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Jonathan Kelly on the “Concerto in D” by Wynton Marsalis

Jonathan Kelly on the “Concerto in D” by Wynton Marsalis

Photo of Nicola Benedetti, Jonathan Kelly, and Wynton Marsalis by Luigi Beverelli

Jonathan Kelly works as a music supervisor for Wynton Marsalis. In previous blog posts he explained how he got his enviable gig and shared some details of a collaboration between Wynton and the Garth Fagan Dance Company. Recently Jonathan and Wynton have been hard at work on a violin concerto, “Concerto in D,” in collaboration with Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti. This project has been captured in a documentary film titled “Nicky and Wynton: The Making of a Concerto” by producer/director Chris Eley.

Upon seeing the trailer I was totally intrigued and reached out to Jonathan to catch up.

Can you describe your work with Wynton today? Has your role continued to evolve over the years?

Well my main role with Wynton is as a copyist. We’ve worked together now since 1999, so it’s also part mind reader. Ha.

I suppose in terms of evolution, I work much more closely with collaborators today than I would have when I started. For instance, with “Concerto in D,” I worked a lot with Nicola Benedetti for whom the concerto is written. The piece has been played with 5 or 6 orchestras at this point and when Wynton has had schedule conflicts, I’ve traveled with Nicky and done my best to fill Wynton’s role at rehearsals.

When did you first learn about the concerto?

To be honest with you, I can’t remember. Wynton’s so prolific that as a way to remain sane, I tend to only think about the project at hand. It may have been mentioned to me a few years ago, but I wasn’t really aware of it until Nicky started reaching out to me and seeing if we were working on it yet!

Was Ms. Benedetti involved from the start?

She’s been absolutely integral to the whole piece. From advocating for it with orchestras, to helping with the form, to being the absolute best critic of the piece, she’s been irreplaceable.

Can you describe your collaborative workflow on this particular project? 

Since Nicky was so involved, we worked on this in a pretty unorthodox manner. We wrote the entirety of her part first, improved it with her input, and then orchestrated after her part was pretty much set.

As we’ve talked about before, Wynton still works in pencil and he’s almost always on the move, whether it be with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra or education initiatives, etc. Wherever he is,  he’ll write some music and then send me texts with the pictures.

Jonathan Kelly on the “Concerto in D” by Wynton Marsalis - insert

Click on image to enlarge

It beats the old days when he used to call me at three o’clock in the morning to have me come down to his apartment and pick up his manuscripts!

So much of this collaboration done long-distance?

It’s almost entirely done long-distance. For this piece, a filmmaker for the BBC named Chris Eley was filming a documentary and communication and travel really became a vital story line for the piece. Nicky’s in London, I’m in France and Wynton’s in New York. Or, I’m in New York, Wynton’s in Abu Dhabi and Nicky’s in Germany. It was pretty challenging time-zone-wise. But time zones don’t mean quite so much when you don’t sleep!

After Wynton’s hand-written sketches, how much of this work is done in Finale? 

It’s all done in Finale once he gives me his pencil score. I’ll put everything into a full score format and from that point forward he’ll make any necessary pencil edits direct to a Finale produced score.

Jonathan Kelly on the “Concerto in D” by Wynton Marsalis - cadenza

Click on image to enlarge

Inevitably during a piece like this, we fall behind schedule and an exasperated Wynton will call me and say, “Damn, I can’t possibly work any faster. How can we do this faster?” And I reply, “You gotta learn Finale, Papa.” He might be too old for new tricks, but I haven’t given up hope.

Do you ever revert back to an earlier versions for creative reasons?

For sure. For instance, with Nicky’s cadenza in the middle of the piece, I literally have over 50 versions saved. She would play through it and then want to go back to some earlier content. She’s not to blame for this; it’s really just Wynton’s process. If you go to Wynton and say, “Hey, I think bars 35-36 need some work,” he will re-write bars 25-57. It’s just the way he is. He’s an absolute machine of melodic material.

How does the project differ from other projects you’ve done together? 

Nicky’s involvement is really what made this project so unique. I’ve done a bunch of collaborations, and they can be really challenging. Everybody’s workflow is so different and things can fall apart pretty quickly, especially with such big personalities.

