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Quick Music Notation Tips: Beam Over Barlines

beam over barlines 2Why and when would you beam over barlines?

While schools of thought vary, many composers want to highlight hemiolas and other rhythmic effects with their beaming – even when this might seem at odds with basic engraving principles. Most frequently, this involves beaming over the barline to show performers that the metric pulse of the passage contradicts the written time signature. This encourages phrasing in performance that more closely matches the composer’s intent.

Want to create something like the above in Finale?

Select the group of notes you wish to beam across a barline. Choose Plug­ins > Note, Beam, and Rest Editing > Patterson Plug­Ins Lite > Beam Over Barlines > Create. Finale will beam the selected notes together and across the barline.

New Finale Keyboard Skin


Own a MacBook Pro®, Macbook Air® 13”, or the Apple® Wireless Keyboard? Logickeyboard just created a new Finale keyboard skin for these models that you may want to check out.

When placed over your Apple keyboard, this thin, protective skin puts Finale’s shortcuts literally at your fingertips. The all-new design uses colors and icons to organize a wide range of convenient, easy-to-understand commands:

  • Finale tool icons appear to the right of many keys to indicate what tool is associated with specific shortcuts
  • Simple Entry shortcuts appear in the bottom half of many keys, under a horizontal line.
  • Shortcuts and modifier keys (shift, command, or option) are color coded. For example, a shortcut in green requires both the command key (blue) and option key (yellow).

Whether your goal is to learn these shortcuts, or simply have them handy when you need them, keyboard skins can help increase your efficiency.

Made from .5 mm thin silicone, they’re soft, flexible, and tough. While easily removed for cleaning, in everyday use they stay put, protect your Mac from dirt and spills, and actually muffle typing noises.

They’re available today for $29.90 on the “Recommended Products” tab at the MakeMusic store, where you’ll also find additional information.

Have you tried a keyboard skin? Share you reaction with others by clicking on “Comments” below.

New Finale Quick Reference Card

Vintage Finale Box

Do you remember when Finale came with printed paper manuals? I do!

Those of who started with early versions of Finale became attached to those (admittedly behemoth) printed manuals that filled boxes like the one above. When we first heard rumors that these manuals might someday be replaced with electronic versions, this sounded as feasible as replacing an entire Manhattan Yellow Pages with a small electronic device that could fit in your pocket.

Today, even those of us pretty set in our ways have grown to appreciate the benefit of a searchable manual that’s updated every time the program is updated, and is always available wherever we travel.

We do, however, still hear from users (and coworkers) who continue to miss the Quick Reference Card. This was a handy piece that you’d keep at your desk that could remind you – at a glance – of keyboard shortcuts and other quick tips to speed up your work.

Today we’re making available, for free, an updated Finale Quick Reference Card for both Mac and Windows. Here’s what they look like at a glance:

Finale QRC Covers

Each is a four-page PDF that you can download and view on nearly any device, or, if you’re like me, print out and keep on your desk.

Please let us know what you think by clicking on “Comments” below.

PrintMusic Now Compatible with El Capitan


Today we released PrintMusic 2014.5, a free-of-charge update for owners of PrintMusic 2014 for Mac.

To get 2014.5, launch PrintMusic 2014 on your Mac and choose Finale PrintMusic 2014 > Check for Update. If you don’t have PrintMusic 2014 installed and you know your MakeMusic password, you can download it here.

Please note this update is for Mac users only: its main purpose is to provide compatibility with OS X 10.11 El Capitan, Apple’s latest operating system. After installing 2014.5, be sure to restart your computer.

While it is a free upgrade, PrintMusic 2014.5 is a new, separate installation from PrintMusic 2014, and can be distinguished by a new, flatter desktop icon seen at right above. While you could keep both versions on your computer, you’ll likely want to uninstall 2014 to save space.

Once you’re up and running, let us know how PrintMusic 2014.5 is working for you by clicking on “Comments” below.

Creating Music with a Handwritten Appearance

Hand-writing music has been a tradition in jazz for many, many years. Nowadays, most people use software like Finale to emulate a handwritten look using special fonts. To really capture some of the magic of a great handwritten chart, however, takes more than simply selecting the right font. In this article, I’d like to share a few tips that can help take your handwritten charts to the next level in Finale.

There’s a lot of great material written on the subject, from the wonderful tomes of masters like Clinton Roemer or Sammy Nestico to the work from great modern copyists like Tim Davies or Lee Monroe. Ultimately, a great handwritten chart is simple, clean and easy to read on the fly.


