Finale User Spotlight: Rick Giovinazzo

Rick (at left) and composer John Ottman recording the Astro Boy score at Abbey Road Studios in London, July 2009.
Photo by Amanda Goodpaster, all rights reserved.

Born on Staten Island, N.Y., to a family of professional musicians, Rick Giovinazzo’s life has always been accompanied by a musical score. After many years of studying, performing, and writing music he moved to Los Angeles with the specific intent of working in film scoring, and has subsequently scored several feature films and has provided orchestrations for more than 100 others.

A partial list of the many orchestrations Rick has provided — using Finale — include Angels and Demons, Transformers (1 & 2), Austin Powers (1, 2 & 3), The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean (2 & 3), Astro Boy, The Bourne Supremacy, Desperate Housewives, Ice Age 3, The Chronicles of Narnia, Team America, X-Men (2 & 3) and Baby Mama. A very long list of Rick’s accomplishments can be viewed at the Internet Movie Database

Composers with whom Rick has worked include George S. Clinton, Hans Zimmer, Burt Bacharach, John Powell, John Ottman, Harry Gregson-Williams, Steve Jablonsky, and many others. Because I’m a Frank Zappa fan, I’m intrigued when I learn of projects Rick has done with Zappa-alumni (and fellow Finale user) Bruce Fowler, just as my love of the music of the Beatles causes me to sit at the edge of my seat when Rick describes a recent trip to London’s Abbey Road studios to supervise and record the score to Astro Boy.

Rick is a passionate and knowledgeable Finale user, who has generously lent his expertise to beta testing Finale and helping others on the Finale forum. He was similarly generous in sharing his thoughts for our blog (even including some great tips for new users):

“My work as an orchestrator using Finale dates back to 1996 when I began orchestrating for film and television composers in Los Angeles. Although, going back even further to 1991, I can claim to be among the first of the film and television copyists working in L.A. to use Finale professionally.

Finale has always been the only software that I’ve found capable of providing “everything” that I’ve needed from notation software. Other applications which I’ve tried have been lacking in the power and flexibility to handle certain musical situations which might come up — and in contemporary film scoring an orchestrator is often challenged to get new or unusual compositional techniques clearly and succinctly onto a score page.

I don’t recall ever being faced with a situation in which there was something that could not be notated in the way that I wanted when using Finale. I couldn’t say this about any other notation software. It seems that all others limit, in one way or another, my ability to produce score pages with the precise look that I think they need.

When I think of another challenge facing film score orchestrators today — the ever-shrinking time frame given to complete the job — I also think of how Finale allows me and my colleagues to prepare scores at breakneck speeds. And, we are able to do this without sacrificing accuracy and esthetics. And when new versions of Finale are released it seems there is always something new that can be done more quickly and more easily than was possible before.

If I sound like a gung-ho cheerleader for Finale that’s because I am. I’ve heard all the arguments against using Finale and have not found any of them to be very compelling or accurate. It’s true that at one time Finale was a difficult application to learn, but that has not been the case for many years already. I think it’s time this argument be put to rest.

My advice to Finale users just getting started is to jump right in. Begin with small projects and work your way up to those which are more ambitious. I’d suggest strongly that you create a custom template which meets your own specifications as fully as possible. It’s amazing how much time this saves on every project. One way to go about this is to use the provided templates, then customize them to your own needs. When you find yourself creating the same expressions or custom shapes and lines over and over again, from one project to the next, then you’ll know that it’s time to include those items in your template.

I’d also suggest that you feel free to experiment with Finale. I’ve found this very helpful in improving my own experience as a Finale user. For example:

  • Click on unfamiliar tools just to see what they offer.
  • Control-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) and click on things to check out the contextual menus unique to each tool — they are a tremendous convenience.
  • Explore the menu items and try those which sound relevant to the task at hand. Remember, you can have unlimited “Undos” so don’t be afraid to just try something new.

It’s also probably safe to say that the most underutilized resource by both new and long-time users for understanding Finale’s tremendous power is the documentation. Leave the documentation open in your web browser in the background where you can quickly do a search to find the information you need whenever you need it.

Finally, use the Forums. There you’ll find a community of experienced users who are generous with their knowledge and expertise in Finale and who are constantly trolling the forums ready to quickly and constructively help you navigate the ins and outs of whatever issues you may come upon.

For me, and for many others I’m sure, the thrill that comes from using Finale is when we realize that we can notate our music exactly as we’d like to see it…no differently than had we been using a pencil and paper — only, without the erasures or a straight edge — and with a speed that, at times, is difficult to imagine, and with a look that can be considered ready to publish.”

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