When I met Nicky we clicked like old friends. I knew it would be better, but it’s still fraught with difficulties. So, I said to her, “Hey, let’s try and be friends when this is all over.” I don’t think she really knew what I meant, but she understood by the time the piece premiered in London!

It’s so many hours of work, it’s joy, it’s disappointment, it’s stress and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum; none of us have the type of careers that we can just go into the mountains for three months and come out with a piece. I mean, can you imagine the faith and courage it takes for a rising star violinist to enlist some of the greatest orchestras in the world and convince them to commission a piece that they will have to play whether they like it or not?! I can’t even imagine it.

Are you typically at the performances of the concerto? 

I’m rarely at concerts because by the time one piece premieres, I’m usually knee deep in the next piece, but this one was bit different. Wynton actually couldn’t be at the world premiere of the piece in London because of a scheduling conflict, so I went in his stead.

The show went great and there’s a lot of high fives and hugs going on backstage. I wrote to Wynton and said, “It was great.” By the time things calmed down and I looked back at my phone I had dozens of texts from Wynton and a handful of missed calls. If I remember correctly, the last text from him read something like, “Well, Mr. Kelly, thanks for your thoughtful analysis of my piece!”

The trailer for the film is wonderful. I love Wynton’s quote at the end: “I love jazz music. And I love the orchestra. Now I think the two can come together; I may not be able to do it, but somebody can do it.” Can you talk about your aspect of this challenge? 

I’ve now worked on 5 or 6 long form pieces for symphony orchestra that incorporate American styles of music including jazz and blues. I still haven’t conquered the challenge that he is alluding to in the clip.

Early in my career, I felt it was best to leave a lot of freedom in the interpretation to the musician. Then, I pulled a complete 180 and felt the need to articulate EVERYTHING and be very specific with instructions. Now, I’m starting to wonder; we never have enough rehearsal time and maybe that extra ink is actually more prohibitive than helpful. I’m not really clear on the best way to notate idiomatic things yet. If anyone has any good ideas, I’m all ears.

It’s certainly different in a workshop or school setting where you actually have time to talk to the musicians; but with the concerto, we are lucky to get 90 minutes of rehearsal time for a 45-minute piece that the musicians have never heard. It’s really challenging. Every minute you waste in rehearsal because of a lack of clarity in the notation, is a minute could be spent digging deeper and really finding the intention of the music.

How can folks in the US see the film? 

Folks can watch the documentary on YouTube here.

Chris did a great job of capturing the difficulties that emerge with writing new music. And I’m not just saying this because I play the role of the court jester throughout the film!

Have any Finale tips? Things you like about Finale? Things you’d change?

In terms of tips, the best thing to do is follow this blog. No matter how long you have used the program, there is always some better, more efficient way to do things. In your interview with Hamilton orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, for instance, he talked about copying expressions to a nearby stave by clicking the handle, and pressing up or down while holding the Option key. Game Changer! It would be great if you could do that with hairpin crescendos, or some of the other measure-attached smart shapes as well.

If I had to add my own tip, it would be for musicians using chord symbols. Once you’ve created a palate of suffixes that you like, save the library. Then, if you work with someone else who doesn’t have your flair for visually stunning chords suffixes, you can just load your own library, delete theirs, and replace them with your own.

I also think it would be great if when working in a full score that is really tight, that you could highlight a page and then the program would increase/decrease the space between the staves so that there were no collisions.

But really, I can’t complain. I’ve said this before to you and I’ll stand by it. The work we do would quite literally not be possible without Finale. In fact, sometimes our workflow is so fast and accurate that I worry that we’ve set a pace that we won’t be able to maintain!

What’s next for you?

You know me, man—on to the next one. Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic premiering a new piece on December 28th at David Geffen Hall in New York City. Hopefully, they will have the music they need to play the concert!

I better get back to work!

Thanks to Jonathan, again, for taking the time to share his experiences with us. Please share your experiences with us via Facebook and Twitter.

Veterans Day, Bugle Calls, and Poppies

Veterans Day, Bugle Calls, and Poppies

World War I ended on Nov. 11, 1918. The armistice signed between the Allies and Germany called for the ceasefire to take effect at 11 AM: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

In the U.S. we observe Veterans Day on November 11 to honor all military veterans. In the UK and other Commonwealth countries this date marks Remembrance Day (also informally known as Poppy Day). This is when they remember those members of their armed forces who died in the line of duty (as we do on Memorial Day).

