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CODA FINALE 2000 (MAC/WIN)

February 1, 2000
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Among the many music-notation programs available, Finale has retained a loyal following by offering a multitude of high-end tools and capabilities that are simply not available in most other notation programs. While plenty of competing applications may be easier to learn, they usually fall short in a number of important areas-like font handling, note and symbol placement, and page layout options-that truly define a professional, publishing-level notation program. Although the market is filled with capable notation programs that do a fine job of creating simple scores, few rival the power and flexibility of Finale.

To experienced Finale users, the new Finale 2000 at first will not feel much different than the previous version. There are, however, some significant changes and additions that help increase efficiency and user friendliness. The upgrade has added several new Tool palettes and merged a few older Tools. In addition, it has relocated some submenus and commands, which provides a better-organized work environment. The program also includes new plug-ins, and its new Setup Wizard makes it much easier than before to create a basic score layout from scratch.

Moreover, the upgrade features a completely new default music font, called Maestro. The font adheres more closely to long-established European traditions of notation layout, spacing, and appearance. Finale 2000 also includes the excellent Jazz font-one of my absolute favorites-for creating parts with the look of handwritten notation. If you held off on upgrading because you felt Finale 98 didn't offer enough significant changes to justify leaving Finale 97, it's time to reconsider. This time around, making the change is well worth it. (Upgrades range from $99.95 to $149.95; Coda also offers lab packs, site licenses, and academic and theological discounts.)

GETTING STARTEDFinale 2000 includes many features that are commonly found in MIDI sequencers, word processors, graphic-design applications, and page-layout programs. Although Coda has made it easier than ever to create great-looking notation with Finale, new users must have some experience with computers and must possess a basic knowledge of music notation.

Finale no longer ships with the more than 1,000 pages of printed documentation it did before Finale 97. All of the extremely detailed and well-written documentation comes in Adobe Acrobat format. (Registered users can purchase a bound, printed version of the documentation.) A 180-page installation and tutorial manual comes with the installation CD-ROM, along with an 8-page quick-reference card.

Eight step-by-step tutorials are an excellent way to become familiar with Finale and the powerful feature set the program is known for. The CD-ROM also contains several QuickStart videos that explain many of the program's main features. The video tutorials and onscreen documentation, combined with the newly reorganized menus, make Finale more approachable than ever for the novice. Although it still takes time to master Finale, the program seems less difficult to learn than earlier versions. It would be impractical to cover Finale's extensive list of features in a single review, so we'll focus on Finale 2000's new and improved capabilities. For those unfamiliar with the program, let's begin with a brief overview.

OVERVIEWReshapable, floating tool palettes provide access to assorted menus, submenus, and dialog boxes that are specific to the individual tools (see Fig. 1). For instance, the Simple Entry tool lets you enter note values by directly clicking on a staff at the location you choose; the Mass Mover tool lets you edit sections of a score; the Chord tool lets you create chords; and so on.

When you click on a tool, a bar under the title bar displays the name and a brief description of the tool. That comes in handy if you're not good at memorizing what different icons represent. Any pertinent menus at the top of the screen appear with drop-down options that change as you select different tools. Depending on whether you're viewing the document in Scroll View mode or Page View mode, the measure and page number information is displayed at the bottom of the screen and can help you easily navigate the score.

A score can have an unlimited number of staffs. Each staff can have up to four independent layers, each layer containing two different voices. (Each layer and voice can have an unlimited number of notes.) Layers can be used to define independent lines sharing a staff with different stem directions, like Violin I and II. Piano music often makes use of multiple layers and stem directions to indicate the proper separation of melodic and harmonic content within a single staff. Since Finale lets you assign specific colors to just about anything (see Fig. 2), one cool trick is to apply different colors to different layers. This makes for easier identification on the screen while you work on a score.

Finale has always been good at helping you get raw notes into a score quickly. Simple Note Entry, the slowest method, allows you to select note values and other symbols from various palettes and add them directly into the score by clicking the mouse. Preprogrammed macros speed up this technique by enabling you to use the computer's number keys to select note values as you click the notes into the score. The Speedy Note Entry method lets you enter notes without a MIDI instrument (you can specify pitches by using your computer keyboard), but it is enhanced by the use of both a MIDI instrument and a computer keyboard to input notes in step time; that is the method I prefer for slamming notes into a score.

