “restrictions” and “limitations.” We often use these words to characterize younger performing groups. However, when we discuss professional brass quintets, string quartets, etc., we never use these words. If you really think about it, a brass quintet has a TON of limitations and restrictions. They are all brass instruments so your timbres are limited. You only have 5 notes to work with, and on top of that, players need to rest at times so you wind up with 1-4 notes at a time. There are range restrictions. Often no percussion section. I could go on and on. Yet people never think these groups have restrictions – they simply perform literature within their medium, and do it at a high level.

Therefore, using this as a basis, I think it is fair to say that a beginning band or orchestra can be treated much the same. There are no limitations or restrictions. A composer just needs to write within the context of the group. A beginning group should be able to perform any literature “within their medium.” When I conceive a piece for younger players, I start small and work larger. This helps make a piece sound more complex than it may actually be. The danger is starting big and then placing “restrictions” on melodies, etc. That is when a piece can wind up sounding watered down.

When I write for professional groups, I still tend to start small and work larger. It helps to come up with a few ideas and let them germinate and develop. Some of my best works for professional groups are based on a small collection of themes and ideas that are developed throughout. This is a great way to have a sense of cohesion in a work. I believe Steve Bryant uses the term “economy of materials” or something similar. I like that idea – taking a single motif and seeing how much you can do with it while still compelling the performer and audience.

SY: I’m curious about your compositional process. Do you sketch things out or do an outline of a piece first? At what point do you work in Finale versus pencil and paper?

BB: I used to try and approach every piece the same way. Then I started running into roadblocks. Finally I realized that every piece is different, so it is okay if the approach for each piece is different as well. There are several ways I typically approach a piece. On those rare (and wonderful) occasions where the muse is sitting on my shoulder, I’m able to go straight to Finale right away and begin writing. Sometimes I sketch within Finale – writing melodies as I hear them in different instruments, rhythms, harmonies, etc. Then I go back and orchestrate. Other times the orchestration is so crucial to my ideas that I orchestrate as I compose. Again, this doesn’t always happen, but I welcome it when the ideas are flowing so freely.

There have also been quite a few pieces that simply would not work in Finale at first. In those cases, I go to paper and pencil. I find this process to be very intimate and organic. It is always nice to be able to get away from a computer for a while and just sit with pencil and paper outside and sketch ideas. When I do this, I typically write down as much as necessary to remember my thought process. It can sometimes be just a melody, or a melody with chord symbols. Other times, it may be up to 6 staves of music (a melody, counter melody, specific chord structures, percussion rhythms, etc.). Basically, I write things down much as someone would use notecards. In certain cases, you have to write bullet points for everything you want to talk about – however, at other points, you can just jot yourself a quick note and know exactly which direction you are going.

When sketching by hand, I often sketch an entire piece before going to Finale. In fact, I often know exactly how many measures a piece will be when I sketch by hand. I enjoy this process because it allows me to separate composition and orchestration. Since orchestration is such a big part of what I do, it’s nice to have the composition aspect put aside so I can focus purely on orchestration. These sketches also help me get a good overall picture of the form and arch of the work before I begin orchestrating.

SY: What did you use before Finale, and what was your first introduction to Finale?

BB: I have always used Finale. My father was an elementary music teacher and he bought the 2nd or 3rd version of Finale (I still remember us installing it off of floppy disks!). He would use it for school projects, but we also used it to input piano parts for trumpet sonatas. I was a very serious trumpet player at the time and my father would add piano parts from trumpet sonatas into Finale so I could play along with them at home. At one point, we had an entire library of tunes that he programmed. We had a nice Roland digital piano, so the playback sounded pretty decent!

I personally did not begin using Finale much until high school, and not seriously until college. Prior to that, I was more involved with sequencing and trumpet performance. Once in college, I started writing for ensembles that I was playing in, and things kept progressing from there.

SY: What do you like about Finale?

BB: There are so many things. For me personally, I like how it allows me to customize a lot. I like my music to have its own look, so it is nice to be able to customize fonts, articulation placement, beaming rules, etc. Also, I finally started to use the built-in Garritan sounds. (Up until 2012 or so, I was using the same little midi module to check for wrong notes, but it did not serve much greater a purpose than that.) As I find myself traveling a lot more, it has been handy to have the Garritan sounds on my home computer and laptop. The footprint for these sounds is small enough that I can fit them on a regular laptop without having to do a ton of expansion. And for the first time ever, I can hear my music on the road exactly the same as I can at home. For some people, this is normal. For me, it took over 12 years before I finally discovered this!

SY: Have any Finale tips to share?