Remembrance Day Traditions

The tradition in many Commonwealth countries is to perform the “Last Post” on the eleventh hour, followed by a minute or two of silence. This bugle call sounds similar to “Taps” and is used in much the same way. The “Last Post” is part of daily military tradition, played to signify the end of the day’s activities. It is also an integral part of military funerals.

Where Do the Poppies Come From?

The poppy tradition was initially inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields.” Written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, the poem describes poppies growing on the fresh graves of fallen soldiers.

In 1918 Moina Belle Michael, an American professor and humanitarian, wrote a poem in response to “In Flanders Fields” titled “We Shall Keep the Faith.” In her poem she pledged to always wear a red poppy in remembrance of those soldiers. Moina later promoted the idea of selling silk poppies to raise funds to help disabled veterans.

Today in the Commonwealth poppies are used to honor all military personnel killed in conflicts since 1914. In the US the American Legion Auxiliary offers crepe-paper poppies in exchange for donations, especially around Veterans and Memorial Day.

Music for Today

In honor of the day, we’ve engraved the “Last Post” for you. In addition to a Finale file we’ve made a PDF and a SmartMusic accompaniment for your use. You can download all three, for free, as a .ZIP file here. We also recorded MakeMusic’s own Mark Adler playing the “Last Post.” (Actually, you can see Melanie Balderas recording it in the photo below.)

Veterans Day, Bugle Calls, and Poppies

Press the play button to hear the recording:

Do you or your students use SmartMusic? It includes a wonderful choral setting of “In Flanders Field,” by composer Christine Donkin
Learn more here. (Note that the promised TTBB arrangement is now available in SmartMusic as well.)

We hope this music piece inspires you to reflect on the sacrifices all veterans have made on the behalf of others.

Introducing the Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Lite

Introducing the Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Lite

The CFX Concert Grand

In 2014 we released the most detailed and advanced Garritan project ever: the CFX Concert Grand. It began with Yamaha’s remarkable nine foot concert piano, the development of which took more than 18 years. We placed this no-holds-barred instrument in the most legendary recording space in the world: Studio One at Abbey Road Studios. Once there, world-class engineers used the most regarded mics and outboard gear to capture the magic.

The resulting CFX Concert Grand set new standards for virtual pianos.

The CFX Lite

Today we’re carrying on the Garritan tradition of democratizing music making by releasing the CFX Lite, a downloadable subset of the full CFX that is more affordable, portable, and is compatible with more modest computer systems.

“When we set out to make a more accessible version of the CFX Concert Grand, we didn’t want it to be ‘watered-down’ in any way,” said Fred Flowerday, MakeMusic senior vice president of product strategy. “Instead of making any compromise in sonic quality, we provided a single, classic microphone perspective in all of its richness and depth.”

Where the full CFX offers close and ambient mic placement for three perspectives (Classic, Contemporary, and Player), CFX Lite offers simply the close-mic’d Classic perspective, provided in all of its full-bandwidth, remarkable grandeur. The CFX Lite includes all 20 layers of detail from the original. This includes separate sample sets for pedals-up, sustain pedal down and soft pedaling.


Not sure what we mean by the three perspectives? These are a combination of mics and mic placement designed to create a specific result.

  • Classic – most faithfully captures the natural tonal character, clarity and nuance of the CFX
  • Contemporary – bright and hard with lots of attack from the hammers, while maintaining warmth with intimate ambience
  • Player – offers the experience of playing the CFX in Studio One, particularly when used with headphones

Also, each perspective also offers close and ambient mics. For the CFX Lite, we used the close mics of the Classic perspective.

“I really love the Lite version of the Abbey Road CFX,” said Mirek Stiles, head of audio products at Abbey Road Studios. “It’s great having the Abbey Road engineers’ favourite mic array from the original CFX release, with the same beautiful tones of the CFX in the most famous recording studio in the world, but in a more accessible, downloadable package.”

