Band-in-a-Box Auto-Harmonizing in Finale

Finale includes dozens of plug-ins. I describe Finale’s plug-ins as “little applications that make complicated tasks easy.” One of the coolest plug-ins (and perhaps my favorite to demonstrate) is called “Band-in-a-Box Auto-Harmonizing.” This plug-in automatically harmonizes any melody, allowing you to choose from a wide variety of harmonization styles, ranging from two to six parts.

All you need to provide is a melody, although the results are “greatly enhanced” when you also provide chord symbols.

To demonstrate, I’ve used Finale’s Setup Wizard to quickly create a score, and have added a melody, an idea for a background part, and some chord symbols: 

  1. First I’ll need to indicate what staff I’d like to harmonize: so I choose the Selection tool and click to the left of the Alto Sax 1 part to select this entire staff.
  2. Then, from the Plug-ins menu, I’ll select Scoring and Arranging > Band-in-a-Box Auto-Harmonizing:

3.  In the Band-in-a-Box Auto-Harmonizing dialog box, I’ll select “Five Part” (because I have five saxes), “Drop Two (Super Sax),” as my desired style, and I’ll indicate that I want to place the new voices into  “four existing staves” starting with Alto Sax 2. Upon clicking “OK” the plug-in generates parts for all the remaining saxes.

Next I did essentially the same thing for the brass by selecting the Trumpet 1 staff and choosing “Six Part>Big Band Brass,” from the Trumpet 2 part down.

Here are the results:

I think that’s pretty amazing – and very quick.

Here are a few caveats:

  • I think this feature is best used as an “idea generator,” allowing Finale users to experiment with different harmonizations before deciding which direction to head. Then, using their ears to evaluate the results, they might quickly decide that a more triadic approach might work better than sixth and ninth chords for this partiular gospel piece (or whatever).
  • Having made the above point, I have used this feature for parts of final arrangements more than I care to admit.
  • If you teach jazz arranging you may choose to not share this feature with your students.

I hope this is helpful. I’ve found this feature to a total gas to play around with and it has provided me with more time for the rest of my life!

Let us know how this plug-in, or anything else in Finale, is working for you by clicking on “Comments” below.

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