BB: I like to program certain shortcuts and keep them consistent across all of my projects. Being able to just hit a key to go between the articulation tool and the expression tool for example – you lose a ton of time if you add up each time you move your mouse to the selection palette and back. Also, I like to use both an Apple Magic Trackpad and a Kensington Slimblade Trackball. The trackball lets me fly all over the screen without having to move my hand much, and I’m able to program things like double-clicks and screen redraws right on the mouse. The magic trackpad is great to navigate through the score, so the combination of the two is ideal for me.

SY: Have any advice for composers in general or specifically for those interested in composing for student ensembles?

BB: For young composers, I always suggest that they listen to a lot of music and look at a ton of scores. If a piece fascinates you (whether it is something you are playing in school or something you heard in a concert), get a recording and a score. I always like to listen with a score in hand and circle places in the score that really catch my ear. When I’m finished listening, I’ll go back and look specifically at the places I circled. What made them so special? Was it a harmonic device, orchestration, special effect, or something with the form? Once I’ve figured it out, I add it to my “bag of tricks” so I can use it in my own music if the need arises.

Another comment deals with a lot of residencies I have done at schools throughout the country. It may seem silly, but I encourage composers to view as much of the score on screen as they can. Often, I can tell when a composer is orchestrating directly in Finale (on a smaller screen) because I always see block scoring. All the woodwinds playing together. Then all the brass. Then the percussion. Then back to the brass, etc. Very often, young composers only orchestrate what they can see on the screen. So I encourage composers to either work on larger screens, or take time to look at the bigger picture and make sure they are being creative with their orchestration.

SY: What projects (compositionally AND otherwise) are you working on now?

BB: Right now I am finishing up a band piece for a school in Canada that will be having its grand opening this fall. I also leave for Hawaii later this week to rehearse a group for a premiere that will occur later this summer. The premise of the piece is one of the coolest things I have ever done – so much so that I can’t even get into much detail until after the premiere in July. Other projects include putting the final touches on a string method that I am writing with some incredible co-authors. I feel I have learned a ton from this project, and my writing for strings is only going to improve as a result. Very exciting!

I’d like to thank Brian for taking the time to share his insights with us. Please share your insights too, by clicking on “Comments” below.

Video: Enhance Finale Playback



Using Finale’s built-in Garritan sounds and Human Playback, you can enjoy very good playback results simply by entering your notation and pressing play. But we’re musicians: we refine, we tweak, we perfect. It’s what we do.

In this video, MakeMusic product specialist Erin Vork offers some tips on how you can take Finale playback to the next level:

If you’d like to experiment with Erin’s files within Finale, feel free to download her before and after examples.

Earlier this year we asked you to let us know what you’d like to see in future blog posts. In response, Nathan asked that we show how to make “the most of the Garritan sounds that come with Finale.” We hope this video was exactly what Nathan was looking for.

Did you enjoy the tips shared in this video? Do you have alternate suggestions to enhance Finale playback you’d like to share? What would you like to see in future blog posts and/or videos? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Summer Finale Workshops


Bill Purse

Bill Purse, Chair of Music Tech at Duquesne U. and author of Finale 2014 Primer (coming soon from Alfred Music).

Interested in developing your Finale skills by attending a workshop? This summer you have several to choose from.

Finale Workshops for Music Educators

Whether you’re new to Finale or have been using it for years, these MakeMusic sponsored workshops will help you expand your teaching and inspire your students. We offer two different levels, so you can choose which best fits your experience, or attend both! You’ll leave these workshops with all the information you need to take your music program to the next level with Finale. A Certification of Participation will be given to all attendees at the completion of each session.

Computer Notation with Finale 2014

Duquesne University’s Summer Music Technology Workshop, “Computer Music Notation with Finale 2014,” will provide each participant with a solid overview of Finale 2014. Nationally renowned chair of Music Technology Professor Bill Purse will provide a direct path from Finale fundamentals to power user techniques in an exciting weekend of study. Enjoy hands-on experience with Finale 2014 and music workstations at Duquesne University’s Digital Music Technology Lab. This workshop can be taken as non-credit or for 1 graduate credit.

Building Successful Finale “Chops”

MakeMusic Finale clinician Mavis Kallestad offers two levels of workshops. In Level 1 you’ll learn Finale notation basics to create and share your own printed music, arrangements and classroom materials. In Level 2 you’ll get up-to-date on the latest 2014 features, shortcuts and metatools to save you time, increase your productivity and enhance your teaching. Optional graduate credit available.

Level 1

Level 2

Now Available: Finale 2014b



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Finale 2014b is a free update now available to registered Finale 2014 owners.

Mac highlights include:

  • Many audio-related crashes have been fixed and USB mono input devices no longer cause errors.
  • Bank volume settings are retained and all Garritan Instruments for Finale instruments respond to Mixer volume controls.
  • Unicode characters no longer cause file name problems and error messages are more descriptive.
  • Several view/display issues and application switching problems have been addressed.