The CFX Lite also adds new features not found in the original CFX Concert Grand. These include partial and re-pedaling functionality and 20 additional impulses captured from Abbey Road Studios’ legendary outboard reverb equipment. Also newly added is a Timbre effect that simulates the change in tone that occurs when instruments are recorded at one tape speed and played back at another. Today these enhancements are also available to owners of the full CFX too, via this free-of-charge download for Mac and Windows.

But enough talk. To really get a sense of what the CFX Lite offers, you have to hear it. 

Hear the CFX Lite in action


Best of all, you can own the CFX Lite today for only $79.95!

buy nowLearn More

Articulations You Wish You Could Use!

Articulations You Wish You Could Use!

Last week, musicians, composers, and engravers on Facebook fell in love with Patricia Wallinga’s clever and hilarious post about articulations we wish we could use. Click on the image above to see her original post.

We all know exactly what “Old Man Staccato” sounds like in a bassoon part, but Patricia created an articulation for it. Giving composers a special mark to confirm that no, this is “not a typo” is pure genius. Our favorite? The “I owe you a beer for learning this” symbol, which helps assuage composer guilt and motivates performers at the same time!

Of course, it didn’t take long for the music community to wish that they could use these symbols on their computers.

Now you can!

Just for fun, we built a font that includes Patricia’s symbols, so you can use them in any size or combination in your Finale files. We even put them into a Finale file modeled after Patricia’s original (click on the thumbnail below to see it in full size).

Articulations You Wish You Could Use! 2

You can download a .zip file that includes the font, an articulation library, and the Finale file seen above here.

Font Installation

Expand the downloaded .zip. Then double click on the font MMDings.otf and click on the Install button (Windows) or Install Font button (Mac).

The Quick, Easy Way to Use This Font

Want to just take a quick peek? Open a new file, load the .lib file we’ve included by choosing File > Load Library. Choose the Articulation Tool and the new characters will appear in the Articulation Selection dialog box.

You’re up and running and using the new fonts. Want to take it a step further and create your own articulations using the new font? Read on, brothers and sisters!

Creating Your Own Articulations

  1. Open some music in Finale, choose the Articulation tool, and click above a note or rest.
  2. In the Articulation Selection dialog box, click “Create.”
  3. In the Articulation Designer dialog box, click “Set Font,” choose “MMDings,” then click “OK.”
  4. Now click “Main,” choose the symbol you’d like, and click “Select.” Our replicas of Patricia’s symbols are numbers 65-75. (Repeat this step substituting “Flipped” for “Main” to use this articulation both above and below notes.
  5. While you could make further adjustments if you wish (like default positions), click “OK,” then “Select” to see the articulation in your score.

That’s a fair number of steps to get a beer mug on top of your note, but if you’re going to repeatedly use these characters it may be worth it. Building the articulations from scratch means you can further customize the articulation. Plus you can easily use them alongside the default articulations you’re used to.

Fine print: the MMDings font is free to use, even in your own for-profit work, but you can’t sell the font itself.  

Want to Use These Characters, but Don’t Own Finale?

These same steps work with our free Finale demo. Feel free to  try Finale free for 30 days and join in the fun. If you use another notation program (or any other software that uses text fonts) you can also use the font there as well. 

We hope you enjoy using Patricia’s articulations in Finale as much as we enjoyed creating them. Thanks, Patricia, for reminding all of us that there’s room for humor in music notation!

Halloween-Themed Music Notation Discovered

Halloween-Themed Music Notation Discovered

Earlier this year, a scientific expedition set out to explore the long-abandoned (and very creepy) catacombs under the MakeMusic building. Their goal: to unearth some rare and valuable 3.5” floppy disks.

Only one member of the expedition has been seen since, and he has yet to speak. But when he was found he had a box of floppy disks clutched in his hands.

And one of those disks contained an amazing discovery.

Captured among seemingly random zeroes and ones, like a mosquito in amber, was a Finale file, shown above. Archaeologists believe the artifact to be a previously undiscovered creation by the legendary F. M. Bunbury.

Little is known about the secretive and reclusive Bunbury who, due to his preoccupation with the macabre (and for his use of initials), was once referred to as the H. P. Lovecraft of music notation. Perhaps best known for his jack-o’-lantern (erroneously attributed to Mark Adler here), he is also the composer of the spooky SmartMusic arrangements “Dies Irae” and “Jacque’s Unfortunate Boat Ride.”