If there’s one defining tool to handwriting music – other than a pen – it’s the straightedge. Traditional copyists spend hours slaving over a hot straightedge getting beams perfect, and their angular appearance is often a quick giveaway. Unlike some engraved music, beams follow the direction of the notes within the beaming group when there is an obvious direction, and when there isn’t, the beaming must still allow every stem its minimum length of one octave. With notes that use ledger lines, stems must be long enough to keep all beams within the staff.

To accomplish this in Finale, you’ll need to change a few parameters in your Document Options. Click Document > Document Options > Beams. Under Beaming Style, choose Base Slope on End Notes Only, and make sure to select Allow primary beams within a space. While this tells Finale to draw beams larger than a space, you also must designate exactly how steep the beams can get. This is often a matter of preference, but you can experiment using the Maximum Slope field. It’s set to a very small value by default, and I often try to start with a large amount and pare down the slope to taste. Try entering a value of 1/4″ (72 EVPUs) to see how it looks. You can always click Apply for a quick preview, then enter a smaller number if you wish.

beams b

You may also occasionally see special ledger lines like the following when large leaps occur in a handwritten score:reverse stems b

You can achieve this kind of effect by experimenting with the Reverse Stem and Beam Angle Tools.


Slur contour, thickness, and location are what separate each copyist’s personal style. As such, for the meticulous, fine-tuning these specifics can become a rabbit hole. Fortunately, there are two simple rules you can follow to quickly improve the handwritten aesthetic of your piece:

  1. If the stems are up, put the slur under the noteheads.
  2. If the stems are down, put the slur above the noteheads.
  3. If you’re writing a long phrase where there are stems up and down, put the slur above the noteheads.

slur_stem c

As I mentioned, you can spend a lot of time deciding how your slur should look. In Finale, click the SmartShape Tool, then click SmartShape > Smart Slur Options. Here you’ll find a lot of options, but for starters, try playing with the thickness of the slur. I often start pretty thick, using a vertical thickness of 6 EVPUs and a tip thickness of 2 EVPUs. This keeps the line thin yet easy to see, and helps prevent the slur from tapering too much at the tips, which often cause slurs to look like they were made with a pen instead of a computer.slur_compare b


If someone were to ask me how to instantly improve their handwritten charts without having to change any of Finale’s more detailed settings, I’d suggest phrasing. So much of what makes an engraving look professional is the sheer amount of consideration put into how many measures fit in a system. I strongly recommend that you become well-versed in Finale’s Fit Measures dialog box, which you can reach by selecting an excerpt of music and clicking Utilities > Fit Measures. As a hard and fast rule, start with the number 4. Many copyists use four measures per system as a target, because so many musical phrases are done in multiples of four. There are a ton of really intricate rules to phrasing, but I always try to limit myself to either 4 or 3 measures per system. If I go any more or less than that, it has to be for a good reason, such as a technical passage that requires a lot of space.phrasing c


“English” is a hip way of talking about the text you see in your music, such as the title, composer, or copyright. It also refers to written directions you might see in the score. In my previous post about the Finale Copyist Text Font, I showed a few of the available possibilities using special characters. I wanted to give a little more specific instruction on some of the common conventions you’ll see when writing your parts.

Titles, for example, are often written with a huge underline, like this:

title_underline b

I achieved this by typing the following characters (without quotes): “° °TH°E °WR°IT°ER°’S° H°A°ND”

You can type the ° on Macs by pressing Shift+Command+8, or on Windows by holding the Alt key and typing the numbers 0176 on your keyboard.

Here’s another common one:swing b

For this type of boxed text, you’ll need a left text character (“[“), a tall line (“Ù”), and a right enclosure (“]”). Put the line character in between each letter, like this (without quotes again): “[ ÙSÙWÙING ]” You’ll find that it takes a little trial and error to get positioning right, but it makes a world of difference in making your scores look authentic. There’s a lot more options like this in all of the handwritten text fonts, and I encourage you to try them out!special_characters b

Font Choice

Speaking of fonts, another huge consideration to make is to actually choose which fonts you’d like to use! This includes both music and text fonts, as both can greatly affect how your final product will look. Finale offers two handwritten music fonts – The traditional Jazz Font, frequently seen in school jazz bands across the country, and the ubiquitous Broadway Copyist font included in Finale’s default Handwritten Document Style. Both have their own unique character and are based on the work of famous copyists in history.

