Jocelyn Hagen’s Finale Tip for Piano Writing

Jocelyn Haugen - Finale Piano Writing tip

Jocelyn Hagen

This week composer Jocelyn Hagen shares a tip with the Finale Blog. Here’s Jocelyn Hagen’s Finale tip for cross staff beaming:

“I’ve been using Finale for over 15 years and I still don’t think I have everything figured out with the program! But I have mastered many skills that help me engrave my music fast and beautifully.

Because I am a pianist, many of my piano parts are quite detailed and virtuosic. Pondering how to make the score look the simplest and easy to sightread takes up much of my time. I tend to compose lots of arpeggiated chords in which there is a seamless switch between the left and right hands. Using cross-staff beaming is the most effective method to notate this kind of technique. Here are a few examples of cross-staff beaming from my scores:


Too See the Sky Jocelyn Hagen

Too See the Sky excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)  Order the full score at

Mood Goddess excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)

Mood Goddess excerpt (courtesy of Jocelyn Hagen)      Order the full score at


With this kind of notation, the pianist does not have to contemplate which hand to play which note, or have to negotiate unnecessary rests. It’s clean & simple ~ just what pianists like!

The first couple times I did this in Finale, I always had to refresh myself on the notation technique, because I could never remember. Years ago the steps to achieve cross-staff  beaming were lengthy, yet, I had it down to a science. You can probably relate if you’ve been using Finale for as long as I have.

Today’s Finale makes it easy. First introduced in Finale 2011… here is the keyboard shortcut for creating cross-staff beaming:

1. Choose the Selection Tool then click + drag to select the notes you wish to move.

2. Press Alt+up/down arrow on Windows or Option+up/down arrow on Mac.

Hope this helps! I use this trick all the time, and I encourage you to use this technique when composing piano parts. It’s a very natural way to play, and very effective.”

Thanks again to Jocelyn Hagen for providing her Finale piano writing tip. To find out more information about Jocelyn’s recent projects and performances, visit

Listen to Jocelyn’s MASHUP of Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” and Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Children’s Corner. Available now on iTunes.

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Have a Finale question for Jocelyn? Leave a comment below!

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