The Power of Finale, Part 1: Simple Entry and Percussion

Finale has always offered great flexibility and control in its percussion notation. Finale 2010 made this power easy to use.

In previous versions, accessing the power of percussion notation could feel daunting to the user who was not familiar with maps, MIDI note numbers, playback notes, and so on. In addition, the use of a MIDI keyboard was basically required to be able to enter notes with Simple Entry in a timely fashion. This could create a problem for users who primarily use a laptop computer and don’t wish to lug a MIDI keyboard around. I vividly remember the displeasure of my seat partner on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta when I tried to fit my 25-key MIDI keyboard and laptop on the tray in front of me…

With these new percussion enhancements in Finale 2010, any user from the most casual to advanced can add a percussion staff to their score in three steps – without the need of a MIDI keyboard:

  1. Add a percussion staff
  2. Select which notes you want to use
  3. Enter the notes into your score

For this example, we will be adding a Basic Orchestral Percussion staff to a new score using the Garritan Instruments.

  1. Open Finale, then navigate to the Setup Wizard
  2. Select your preferred document style, then press Next
  3. Select “Instruments for Finale 2010” under the Instrument Set dropdown menu
  4. Switch to the Percussion category, and add a Basic Orch. Percussion staff
  5. Add the rest of the instruments you desire for your score, then finish the Setup Wizard

Now enter some notes using the Simple or Speedy Entry Tool. Notice how Finale will display the name of the percussion instrument that you are about to enter. This makes it easy to tell which instrument type and sound you are about to enter.

You can continue composing at this point, however, I like to customize my own percussion layouts for each percussion staff I use. I can tell Finale to only use a few of the instruments in the layout, which can greatly speed up entry, especially when I am using a laptop track pad instead of a mouse.

Finale will automatically select a percussion layout that is appropriate for the staff created. However, since we only might be using one or two sounds from the layout, we can create our own tailored to the instruments we will be using. For this staff let’s add a snare and concert bass.

  1. Select the Staff Tool and double-click in the percussion staff to open the Staff Attributes box
  2. Next to Notation Style, click Select, then in the Percussion Layout Selection box, click Create
  3. Enter a name for your new layout (such as, “Snare and Bass Drum” or something similar)
  4. Click the + sign to add a note type.  Note that Finale will default to adding a Snare Drum
  5. Under Staff Position, drag the note to where you would like it on the staff
  6. Click the + sign again to add another note
  7. Navigate to Note Type>Bass Drums>Bass Drum>Bass Drum
  8. Under Staff Position, drag the note to where you would like it on the staff, then press OK, Select, and OK

Now we are ready to enter some notes on the staff.  For this example, let’s use the Simple Entry Tool.

  1. Select the Simple Entry Tool and choose a note duration to enter
  2. Move your mouse cursor over the percussion staff. Notice that Finale will display the name of the note you are about to enter for that staff line. Since we only have a snare and bass drum added to the layout, these are the only two instruments Finale will let you enter on that staff
  3. Enter a note on the snare or bass drum line

The above example can be created solely using the Simple Entry Tool and mouse. If Speedy Entry is your flavor of choice, the same concepts apply.

Now you might be thinking – do I have to do this every time? Certainly not! Especially if you write for the same instrumentation repeatedly you could do this once and save your work as a template. In addition, customized Layouts can be exported then imported into other documents by going to File Menu>Save Library>Percussion Layouts.

I hope this introduction to the new percussion enhancements in Finale 2010 will take some of the confusion (and maybe fear) away from working with percussion. Old Finale pros can appreciate the ease, and new users can be up and running with a full percussion ensemble in mere minutes.

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