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[Finale] What you can't do with Finale: From recent cases in Finale tech support

To find out what a product can do, you can check the product's website or user manual, but there is generally little information about “impossible things”. In many cases, you won't know until you actually try to use the product yourself.

From a user's perspective, it's disappointing to consume a lot of time researching something only to find out that “it's NOT possible”. On the other hand, if you know from the start that it's not possible, you can put more effort into the positive work of devising a different approach.

From the above perspective, this article introduces what is impossible with Finale and another approach that can be considered, based on actual inquiry cases Japanese Finale Technical Support has received.

I'll continue to add more items and update this article from time to time.

【table of contents】

  1. Applying different sizes of rehearsal marks in the score and parts

  2. Individual notehead color changes

  3. Fretboard’s horizontal placement

  4. Adjusting the vertical position of horizontal lines in fractional chords

  5. Entering the polychords

  6. Changing the line width of ledger lines with grace notes


1. Applying different sizes of rehearsal marks in the score and parts

Finale has a convenient feature where the score and parts are linked, so that changes you make to one will automatically be reflected in the other.

However, this function becomes a nuisance when it comes to symbols; for example, if you increase the size of a rehearsal mark in the score, the rehearsal mark in the part will also change to that size. Unfortunately, it is not possible to set the size separately for the score and parts.

Normally, there may be no problem with this specification, but this becomes a problem, for example, in the case of orchestral scores that handle large-scale orchestrations. In a conductor's score, it is desirable to display rehearsal marks larger because the staff occupies more space on the paper, but if you do this, the rehearsal marks in the part score will become too large.

This actually became a problem when I worked with Mr. Hayato Matsuo (composer/arranger/orchestrator) to create a template for film scoring. Actually, we wanted to place fairly large rehearsal marks in the conductor's score, but due to this problem, we compromised by using slightly larger rehearsal marks, but the rehearsal marks in the part score were still quite large.

In Finale, if you really want to use rehearsal marks of different sizes for the score and parts, you can create rehearsal marks that are set to appear only in the score or parts.

However, these must be managed manually, and considering the effort and risk of making mistakes, it is ultimately best to create a separate file for the parts after the score is completed, that seems like a realistic solution.

2. Changing noteheads’ color individually

You can change notehead colors individually with Sibelius, Dorico, or even with the free MuseScore.

On the other hand, Finale does not have a function to change the color of individual noteheads. For example, it has a function to change the color of C noteheads to red, but in that case, all C noteheads will be red. In other words, you cannot make only a particular note in red, like “only C3 is red”.

However, if you want to change the color of only a specific note, you can overlay a colored note created as an image file in advance, or you can process it using software that specializes in graphic editing such as Illustrator. There is a way to do this, so I don't think this would be too inconvenient even with the current specifications.

3. Placing fretboards horizontally

This is probably due to the cultural difference between the Western “vertical” style and the Japanese “horizontal” style. Since Finale is American-made software and probably is targeting the global market, I guess it's an unavoidable specification that it cannot handle the special Japanese style. 

I think this can also be handled by exporting fretboards created in Finale as images, laying them out horizontally, and storing them, then arranging them with a graphic tool or finishing them in Illustrator.

In this diagram, the sideways fretboard above CMaj7 in measure 1 is arranged in this way.

The arranged graphics can be assigned to any bar or the placement of the placements, so it can follow the layout change. If you can't write with standard functions, you can finally manage this way, which can be said to be the strength of Finale.

4. Adjusting the vertical position of horizontal lines in fractional chords

In Finale, when entering a chord such as a fraction chord that separates the numerator and denominator symbols with a horizontal line, insert an underscore “_”, but the vertical position of the horizontal line input using this method is biased toward the numerator, making it difficult to read. And surprisingly, Finale doesn't allow you to adjust its position.

Although it is a bit tedious, by entering the two chords for the numerator and denominator separately, and entering the horizontal line using the Line tool in the Smart Shape tool, you can create a well-balanced and easy-to-read fraction chord.

You can also draw a straight line horizontally by holding down the shift key while drawing it with the Line tool. A straight line entered at an angle can be made horizontal by right-clicking the handle and selecting “Fix horizontally”.

Applying this, it may be a good idea to create and use a straight line from the right edge of the page to the left edge as a ruler in order to line up each symbol of the fractional chord whose elements have been decomposed using the above method in a horizontal line.

5. Entering the polychords

For example, polychords in which another triad or 7th chord is placed on top of a triad or 7th chord, such as the aforementioned "G/CMaj7" and "Em7/FMaj7", cannot be entered in Finale.

To enter this, you need to place the numerator and denominator chords vertically, and enter the horizontal line using the straight line tool, just like the fraction chord described above.

When inputting them, for example if it is "G/Cmaj7", it is necessary to type "CMaj7" and press the up-arrow key while the cursor is on the right of "7" to enter "G". Voicing does not make a musical consideration, but these chords are also reproduced in playback.

6. Changing the line width of ledger lines with grace notes

In Finale, grace notes are entered with a different scaling factor from normal notes, but this scaling factor cannot be controlled separately for notes and ledger lines. As a result, if many grace notes are used on ledger lines, the difference in line thickness between normal notes and grace notes will be noticeable, but this cannot be unified.

It is difficult to compensate for this with the Smart Shape tool, so if you really want to unify the images, I think it would be more efficient to export them to PDF or the like and process them using other graphic software.

(By the way, I investigated and found that this is the same for Dorico, Sibelius, and MuseScore, at least in the initial settings. I guess no one wants to do this when you write scores by hand, but with the spread of music notation software, this might accidentally become the standard for notation in the future.)


By thinking about how to apply different functions to achieve something that is not possible with the standard functions of a product, you will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of that product.

Finale is often praised as “there's nothing it can't do”, but what that specifically means is that “there's a lot of room for innovation by applying other functions to achieve things that aren't possible with standard functions”.



The finale intensive course is being held in parallel on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. Click on the banner below for details. (Lecture is given in Japanese. ) 

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