There are also a number of fonts out made by third parties – Ash and Golden Age are two that come to mind – but many of these fonts haven’t kept up with modern computer conventions such as Unicode, so make sure you know that a font will work in your version of Finale before purchasing anything. Changing this font is as simple as clicking Document > Set Default Music Font, then choosing the font you’d like to use. I also highly recommend mixing and matching, as this is what gives your scores their own unique touch. I personally like to use Broadway Copyist for most notation, while using Finale Copyist for all text and numbers in my scores.font_compare b

When you put all of these tips together, you’ll find that Finale can create charts rivaling the work of a master copyist. To give you some inspiration, I’m including a lead sheet I wrote recently that uses many of the elements discussed in this article. I encourage you to download and open it in Finale, and you can even use the Finale file as a template for your own lead sheets!

Which tips were most helpful for you? Are there any ‘special touches’ you add to your handwritten scores to make them look authentic? Share your favorite handwritten details with us in the comments section below.

Peter FlomPeter Flom is a music production engineer and quality assurance technician at MakeMusic. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Peter has previously worked at KMA Studios in New York City, and in MakeMusic’s Customer Support department. He now spends most of his days developing new content for Finale and SmartMusic.

Peter is also a freelance arranger and engraver, and plays a mean guitar when nobody’s watching.

More Good News for El Capitan Users


If you’re using – or thinking of using – the latest Mac OSX operating system, “El Capitan,” we have more good news to share. Not only is Finale 2014.5 fully compatible with El Capitan, Apple has just released a new update, OS X 10.11.2, in which Finale 2014d also works well.

While this latest operating system release doesn’t address similar concerns in PrintMusic, we continue to work on an El Capitan – compatible PrintMusic update, and remain confident we’ll be able to provide it by the end of the year.

Have remaining questions on El Capitan compatibility? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Free Holiday Music in Finale

Free Holiday Music

Making music with loved ones is a great holiday tradition; it’s free, non-fattening, and naturally lifts your spirits without unpleasant side effects, like eggnog breath. To encourage more seasonal singing and playing, we’ve created our own tradition of sharing free holiday music each holiday season.

New for this year are a dozen holiday lead sheets, created in Finale 2014.5. These are presented in a classic handwritten style, with melody, lyrics, and chord changes:

Three Lead Sheets

Also collected are updated versions of 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
  • At least one quartet each for strings, barbershop, woodwind, and brass
  • The “Tannenbaum!” graphic notation piece seen above and described here

Download this year’s collection here.

On the subject of holiday gifts, be sure to check out our free holiday-themed font, too. Don’t own Finale 2014.5? You can still enjoy these fonts and files all month, for free, using the Finale free trial.

On behalf of everyone at MakeMusic, we wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy new year.

A Free Finale Music Font

FinaleMisc Music Font

In a previous post on developing your own house style, I mentioned a range of options you can use to customize the music characters in your creations. I also suggested that the easiest way to distinguish your work is to change clefs from the defaults, and offered more involved methods including creating your own music fonts.

To illustrate both points, I’ve created a modest font for you, titled FinaleMisc. It includes a handful of items, including:

  • Several clef options
  • Customized rehearsal numbers with rounded enclosures
  • Holiday-themed items including clefs, noteheads, and rehearsal letters

Download the font here.

To install the font, close Finale. Download the font to a place you can find (I use my desktop), double-click to expand the .zip file, then double-click on the .otf font file. When prompted, click Install Font. You’re welcome to use the font in any application, music notation or otherwise; below are steps to use it in Finale.

Changing Clefs in Finale

To access the clefs, go to Document > Document Options > Clefs and click Clef Designer.

  • Click the clef you’d like to change
  • Click the Set Font button to specify Finale Misc and click OK.
  • Click Character: Select to select which font character to use from the Symbol Selection dialog box. This view also offers a glimpse at the other characters in the font.

As you look through the font, you may notice that the letter “J” is left out of the rehearsal letter sequence. Traditionally, because “I” and “J” are easily confused, “J” is never used. If your heart is set on “J”, I have included it elsewhere in the font, just not in the rehearsal letter sequence.

Using Custom Rehearsal Letter Fonts in Finale

Choose the Expression tool and double-click where you’d like the first rehearsal letter to appear. Select the Rehearsal Marks category at left, select the sequence “A, B, C…”, click Duplicate and click Edit.