From further evidence, we can only assume that among his many amazing and unearthly talents, Bunbury had also discovered time travel. Remarkably, the recovered file appears to have been saved in Finale 25.1 (but works equally well in Finale 2014). Scientists also assume that Bunbury used Finale’s Shape Designer and custom line functionality in the creation of this piece.

Today, thanks to the generosity of the Eugenio Delgado Foundation, you can download a zipped archive of the actual file, which also plays back the traditional “Oh, Those Bones.”

Given the spooky nature of this discovery, we’re delighted to share it with you just in time for Halloween. As has been suggested of Bunbury’s jack-o’-lantern in the past, educators may choose to omit the eyes, nose, and mouth prior to printing the file, allowing students to draw in frightening features of their own.

Best wishes for the weekend… and beyond.

Entering Notes in Transposing Staves with the New Finale

Are you using Finale 2014.5, an earlier version of Finale, or any other MakeMusic notation software?

If so, open or create any document that includes a Bb trumpet. Choose the simple entry tool, find a trumpet staff, and click in a C (of any duration) on the second space. As you click on the staff, you’ll hear a concert C. Once you hit “Play” it correctly transposes to a concert Bb.

This has changed in the new Finale.

Now when you enter notes in transposing staves, you’ll hear the transposing pitch. Check it out in the video above.  

For me, this eliminates a “disconnect” from my creative process. Do you prefer Speedy Entry to Simple? Of course Finale now plays back correctly when you enter notes in Speedy Entry, too.

This change, as well as the performance enhancements seen in the video, are just two of the many improvements in the new Finale. Last week we added several more enhancements in a free-of-charge update for all owners of Finale version 25.

You can try the latest and greatest version of Finale for 30 days with our free trial.

Please let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

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

When posing for the photograph at left, Mark’s photographer asked him to try to emulate the Mona Lisa smile. We think he did a darn good job.

Free Update for Finale Version 25


Just two months after its initial launch, we’re excited to share a new free-of-charge update for all owners of Finale version 25.

This timely update, Finale 25.1, is part of our continuous development and release initiative. We plan to share bug fixes and features more frequently – often as soon as they are ready – rather than saving them up for a single larger release. Moving forward, we plan to provide similar feature-rich releases in the coming months.

Among today’s highlights are:

  • Enhanced ReWire Support (Finale’s tempo can now drive the ReWire host)
  • Official support for macOS Sierra (10.12)
  • Updated Windows toolbars, palettes, and dialog boxes for use with high-resolution screens (aka Hi-DPI, including 4K monitors)
  • Additional new features, including lyric hyphen character definition, true black printing, transparency support in graphics, and more
  • Many bug fixes and refinements to v25

Want all the details? You can find them, along with Mac and Windows “Read Me” files, in our Help Center.

Installation Instructions

If you own Finale v25, here’s how to get the update:

  1. Either follow the update prompt in Finale or:
    – Mac: choose Finale > Check for Updates > Click Learn More
    – Windows: choose Help > Check for Updates > Click Get update
  2. When prompted, log in to your MakeMusic account under Existing Customers
  3. Click the Download button
  4. Close Finale if it’s still running and run the installer from your Downloads folder

Don’t own Finale v25 yet? Try it for free.

Let us know how the update is working for you via Facebook or Twitter.

Connect with Others Using ReWire in the New Finale



The new version of Finale includes ReWire support. This allows Finale to synchronize with other pro-level audio applications, including Digital Performer, ProTools, Logic and many others.

In this oddly familiar video, I demonstrate the simultaneous use of Logic and Finale. I’m monitoring video within Logic, and creating notation within Finale. Both applications appear on the screen, with Finale across the bottom. When I press Play in Logic both programs begin playback simultaneously and remain in sync (and this works no matter where I start within the piece).

As a result, I can create sounds in either Logic or Finale and combine them instantly.

Not sure how you’d use ReWire?

Let’s say you’re writing pop or commercial music. It’s not uncommon to create a song within a DAW and then wish to add live strings or a horn section, which will require notation for the performers.

