Finale and the Creature of Habit

I am a creature of habit. For example, I am content to eat the same breakfast every day. When I walk the dog, I am content to take the same route, down the same alleys, every day.

This drives my wife crazy. That alone might be a compelling reason to continue my habitual practices, but I have to admit there can be some shortcomings to blindly following repetitive patterns.

If Finale was a rug, I’d have long ago worn a path in my most used areas. For example, when I create a new chart for our rock band, I always start with the Setup Wizard. It only takes a minute, and I’m happy with the results, but the truth of the matter is that it’s a waste of time. If I’d only take a few extra steps and try something new today, I will save time with every subsequent arrangement I write for this group. So in honor of this blog (and of my wife who is almost always right, and whose only real shortcoming is her choice of men), I’m going to take that extra step today, and share the details and benefits with you.

Let’s start by going to Finale’s File menu and choosing New>Document with Setup Wizard. On the left side we can select an Ensemble, but let’s skip that for now. Let’s check out the Document Styles on the right – these make it easy to indicate things like page size, handwritten or engraved music fonts, text inserts, and more. You might just spend a minute – once – to click through the various options here to see what they offer. In doing so, I chose General>Copyist, because it offers a handwritten look, just the text inserts I need, and the page size and orientation I prefer. Then I hit Next.

At the top of the second Wizard page you can specify your Instrument Set. When I want to create a really impressive demo, I’ll always use the Garritan sounds, but I also frequently use the SmartMusic SoftSynth Instrument Set. Why? Because it allows me to share my files with anyone – even folks using the free Finale Reader – with the assurance that they will hear the file play back EXACTLY the same way that I do (plus the sounds load fast AND I am a creature of habit and I’ve been using these sounds for years). I select the appropriate instruments by double-clicking on them, and once they all appear on the right-hand side I indicate a Jazz Band score order.  Below you can see how I’ve configured this page. I suspect most of this is old hat for most of you.

Here’s a new wrinkle: Once this page looks good, click the Save as New Ensemble button, give this ensemble a name (I typed “Scott’s Band”), and click OK. We’ll see the benefits of this in a minute, but first hit Next.

In the next page you can enter text information, hit Next, and then key and time information – when you’re done, hit Next again, and you’ll see your score, ready for you to enter notes.

Okay, now for the cool part. Let’s say you’re ready to create another piece for the same group. Let’s go back to Finale’s File menu and again choose New>Document with Setup Wizard.

This time, under “Select an Ensemble” scroll to the bottom of the list. I see “Scott’s Band,” the ensemble I just created, so I select it. Under Document Style I’m going to choose General>Copyist again, and then hit the big “Always Use This Document Style with the Selected Ensemble button” (you’ll only have to do this the first time). Now hit Next to see the benefit of your work: All seven instruments of my ensemble are already indicated, and in the correct score order. A few more clicks and I’m done with the Setup Wizard.

Using this Save an Ensemble tip will not only save you a little time EVERY time you create a score for your group, it also ensures that your scores will be consistent in appearance. Plus, you never have to remember where you saved your ensemble, because Finale puts it right under your fingertips in the Setup Wizard. This is slick enough that I will create a new habit of simply choosing this ensemble each time I visit the Setup Wizard.

The only thing that might be even better would be if you didn’t have to type your name and copyright information every time, right? Actually, are probably a handful of other tasks you perform every time you create a file for your ensemble, and I’ll share how we can make that process more efficient too, in a subsequent post.

In the meantime, as a creature of habit, I’d like to wish you all the best. Don’t go changing!

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