Windows highlights include:

  • Audio Engine errors no longer appear with some ASIO audio devices and USB mono input devices no longer cause errors.
  • Unicode characters no longer cause file name problems, backup and auto-save files are included in Open dialogs, and error messages are more descriptive.

Highlights for both Mac and Windows users include:

  • Human Playback correctly interprets glissandi, fp markings, and articulation trills, and also recognizes keyswitches in all layers.
  • Notes on the opposite stem side in cluster chords can be selected, and rests can be repositioned when Consolidate Rests Across Layers is enabled.
  • Multiple MIDI file fixes include proper percussion import and retention of track/staff names and key signatures.
  • Numerous crashing situations have been fixed, and file saving speed and Score Manager performance have been improved.

Full 2014b details can be found in the associated read me files available for both Mac and Windows.

Finale 2014 and 2014a users can update by following 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…

Please let us know how Finale 2014b is working for you by clicking on “Comments” below.

Quickly Create a Chord Chart in Finale



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Last week I offered some tips on how to create a chord chart in Finale. This week I wanted to offer two additional tips that can really speed up the process of typing chord names into your score.

Tip One: Select a Chord Suffix
Here’s a slick way to simply select from several pre-exisiting chord suffixes. Choose Finale’s chord tool, go to the Chord menu and make sure that “Manual Input” is selected. Now click on a measure where you’d like to add a chord and type the chord’s root. In my example I’ll type Bb. Now type :0 and hit the return key. This produces the Chord Suffix Selection dialog seen above, where you can select any of these suffixes, and place it in your score, simply by double-clicking on it. I find this much quicker than typing out all the characters of each suffix.

Tip Two: Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Let’s look at the Chord Suffix Selection dialog above one more time. Notice that each suffix has a small number in the upper left corner. Remember that I typed :0 to access this dialog box? If I replace the 0 with any of these numbers, the associated chord will be entered into my score. Try it. Type Bb:24 and hit return. Voilà! A Bb maj13(#11) chord appears. This can really save time (and your fingers), even if all you can remember are the associated numbers for the most used suffixes in your piece.

Please let us know how chords are working for you by clicking on “Comments” below!

Create a Chord Chart with Finale



Chord Chart with Finale

Today I’m going to quickly create a chord chart with Finale 2014. Don’t own Finale? You can try these same steps in the free trial version.

I’ll start by launching Finale and selecting the Setup Wizard, where I begin by responding to simple questions. I’ll choose an Engraved Style, select the Blank Staff, type in my text including song title and composer, and provide specifics including tempo and starting time and key signatures.

To enter chords into the resulting piece, I’ll select the Chord Tool (its icon looks like a CM7 chord symbol) and click where I’d like to place a chord symbol. Note that even though each measure currently shows a whole rest, I can easily position a chord over any beat, simply by clicking where I’d like it to appear, and I can use the spacebar to advance beat-by-beat. Next I simply type the desired chord name: Bb6, Gm7, F7, Edim7, etc… Finale recognizes common chord suffixes and matches them to great-looking symbols that are automatically linked to playback, transposition, and other functions.

Should Finale not recognize a chord suffix you type, it will let you know, and give you the option to simply adding the text you indicated as a new suffix (without the playback functionality). You can, of course, create full featured chord suffixes from scratch, too. To do this, instead of clicking where you want a chord to appear, double-click for advanced control over chord suffix creation.

If you’re new to Finale, here are two tips:

  1. Use the Esc key to choose Finale’s Selection Tool
  2. In the Selection tool you can alter many elements of your music by right-clicking on them (control-click on the Mac). This produces a context menu full of options to choose from.

Try it: Hit the Esc key to choose the selection tool, then right-click (control-click on the Mac) on a clef, a key signature, a measure number, a measure, text, or anything else. The resulting context menu lets you transform the selected item.

Let’s use this trick and some keyboard shortcuts to add chord slashes.  Use Ctrl-A (command-A on Mac) to select the whole piece, then right-click the selected region to see the contextual menu, then select Staff Style > Apply Staff Style > Slash Notation and click OK.

Let’s do some formatting, too. While everything is still selected, type Ctrl-M (Shift-Command-M on Mac) to see the Fit Measures controls. Here I might leave the default at “Lock layout with 4 measures per system” and hit OK.

Want to repeat a section? Drag-select the measures you’d like to repeat, right-click on the selected area, and choose Repeats > Create Simple Repeat. Done.

Once I’m familiar with the few steps above, creating a chord chart in this manner is a bit faster than creating one by hand, quite a bit more legible, easy to copy (hit print again), and simple to share whether you prefer PDF files or Finale files that can be read by users of our free Finale NotePad or Finale SongBook iPad app.

The savings in time gets even more pronounced when I want to make changes to my chart, but we’ll cover that in more detail in a future post. Are you using Finale to create chord charts? Have tips to share or questions to ask? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.