In the past you might first mock-up the added section within the DAW. Then you’d export it as a MIDI file and open it in Finale. Then you could begin arranging the parts for your musicians. Among the problems with this scenario is it’s tough to test your Finale arrangements against your DAW tracks until you have musicians on hand to play them. Plus it’s a lot of steps to move files back-and-forth.

Today you can write a string or horn arrangement in Finale and easily sync up the playback to your DAW. Press play in Logic, hear what needs to be changed, edit in Finale, rinse and repeat. In this way you can “test-run” the new additions again and again, with little to no effort, long before distributing parts to your performers.

As I mentioned previously, those writing for film will likely be among the most enthusiastic users of Finale’s ReWire support. As Finale engineers looked at how to improve and modernize Finale’s Movie Window, they determined that investing engineering resources towards integrating ReWire support would give users access to far better video support AND much more flexibility.

Please let us know how you’re using (or planning to use) Finale’s ReWire on Facebook or Twitter.

Mark Adler - Connect with Others Using ReWire in the New FinaleMark Adler is MakeMusic’s notation product manager/senior editor, a professional trumpet player, teacher, and a freelance music editor and engraver.

Mark is also a fan of silent cinema, and enjoyed transforming this 1923 Felix clip with the addition of Albert Ellmenreich’s “Spinning Song.” The notation for “Spinning Song” and hundreds of other titles are included with Finale. To find them, go to Finale’s File menu and choose “Open Worksheets and Repertoire.”

Finale Spotlight on Adam Perlmutter’s String Instrument Notation


Adam Perlmutter is a freelance contributing editor at Stringletter, publishers of Acoustic Guitar, Classical Guitar, Strings, Ukulele and Drum magazines. When you see fretted string instrument notation in these publications, chances are good he had a hand in creating it. An industry veteran, Adam previously worked at Guitar One and Guitar World Acoustic.

You can see Adam’s notation at the newsstand and online. It appears in articles he’s written, as well as in articles by other authors, which can range from fingerstyle folk and blues  to jazz chord melody, and beyond.

Adam and I spoke recently to discuss his work.

What do you do at Stringletter?

I handle all of the editing, transcribing and arranging of the music notation—both for lessons and songs—that goes into the print and online editions of Acoustic Guitar magazine, as well as some for Ukulele and Classical Guitar. I also write performance notes, gear reviews, features, and the occasional lesson.

What background prepared you for this work?

I have a bachelor of music degree from UNC-Greensboro and a master’s degree in contemporary improvisation (a program that, ironically, didn’t involve any written notation) from the New England Conservatory.

After graduating I moved to New York City and sought out transcription work with Hal Leonard. It happened that one of Hal’s editors had an office in Manhattan, in the same building as the headquarters of Guitar One magazine.

I ended up doing freelance transcription work for Guitar One before transitioning into a staff position as a senior editor as well as music editor of Guitar World Acoustic. When these two titles folded, in 2007, I reached out to Acoustic Guitar magazine for freelance work and have been contributing to it and other Stringletter publications ever since.

Can you describe a typical workday?

My youngest child is at home with me during the day so admittedly not a whole lot gets done during standard working hours. I tend to handle correspondence during the day and then begin work in earnest in the evening, when the house is quiet. On a typical day I handle whatever pieces will go to print first, and whenever possible I try to create a good balance between engraving, transcribing, and writing/editing.

What tools do you use when transcribing notation from recordings?

My setup is pretty bare bones. To work with the audio I use a software program, the Amazing Slow Downer, and most important, an excellent set of Grado headphones. Thanks to Finale’s playback feature I don’t normally use the guitar when transcribing, although I do like to test each finished manuscript for playability.

Have any suggestions for people interested in your field, either in terms of developing skills or finding work?

I would say it’s best to develop as wide a skill set as possible and to work at being speedy and efficient when transcribing and engraving. As for transcribing skills, these are gained through years of practice. In doing the work you learn your own tips, like listening for the guitar’s open strings to determine the tuning.

Regarding your guitar notation, do you work from a style guide ?

When I came on board with Stringletter there was an established house style for notation, and I’ve pretty much stuck with it.

Are there engravers or publishers you look to for inspiration on how to do things “right”?