An equally fast way to input notes is with HyperScribe, which lets you input notes in real time to a metronome click or a tapped tempo. You can assign a note number (say, the lowest note on the keyboard) or MIDI controller (such as the sustain pedal) to advance the beat by a particular note division, letting you play a part more or less in time while tapping along with the beat. This method gives you the added flexibility to speed up or slow down without losing the proper placement of notes within a measure, which is not possible when inputting notes to a fixed click. The HyperScribe tool also allows you to rebar a rubato performance, in case you perform a big ritard at the end of a piece while a fixed click is banging away.

Notes can also be imported in Standard MIDI File format, and if you arrange your score layout to match the tracklist in your sequencer, you are well on your way to having a usable score. You can also create scores by importing files from Musitek's MidiScan and PianoScan applications or from Passport's Encore.

All of Finale's note-entry methods take some getting used to, but you'd be surprised at how fast you become proficient at a particular technique after doing it for only a few hours. By the end of the first couple of days, most Finale users gravitate toward a favorite method or two of note input and quickly become competent and comfortable creating basic scores.

Once the basic notes are in place, Finale offers myriad options for adding expressions, articulations, chords, lyrics, and other graphic elements to the score, and it also provides numerous controls for part extraction and page layout. For a detailed look at Finale's tools and editing capabilities, see the review of Finale 3.7.2 in the July 1997 issue of EM. Now let's take a look at the new and improved features in Finale 2000.

WHAT'S NEW?Finale 2000 includes several important new tools and menus. You can create a new score from an empty page, a default file, a template (Coda provides more than 40 great templates for band, choral, church, orchestral, and general scores), or the new Setup Wizard. With the Setup Wizard, you first give the score a title, provide the composer's name, and choose the paper size. Next, you select the instrumental staffs from a variety of instruments within several groups: woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, plucked strings, keyboards, and vocals (see Fig. 3). The individual instrument positions can be reorganized, if necessary, to reflect how you'd like them to appear in the score. The wizard then creates the entire score layout-complete with correct transpositions and spacing-and you're ready to go; it's very cool.

Several changes will be of particular interest to seasoned Finale users. For example, the main tool palette is now in color, and a new Rests palette has been added as an option for entering rests in Simple Entry mode (see Fig. 1). A new Beaming Options dialog box has been added to organize several beam-related parameters, and additions to the Special Tools feature let you adjust the width of beams and the alignment of stems on beamed notes. The Measure Number and Measure Attributes tools have been merged and are now accessed with a single Measure tool. The Measure tool's Measure menu provides the dialog box for creating multimeasure rests, and, best of all, you can now add measure numbers (showing the elapsed range of measures) to multimeasure rests.

Staff Expressions (markings that apply only to a specific staff) and Score Expressions (markings that apply to the whole score) are now combined in a single Expressions tool. Metatools (macros for selecting marks and symbols using the computer keyboard) now designate expressions as measure-attached, note-attached, or context-sensitive. A new command allows you to view all expression-mark grab handles for easier manipulation, and a new Swing marking has been added to the Expression library. The Smart Shapes palette offers several new tools, including Glissando, Tab Slide, and Custom Line (see Fig. 4). The Glissando tool is much improved, and the Custom Line tool can be used for pedal markings, ritards, runs, and other stretchable lines and brackets.

A new automatic music-spacing feature is applied to the score as you create it, which really helps keep the score looking clean as you work on it. Furthermore, you can now fine-tune music spacing by entering a single algorithm rather than through the creation of a complex table. A new spacing algorithm that incorporates the Fibonacci series is included as a default. Music-spacing options are now document specific and are saved with each file. Many items, including expressions, graphics, text blocks, measure numbers, and more, can be snapped to grids and guides you specify.

The new Staff Styles feature lets you quickly perform a variety of operations in a specified region. For example, you can change selected notes or measures to slashes or rhythmic notation, create 1- or 2-bar repeats, create one-line or percussion staffs, execute common transpositions (change an E-flat alto sax part to B-flat tenor sax), or create your own Staff Style. I really like this function, because it makes it easy to accomplish operations that used to take several mouse clicks.