In the Expression Designer dialog box, change the Enclosure Shape to None. Next deselect Use Rehearsal Marks Category Fonts and select the FinaleMisc font. Then choose one of these options:

  • If you’d like to use my new rectangular enclosure, simply click OK and Assign.
  • If you’d like a holiday-themed enclosure, select the (lower-case) Auto-Sequencing Style: a, b, c, and click OK and Assign.

When I shared the font with a coworker, we had a brief exchange:

Q: What if my rehearsal numbers go above Z?
A: Your piece is too long.

In my previous post I also encouraged you to avoid the “goofy” in your creations. For me, this guideline doesn’t apply during the holiday season. I hope you enjoy my free gift with the sense of fun and exploration in which it was intended.

Happy holidays.

Mark Adler

Mark Adler is MakeMusic’s notation product manager/senior editor, a professional trumpet player, and a freelance music editor and engraver.

When he’s not making music, or looking at vintage sports cars on craigslist, he might be found creating holiday-themed music fonts that others might regard as “goofy.”


PrintMusic and El Capitan, Mac OS X 10.11

PrintMusic Crop

With the release of Finale 2014.5, Finale is now fully compatible with El Capitan, the latest Mac operating system. Now our top priority is getting PrintMusic running 100% in El Capitan, too.

Today we announced we will update PrintMusic 2014 to work with El Capitan. This update will be free to all registered owners of PrintMusic 2014 for Mac, and will be available before the end of 2015.

In the meantime, if you rely on PrintMusic and haven’t updated to El Capitan, we’d suggest you wait. If you can’t, here are a few points of clarification:

  1. While PrintMusic is not supported in El Capitan, and doesn’t allow you to add vital items including expressions and articulations, it does run. If you simply need to open, play, edit some notes and print some files, don’t assume you’re locked out.
  2. In the interim, consider the free Finale 2014.5 trial version as an option. It’s fully compatible with El Capitan, as well as your PrintMusic files, and will allow you to edit and save your work for 30 days.

If you have any remaining questions about PrintMusic / El Capitan compatibility, please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Arranging for the Young Jazz Combo

Andrew Stonerock

You don’t have to be a seasoned big band arranger to write for jazz combo. Just as the combo format can be less intimidating to student performers — providing great opportunities for interaction and improvisation — it’s also more welcoming to less experienced arrangers. Even if you’ve never arranged for jazz combo before, the following tips can help you be successful and provide more opportunities for your students.

First, find music that students will enjoy playing. Feel free to think beyond typical “jazz standards,” and also consider popular tunes that are more familiar to your students. Secondly, and perhaps most important, secure an accurate lead sheet with the correct melody and chord changes. There are several “fake books” online and in print that contain errors in the melody, chord changes, or both. Find a good recording to use as an authority while determining what is correct. Finally, peruse the lead sheet to make sure it will be appropriate for your ensemble. Some considerations include tempo, complicated melody, complicated chord changes, etc. When deciding how complicated a set of chord changes are, a good general guideline is to analyze the tonal centers. Typically, the more tonal centers that are used, the more difficult the task of improvisation.

Bass Lines

Bass lines in swing usually consist of either walking (4 quarter notes in each measure) or a 2-beat pattern (2 half notes in each measure). In both cases the root of the chord should occur on the first note of each new chord change.Root Bass Chords b

Next, the bass line needs to fill out the rest of the measure. The easiest way to achieve this is in the walking style is to arpeggiate the chord change. In a 2-beat style simply alternate between the root and the 5th of the chord. Notice how both the walking style and the 2-beat style have the 5th of the Cmaj7 on beat 3.

Bass Arpeggios

To add even more interest to the bass line, often times the note immediately preceding a different chord change is either a half-step above or below the root of the next chord change. In the walking bass style, the quarter note immediately preceding a different chord change is used for the half-step motion. In the 2-beat style, an eighth note is added before a different chord change.

Half-Step Bass Lines

Notice the chord change symbols are included in all of the above examples. This is important because students will start to learn to develop their own bass lines by using the guidelines created. While this might be a little scary at first, encourage students to start to see patterns in the bass lines and apply them to other chord changes.

Chord Voicings

The harmonic instruments in a typical jazz combo, piano and guitar, often have opposite strengths and weaknesses. Generally younger pianists can read notes but lack the knowledge to spell chord changes. Conversely, younger guitarists can often read chord changes while not being able to read individual notes. Even though younger guitarists will be able to play several chords, it is unlikely they will know how to play chord extensions or have knowledge of typical jazz guitar voicings. There are several books and websites that deal with this issue. For the purposes of this article, I will focus exclusively on jazz piano voicings.

