Music Notation with Finale

This tutorial was written by Digital Studio Student Assistant, Nick Sucre. Learn more about Nick and our other student assistants here.

Finale is a very effective and intuitive way to notate music digitally. This program is very user friendly yet has a huge array of tools and options that fulfill almost every demand necessary for music notation. In this tutorial I will demonstrate how to create a straightforward music notation sheet. (This tutorial is done on PC but the process on Mac is identical)

Creating a New Document

Once you open Finale, a menu will appear with a series of options, and to begin we will click on Set-Up Wizard (Alternatively, if the menu does not show up, you can open the menu by pushing Ctrl + N).

The next screen that pops up will ask you to select an ensemble. Keep Create New Ensemble highlighted and click Next.

Next you will select the instruments you want for your document. For this example we will select from Keyboards > Piano and click on Add.

Hit Next and fill out the document information prompted.

Next, you can select your Meter, Tempo, Key Signature, and Pickup measure. Select Finish and the document will generate.

Writing Music

Now that we have the document we can begin to write. Before writing, we must make sure that our computer is on the right key settings. Go to Simple > Simple Entry Options…. > Edit Keyboard Shortcuts. On the bottom half of the window that appears check that the Keyboard Shortcut Set is on Laptop Shortcut Table. Then hit return to go back to the main sheet.

Now we are ready to write. Hover your mouse over the interval you wish. You can change the length of the note by pushing the numbers above the keyboard, with 5 being the quarter note, 4 being an eighth note, 6 being a half note, etc. press enter to input the note. The pitches of the next notes can be changed with the down and up arrows.

You can add flats and sharps with the – and =, respectively.

Adding Expressions and Articulations

To add embellishments of any kind to the music, simply refer to the toolbar, specifically the Expressions Tool and Articulations Tool.

You can shift the symbols around to different numbers to access articulations of your choice quicker.

Using the Music Playback Tool

The Playback Tool on Finale allows you to hear your written music and plays the music back to you exactly as written on the sheet, using digital instruments.

The Playback Region option gives you some options as to where the music begins to play. It is really your preference where you want it to start (default is first measure). I personally use Leftmost Measure as it makes it easier to listen to specific parts of music rather than having to listen to the entire piece every time. Click OK and then click the Play button. Finale will load the instrument sounds and play the music.

Finale is very easy to get used to and is welcoming to newcomers of digital notation, but also has a vast array of options and preferences that allow you to make the most advance sheet music. I encourage you to try out the different tools and mess around with preferences that work best for you. The method highlighted in this Tutorial is just one of the million ways to use this program, so make yourself comfortable. Happy Notating!