SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

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.

Upgrade and receive the Finale Trailblazer Guide for free


Finale 2014 offers workflow improvements to help you complete more in less time, additional Garritan® sounds, and notation enhancements designed to produce perfect results without editing.

Also included are many technological investments, including improved Apple® OS X® support, a new audio engine, and a completely rewritten file format, offering backward and forward compatibility and more flexibility into the future.

By now, most readers of the Finale Blog know all this, and yet, not everyone has upgraded: Perhaps some of you are waiting for a deal.

Starting today, for a limited time, when you upgrade to Finale 2014 for $139.95, you can receive Finale 2014: A Trailblazer Guide, free of charge.

Revised and updated for Finale 2014, this guide continues to offers clear, step-by-step methods to help you easily create great-looking notation. Readers will find a concise overview of Finale’s framework followed by a guide to the everyday tricks and shortcuts that make using Finale a breeze.

Author Mark Johnson guides you through the latest Finale 2014 features – as well as less recent enhancements you may have overlooked – with the goal of increasing your productivity.

Upgrade or learn more at Offer expires on 9/30/14.

Do you have this or another version of the Finale Trailblazer? Share your experiences with this guide by clicking on “Comments” below.

More Real-Time Finale Tips: Modify Rests

My last blog discussed how you can use quantization to speed up note entry and reduce subsequent editing. Today I offer another tip to help clean up any music entered in real-time – whether you’re playing notes directly into Finale or importing MIDI files.

Here is a piece I played into Finale:

MR 1 625

For this example, I quantized to a 16th note and purposely lifted my fingers early to demonstrate a common way in which what we play can differ from what we intend to play. As you can see, many pitches are expressed as a 16th note followed by a 16th rest.

Now for the fun part: Tobias Giesen’s great plug-in called “Modify Rests,’ included free with Finale. This plug-in offers many options to alter the appearance and duration of rests. I’ll use it here to extend the duration of some of the shorter notes above to reduce rests:

      1. Choose the Selection Tool and highlight the music you want to clean up.
      2. Select Plug-ins > TGTools > Modify Rests.
      3. This dialog box will appear. Select the Simplify tab and check all four boxes:MODIFY RESTS db
      4. Click “OK” and the music above gets instantly “cleaned up” to look like this:

MR 4 625

While the results are similar to what we would have gotten had we quantized to 8th notes, we preserved some 16th notes in the process, so I welcome this approach as an additional option.

Along with the concepts of quantization and re-transcribe, I hope the Modify Rests plug-in will greatly improve your real-time note entry. Enjoy!

Retranscribe in Finale


Last week Tom Johnson shared a blog post about real-time MIDI entry in Finale. Today a reader commented with a related question. Although I’ve already answered the question, I thought a slightly expanded reply – in the form of a short blog post – might be helpful to others as well.

The discussion concerned Finale’s ability to re-notate an existing performance with a different quantization setting. In Finale this is called Retranscribe, and it’s easily done.

Before I share the steps, let’s look at why you might want to do this. Let’s say you’re using Finale’s HyperScribe tool to enter a keyboard performance in real-time. Imagine that the piece is mostly eighth notes and larger durations, but has one tricky section with smaller durations. In this scenario I might set my quantization to eighth notes, play in the whole piece, and then simply retranscribe the tricky section with a different quantization setting. Here’s how to retranscribe that section:

  1. Use the Selection tool to highlight the measures you wish to re-notate.
  2. From the MIDI/Audio menu choose Quantization Settings, select appropriate values, and click OK.
  3. From the MIDI/Audio menu choose Retranscribe.

It’s that easy.

Keep in mind that this works horizontally as well as vertically. Let’s say someone created a band score in a sequencer, and sent you a MIDI file. It’s likely that the quantization setting you choose on input will work better for some staves than others – so you could retranscribe select staves as well as select measures.

We’d love to hear more of your thoughts on real-time note entry. Please share them by clicking on “Comments” below.

Quantization: the key to real-time note entry in Finale

We want our music notation software to notate not what we play but what we intend to play. For example, here is a simple melody I played in using Finale’s real-time entry tool, HyperScribe:

Quantization 8 625

I helped Finale notate this example correctly – the first time – by providing some hints as to the rhythmic complexitity of what I was about to play. I did this by choosing a “quantization” setting, which allowed me to specify the smallest note value I wanted Finale to “round-off” to. For this example, my smallest note value was an eight note, so I quantized to an eighth note. This quantization setting is the key to getting Finale to successfully notate what I play.

To set your quantization:

  1. Select MIDI/AUDIO > Quantization (it’s at the bottom of the menu)
  2. indicate your desired “smallest note value” and click “OK” (I frequently choose “no tuplets” as well)

Quant DB 3

With these steps completed you are ready to successfully notate as you play.

