7 Ways to Make Finale Easier For Yourself

by Stephanie L. Carlin

There are two things that are inevitable for every music student: practicing and Finale. Even if one doesn’t major in writing here at Berklee, you’re still going to use it, whether it be to make a lead sheet, transcribe a melody, or start a small arrangement. Regardless of the purpose, there have been times where I, a CWP major, have constantly pulled my hair out trying to figure out something and, when I go to a professor, the difference is a click of a button.

I’m not going to solve all of your Finale problems but I think I can help rectify some of the stress.

Make a template

Making a template is a great way to organize yourself. Even if you only have one class where you will ever use Finale, having the template will help you with lead sheets, quick parts, and quick MIDI inserts into other programs. Some professors may have done this step with you already, but keep in mind the class it is done for. It may not work for all mediums necessarily and mainly for the class itself, so make a second template if necessary.

Some key commands are simpler than others

Key commands are interesting in Finale. Some are very simple, like if you type in the number 8, a following note will be created an octave above the previous note. However, if you have two notes that you would like to disconnect, you can go to the Speedy tool and hold down command to click on where you want it separated. But, you won’t necessarily separate them, and will just keep furiously clicking until your mouse and hand have burst into flames. And even after suffering third degree burns, you’ll still be marked down for having a notes on the and-beat connected to the note on the third beat. Finale is weird like that.

Here’s a list of a few to help get you started:


Use MIDI playback, not Audio

I hear about a faulty playback all the time. Finale has a habit of getting rid of its audio files or just forgetting they exist. Besides, especially as a writing major, your final product is not going to sound good because of the MIDI. It’s going to sound good because of your awesome writing. And guys, I hope this goes without saying, but don’t buy sounds or rewire your sounds just to make Finale sound nice. It’s not worth it. I know the MIDI sounds bad but even if they wanted to replace the two screeching birds they record for all of their woodwind synths, they’re not going to. It’s best just to cope with the MIDI.

Printing and PDF are the same thing (kinda)

To print, you have to go to PDF and on the bottom left corner, there it will give you the option to print. I cannot explain the logic or reasoning behind anyone programming printing into the PDF, but I digress. Also, this tiny detail is something I remember printing being one of the biggest frustrations of my freshman year. If you are printing a score in tabloid (11×17), SET YOUR PAGE SIZE IN YOUR LAYOUT BEFORE YOU PRINT. Don’t try to fit it into 8.5 x 11 because most professors will fail you if it’s not 11×17 anyway. Don’t let the sacrifice of trees be in vain because of a layout error.

Know the difference between these two clefs

Ha! You thought these two clefs were the same thing because they’re clefs? Oh, young, naive freshman Steph, you are always wrong. The bass clef is the clef tool, where you can edit your clefs. The treble clef is actually the staff tool and, in arranging in particular, THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL. Kicks over time are annoying but can be managed if you understand the staff tool. If you want more detail on that subject in particular, this link should help:


Become the Score-Manager Manager

The Score Manager is a difficult job: it’s learning how to manage Score-manager. If you want to add instruments or change notation, you go here. Changing the notation in Finale is important because, with instruments like drums, Finale’s not going to have the industry standard. (Or the Berklee standard. However you want to interpret that).

Above all, be patient

Finale crashes, it dashes, and it sometimes completely misses the point. But, in terms of affordability, it’s the best option out there. So please, give it some slack. Otherwise, you might be breaking your arm like the guy up there.

What do you think? Have any quick tips or Finale frustrations? Leave a comment below!