When a pianist is playing with a bass player in a jazz combo setting, usually “rootless voicings” are used. These piano voicings are exactly as the name implies; chord voicings that reflect the sound of the chord, but do not contain the root of the chord. The reason these voicings are used is because the bass player plays the root of each chord change.

There are a couple of guidelines when writing rootless voicings. First, be sure to always include both the 3rd of the chord and the 7th of the chord. Second, try to include any upper extensions of the chord, particularly if they have any alterations (b9, #11, etc). Finally, when moving between chords, try to move each individual voice as little as possible. Below are some examples of rootless voicings from simple to more complicated. 

Simple Piano Voicings


Intermediate Piano Voicings


Advanced Piano Voicings

At first, these voicings might sound a little thin or odd without the bass. Eventually, students will learn to hear these sounds as normal, especially with the bass added. As with the bass lines, notice the chord changes appearing in the piano voicings. Again, encourage your students to analyze these voicings and use them for different chord changes or other charts.

The rhythm used when comping can be as varied and individualized as musicians themselves. Below are a couple of common rhythms to use when comping.

Rhythmic Comping 1


Rhythmic Comping 2

In general, it’s best to rest more than play, particularly when another musician is improvising. It is also good to vary the rhythm so as not to become monotonous.  

Rhythmic Comping Mixed

Drum Set

Drum set parts for jazz combo are very similar to those in a traditional jazz ensemble. A few distinct differences will help things go more smoothly. First, the drummer is typically going to be reading slash notation. It’s good to include the time feel, tempo, and sometimes the actual rhythmic feel you want the drummer to play. However, because the drummer should be interacting with the other musicians, they should be listening more than reading.

Sweet Wheel

Second, include important rhythms the drummer should accent, just as in a big band.

Pavlov's Waterfall - Sextet

Finally, include the chord changes in the drum part. Although the drummer will not be playing the harmony or improvising using the harmony, it will help them follow the form and represents an opportunity for good ear training.

Ojos de Rojo

Horn Voicings

When voicing for multiple horns, there are several factors to consider: how many players, what is the instrumentation, what are the ranges of the instruments/players, etc. What follows are very general guidelines and a few tips that I have found to be helpful.

KNOW YOUR MUSICIANS! When arranging for a specific group, think about the individual musicians and their strengths and weaknesses. Write brass parts that match the range of the musicians, as well as woodwind parts that match the level of technique of the musicians.  

Know the idiomatic strengths and weaknesses of the instruments themselves. For woodwind players, playing high and then low in quick succession in not terribly difficult; however, it is quite difficult for brass players. It is also good to understand tricks of the different instruments as well (tricky valve combinations for brass, tricky slide position changes for trombone, tricky fingering combinations for woodwinds, etc.)

What sounds good on a computer may not sound good in real life and vice versa. MIDI can play anything put on a page regardless of how complicated, fast, or downright absurd, and it can do it all without breathing or needing to take a break. Unfortunately, students are human with all of the limitations MIDI is lacking. So, make sure that the individual parts make sense and are playable. Learning to listen to MIDI and tell if something is going to sound good in real life is an art unto itself. Most people learn through trial and error over time and develop the ability to discern what will sound good or not sound good by hearing live musicians play their arrangements.

Here are a few tips when voicing chords for horns:

  1. Try to keep the horns in the same tessitura respectively (don’t have the trombone playing really high while the trumpet is in the middle of her range).
  2. Keep the melody in the upper voice, especially if that voice is a louder instrument.
  3. Avoid using roots in the horn voicings unless it is a melody note.
  4. Try to include the 3rd and 7th of chords in the voicing when possible.
  5. In a three horn voicing, the “drop-2” technique can be effective. This means using the top three notes in the piano voicing, “dropping” the middle note down an octave and dividing it into the respective parts.

Drop-2 Voicings

There are several books that discuss jazz arranging and different voicings for horns. Following some guidelines and experimenting will help develop the right sound for jazz combo.

Jazz combo can be a rewarding experience for both the students and the director. While the term “jazz arranging” can sound intimidating, it truly is not. The key is experimenting to discover what works for you and your students. In the end, as long as the students have fun, the experience will be well worth the journey.

Andrew Stonerock BioDr. Andrew Stonerock is the director of jazz studies at Cameron University. He oversees all aspects of the jazz program and directs the jazz ensemble and jazz combos. He is frequently in demand as a saxophonist, woodwind doubler, adjudicator, and clinician. 

In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family and his dog Basie.