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Finale Music-Notation Software

My project, Unpacking Finale for the Budding Composer, seeks to do just that: open beginning music composers to the world of music-notation software, Finale. Finale, has been around since 1998 when MakeMusic launched Finale 1.0. Since then, nearly every year, more than 25 updates have sharpened Finale’s extensive toolset into the preeminent music- notation software on the market. Not only is Finale a document creation tool, it also functions as a MIDI playback tool where composers, arrangers, and teachers can get instant feedback on the music they are entering into the software. Even more impressive, Finale can import music from scanned documents to make rehearsal tracks for concerts, recitals, or ear-training exercises. 

As a musician myself, I have been using Finale since 2004 and since then have created many documents and audio files, both original and transcribed, that stand up to any professionally published piece of music. Not only capable of producing accurate and musical audio playback (complete with various styles like classical, jazz, and 20th century), Finale has a host of editing tools where one can add accents, dynamics, tempo marking, and myriad other symbols directly into the score. 

Of course, Finale is too big a program to cover every facet of Finale’s powerful features for a beginner’s guide. Instead, I have opted to only focus on those features that will get beginners to create their own original content. The most-important features I will present are the following:

  • 1) How to create your first document (instrument choice, score arrangement, time signature, key signature, initial tempo, etc);
  • 2) How to insert notation into the score (speedy and simple entry methods);
  • 3) How to add articulations, tempos, and dynamic markings using the Tools Palette;
  • 4) How to change the play style to fit with the piece of music you are creating;
  • 5) How to save your document;
  • 6) How to print your document (extracting specific instruments or a full score, depending on the user’s needs);
  • 7) How to create audio (mp3, tiff, aiff) files of your piece to create rehearsal tracks.

In addition to these features, I intend to provide step-by-step tutorial demonstrations that will have beginning users create a piece of their very own. The use images from the program will greatly aid the comprehension and will likely lead to greater appreciation for the powerful music-notation capabilities present within Finale’s catacombs. 

The pressing question for this project is “Why do I need this user manual? Isn’t the online Help function enough?” To that I will say that Finale does provide an in-depth help system with detailed instructions to perform every task Finale can accomplish (no matter how minute). However, Finale doesn’t provide a help system that is specifically geared to beginners. My user guide will keep as its focus audience, first-time users. My background in the world of UX (User Experience) should help me tailor my guide with this audience top of mind. I feel that a guide is specifically geared toward this audience will generate enough interest and competency that they will continue to use Finale as they become more familiar with more advanced tools and features. Finale is a wonderful, creative, and powerful music-notation tool that any aspiring composer, arranger, or music teacher (or student) should not be without.