For comparison, imagine I set the “smallest note value” to a 128th note. The exact same melody played with 128th quantization might look like this:

Quantization 64 625

That is exactly what I played. This illustrates what I mean when I suggest we want the software to display what we intended, rather than what we played.

What I love most about this second example is that what you see is MUSIC. No matter how I’ve set my quantization, when Finale plays back my performance it includes all the nuance and randomness of my human performance, while displaying the quantized notation. If it played back the earlier eighth note rendition as written, the performance would be machine-like.

By preserving your performance data and displaying quantized notation, Finale embraces your humanity and makes you look – and sound – good!

Quick Finale Tips from Jon Senge – The Clear Key

I spent years in Finale before I learned about the Clear key! Today it may be the most-used key on my keyboard. Select the handle of nearly any object, hit the clear key (Backspace key on Windows), and it jumps back to its default positioning.

Apple Keyboard

On my Mac laptop, which doesn’t have a clear key, I use Keyboard Maestro to remap Control+c as the Clear key. See more about macros in my previous post.

This tip is short and sweet. I hope I’ve saved you the years it took me to realize the functionality of the Clear key!

Jon Senge engraves music for several notable publishers and loves talking notation. Tweet him at @jonsenge and see his other Finale Blog tips here.

Quick Finale Tips from Jon Senge – Creating Macros for Finale

Jon SengeJon Senge engraves music for several major U.S. music publishers as well as for notable entertainment companies around the world.

In this new blog series, Jon shares his favorite time-saving Finale tips.

Every day it feels like more work lands on my desk than leaves at the end of the day. In order to have a chance at keeping up, I am always searching for ways to shave time off everything. A day’s worth of saved seconds add up to extra whole minutes I get to spend with my kids!

Today I’ll start with one of my very favorite (and most-used) Finale time savers:

Creating Macros with Keyboard Maestro (or similar shortcut/macro apps)

The Keyboard Maestro application is a tool I use on my Mac to create customized keyboard shortcuts, or “macros,” for the notation programs I use everyday. If I have to do something more than twice, it’s nearly always worth the effort to write a quick little macro that’ll do the task faster than I can click through menus. In the words of Tobais Fünke, “then you have it!” for next time.

Both Finale and Sibelius have built-in keyboard shortcuts, but with an app like Keyboard Maestro, I can create keyboard shortcuts that do a little more than the built-in shortcuts, and I can ensure that the shortcuts are the same for me on both programs.

I have simple keyboard commands for the simple stuff:

  • Opt+w = Save & Close
  • Cmd+Opt+p = Create PDF
  • Opt+m = Make Multimeasure Rest from selection
  • Opt+Shift+q = Change note size to 75% for cues
  • Customized shortcuts to all toolbar functions

Macros can do some pretty heavy lifting as well with the right programming. I have had macros that perform a number of functions to upgrade older Finale files into newer templates, updating fonts, layouts, etc., across entire folders of files. Some of these processes can have a dozen steps to do in each file, and I just don’t want to devote mental energy and time to repetitive tasks when there’s a better (and quicker) way.

If you’re new to creating your own Macros and would like a little guidance, leave me a comment below or send a tweet to me @jonsenge.

MakeMusic Joins Peaksware

Peaksware MakeMusic

Today MakeMusic announced that it will join Peaksware, the umbrella company owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the investment company that took MakeMusic private in 2013. You can learn more about Peaksware and view the press release at

Here’s an excerpt from the release:

“Through a unique approach to deliberate practice, each brand within Peaksware develops software solutions and provides services to help guide people along their own journey of improvement. From completing a triathlon to learning a musical instrument, the same strategy applies: set a specific goal, get expert instruction, perform focused practice and receive immediate feedback. This shared approach is the common thread connecting the brands.”

It’s easy to see how SmartMusic fits with this deliberate practice model. When I think back to what Finale initially offered me as an aspiring composer, instant feedback played a big role as well. I could create notation and immediately hear what it would sound like, which was a revelation. Like Dave Brubeck said about Finale: “Wow, in the old days you couldn’t hear what you’d written until the dress rehearsal – and then it was too late!”

Obviously, Finale always has been, and will remain, much more than simply a learning tool for young composers, but this is just one of many ways that Finale — and Garritan — fit into the Peaksware vision. Finale and Garritan libraries are professional tools designed to efficiently and effectively meet the goals of high performing customers, and this is at the core of Peaksware.