I tend to adhere to the practices established by Stringletter and Hal Leonard, which are very solid. Sometimes I go with what I think is correct—notation that is streamlined, without any redundant symbols, and not over-transcribed, by which I mean filled in with extraneous details that can bog a reader down.

In terms of engravers, I have learned a lot from Woytek Rynczak of WR Music Service, who is one of the very best in the business. Woytek has been engraving professionally for more than 40 years and did all of the music for Guitar One. He worked remotely and we used to fax manuscripts back and forth, often requiring three or four different proofs for a given piece. To save time, I learned to make the corrections myself, with his careful and patient guidance.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I have a good ear and am most proud of the accuracy of my work when it comes to transcribing, as well as the generally uncluttered way that I notate music.

What was your introduction to Finale?

I started using Finale in 1999 when I got my first computer. (Clearly I am revealing myself to be an extremely late adopter to computers in general.) Before that, and all through music school, I wrote everything by hand. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I began using Finale. I inputted standard notation using the program, but not knowing I could just copy and paste in into the tablature staff, wrote in the fret numbers by hand on printed manuscripts!

What do you like about Finale? What would you change?

I really like the flexibility the program offers in making beautiful manuscripts. Stringletter has idiosyncratic tablature clef and chord symbols, for instance, that I couldn’t duplicate on another program. It’s really helpful, too, that I can specify the lowest fret when copying music from the standard staff to the tablature.

The things I would change are mostly little details. For instance, when I copy one of the most common guitar chords—open G—to the tab staff, I always have to adjust the numbers.

Also, a program that I use for some clients other than Stringletter has a shortcut—the R key, which repeats any element within a score—and it would be great if Finale had a similar tool.

Actually, we added something like that a few years ago. Holding down the – key while clicking will add the last element placed in the score. This works for articulations, chords, SmartShapes, expressions…

That’s cool—I’m glad you shared it. There’s always something new to discover in the program.

Can you share a tip or a trick you’ve discovered with Finale?

This isn’t necessarily unique to Finale, but having a clear understanding of a piece’s structure before getting started with the notational process is one the keys to my efficiency, which is obviously essential for me given my compressed workday. Once you see where the repeating figures are in a piece of music, you can use Finale’s copy-and-paste functionality to lay down the foundations very quickly.

What upcoming projects are you especially looking forward to?

I am always looking forward to the songs I am asked to transcribe and arrange for Acoustic Guitar each month, and to making the notation of our talented lesson writers as clean and readable as possible. There is just so much great music.

A smaller part of my work is transcribing all sorts of music for friends and acquaintances for private use. These projects can become a total bear because of the complexity of the music and the work that goes into figuring out exactly what the artist was thinking. But I love the challenge of it. It’s with projects like these that the flexibility and capabilities available in Finale are essential.

I’d like to thank Adam for shedding some light on his work and giving us a glimpse “behind the scenes” in the music magazine world. What are you doing with Finale? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter.

New Finale Sounds, from a Didgeridoo to a Concert D Piano

New Finale Sounds, from a Didgeridoo to a Concert D Piano

Working on a new piece? Maybe it needs a didgeridoo. Or a djembe. Or a dulcimer.

Or, perhaps just the sounds of a stunning Concert D grand piano.

More than 100 new Garritan sounds have been added in the new Finale (including those mentioned above, and others that don’t begin with the letter D). These additions augment the already impressive collection provided in previous versions. An updated ARIA Player is included, too, with a new interface that makes accessing these sounds easier than ever before.

Seeing is Believing

You can see a list of all the Garritan sounds included in the new Finale in this chart. We’ve subtly indicated sounds added in this version with a discrete “NEW!”

Also included are non-Garritan sounds. These appear in the chart as well, and include Virtual Drumline sounds from Tapspace Percussion. While it’s an impressive list, reading about sounds is like talking about food. Or something.  It’s not really satisfying. You need to hear the sounds…

Hearing is Better

Below is a playlist of pieces created entirely with sounds included in Finale. Here the emphasis is on sounds added in the new Finale. To start, check out the Didgeridoo, the Concert D, or the Harp example.


Don’t own the new version yet? You can purchase Finale, upgrade from a previous version, or trade-up from other MakeMusic (and competitors’) products. Learn more at

Didgeridoo image courtesy of imagicity.