Peaksware is also the home of TrainingPeaks, a complete web, mobile and desktop solution for enabling smart and effective endurance training. It’s a company run by people who are passionate users of their products, just as MakeMusic employees are passionate users of Finale, SmartMusic, Garritan and MusicXML. What’s more, like MakeMusic, TrainingPeaks is committed to providing software solutions that empower people to do the things they love – really well – at the very highest level.

Have a question or observation about today’s news? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Finale Spotlight on Ashkan Mashhour, author of Guitar Fingers

Blog Image

Guitar Fingers: Essential Technique in Pictures is an ingenious new guitar book that analyzes the mechanics of left and right hand technique with the aid of more than 250 photos and diagrams and over 200 exercises, all notated with Finale. I recently spoke with author Ashkan Mashhour about the book and some of the unique aspects of its creation.

Scott Yoho: What was the inspiration for this book (and when did you start work on it)?

Ashkan Mashhour: A lot of guitarists, me included, are attracted and wowed by the technical wizardry of their favorite artists and the sounds these artists can achieve through their technical ability. But there is great detail involved in guitar technique which is all too difficult to decipher: most of us gather this information through observation, trial-and-error, and awareness. There is also something utterly beautiful about good technique. I wanted to focus on these elements and make them visually appealing. So Guitar Fingers is full of pictures, diagrams, exercises, and explanations about the nitty-gritty of guitar technique.

Guitar Fingers has been a long time in the making. I started jotting down notes and ideas for the book in 2010 but only put pen to paper in 2012.

SY: Are you aware of other books that have a similar focus on the mechanics of playing the guitar?

AM: Few books delve into the mechanics of guitar technique, in particular for modern guitar playing (using pick or pick+fingers). Classical guitar is well known for its codified emphasis on technique. Electric and acoustic guitar have always been more informal with technique but many players have been pushing the boundaries in a variety of styles. For classical guitar, works like Scott Tennant’s Pumping Nylon are on many nylon string players’ bookshelves. For the guitar played with a pick, a great exercise book is Troy Nelson’s Guitar Aerobics. Take a tour on YouTube and you will come across a rich offering of short technically-focused tutorial videos by players around the world. One of my favorite is UK-based guitarist Rick Graham’s wholesome approach to guitar.

SY: What were some of the greatest challenges in creating the book?

AM: Creating and organizing content, which must anticipate the needs and wants of the readership, was the first challenge. Guitar Fingers dives deep into guitar technique and each section had to set the stage for the following section. The next challenge was to make that a reality and putting it on paper, working with a variety of software tools to achieve this. That’s where Finale came in. In Guitar Fingers, there’s also plenty of photography, illustration, and recording involved, which meant juggling with very different skillsets. The last step was to prepare and format the book in accordance with the printshop’s capabilities and limitations. This is actually something to keep in mind throughout book production in order to avoid surprises in print, especially when a book is in color!

SY: What do you like about Finale?

AM: The reason I first picked Finale over competing products was what some considered an advantage, and others considered a drawback: Finale’s flexibility. This can translate into a longer learning curve but the user’s ability to customize Finale’s features is tremendous. Where other notation software give you a pre-defined framework to work with, Finale gives you access and allows you to tailor many of its parameters to your specific needs. As an example, for my first book Intervallic Fretboard, I created a new interval-based notation style, coined IVL, and Finale had the bells and whistles to make that possible.

SY: Do you have any tips for those notating guitar with Finale?

AM: Absolutely! MakeMusic has had in place for years a very active user forum. A great deal of issues are discussed on a daily basis in that forum, with solutions, suggestions, or workarounds available for almost any problem one can encounter when engraving music. Whether it’s for Mac or Windows, the most recent or an earlier version of Finale, the forum addresses common and obscure issues and features alike. A number of regulars, most of whom are power users, will chime in within minutes of your posting a question! It’s an outstanding resource. And that goes for any instrument, not just guitar.

SY: Do you have any suggestions for others who would like to author guitar literature and see it published?

AM: The market abounds with tutorial material for guitar. Can I write something new, can I write it better, or can I write it differently? As an author, you write about what you know, research what you don’t know, and put yourself in the reader’s shoes, always aiming for quality. Aspiring guitarists are more likely to pick up a book if it’s easy to read (cuts to the chase and uses clear language), easy on the eyes (illustrations, pictures), participative (exercises), and overall user-friendly. But once it’s published, you’re not done, you must use all the means available to you to get the word out (traditional press, online media, social media, academe, etc.). It’s a fun journey and you learn a great deal along the way—but it doesn’t happen overnight.

For an example of writing something new, take a cousin of the guitar: the ukulele. This little instrument has grown oh-so popular over the past few years and opportunities to create innovative instructional material for it are numerous.

I’d like to thank Ashkan for sharing his insight with us. What are you creating with Finale? Guitar music? Something else? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.