A new Symbol option in the Text menu makes it easy to insert hard-to-find symbols in the current text font. (You can temporarily change the font if you need a specific symbol.) The Import MIDI File command can now import patch names as well as notes, and the Page View mode now allows scrolling playback, as in the Scroll View mode.

In the last several versions, Coda has been expanding its collection of plug-ins (mini programs that extend Finale's capabilities). Twelve new plug-ins have been added to Finale 2000, including a very cool Piano Reduction plug-in that condenses a specified region of a score into a two-staff piano part. Another handy plug-in lets you move the split point in a piano staff over a selected region for easier editing of notes between the two staffs. Other plug-ins let you show or hide notes, rests, ledger lines, and other markings; change rhythms and pitches; and modify global attributes (see Fig. 5). Finale's list of plug-ins has now grown to an impressive 42. Coda also offers free kits for third-party plug-in developers, and a growing number of developers now offer specialized plug-ins. (Check out www.rpmseattle .com/rpm/coda for more information.)

STYLISH NOTESOne of Finale's many strengths is its ability to use any notation font anywhere in a score. Several alternate fonts are available, providing complete control over the appearance and style of your scores.

After more than a year of research and development, Coda has replaced Finale's lauded Petrucci font with Maestro as the default font. Enlisting the services of several reputable engraving houses in Europe, Coda designed Maestro from the ground up-an effort that ultimately met with the approval of the European engravers, who initially were skeptical of a computer's ability to create truly great notation output.

Provided in two versions-Maestro and Maestro Wide (with wider noteheads)-the new font has a cleaner look overall. Although at first it may not seem significantly different from Petrucci, Maestro may well be the best-looking traditional music font available to date for desktop notation publishing (see the sidebar "Fun with Fonts"). The note spacing appears to be better with Maestro than Petrucci. I prefer the standard Maestro font to the slightly larger noteheads of Maestro Wide, but in some situations, Maestro Wide works quite well.

As I mentioned before, Finale 2000 features the new Jazz font; upgrades include the font, but if you're buying Finale for the first time, you'll have to download the font from Coda's Web site upon registering. (You can also order it on CD for a $5 shipping and handling charge.) The Jazz collection contains four separate fonts: Jazz (notation), JazzChord (chords); JazzPerc (percussion symbols), and JazzText.

The Jazz font is the closest I've seen to the style of handwritten notation, and it works well for sessions, live charts, and other less formal musical styles. David Crigger and I created Burt Bacharach's entire live performance book for rhythm section and symphony orchestra using the Jazz font, and it looks great. I have also done several charts for Dionne Warwick over the years with the Jazz font. Several musicians have expressed their delight with the computer output and have commented on how easy the charts are to read; most people just assume that they're reading handwritten charts.

MINOR GRIPESAll is not perfect with Finale 2000, however. The Ties command is still buried in the Simple Entry palette rather than being next to the Slurs tool in the Smart Shapes group. Most of the time I find that I have to use slurs instead of ties for better legibility and flexibility. And speaking of Smart Shapes, some of them don't seem to be all that smart. Slurs still have to be dragged into the proper arc direction as many times as not, especially when more than one layer is present. This can be aggravating and time-consuming when you're notating piano and string parts that use multiple layers and lots of ties and slurs (as most do).

I still wish there was a better link between scores and individual parts. The way the current program is designed, extracted parts are completely separate files. Any changes or corrections made to a part as it is optimized for page layout are not reflected in the full score, which means that you must make the same changes again in the score or risk discrepancies. A feature called Special Part Extraction creates a single part that is dynamically linked to the score, but you lose the link if you extract another instrument using this same method. Of course, you can always resave the entire score after each Special Part Extraction (that's how we did Burt Bacharach's charts), but that can be slow and cumbersome with large scores, and the files for each part end up being much larger than necessary. I would prefer having multiple Special Part Extractions available for each file.

FINAL CADENCEMinor complaints aside, Finale 2000 is a significant upgrade to an already powerful notation application. It is still a big chunk of code that could benefit from a little slimming down, and you really need a fast computer for it to work most effectively. However, the feature set is exhaustive and provides one of the only true publishing-quality outputs available in a desktop-level package. The newest features have made the program friendlier, and the tutorials and quick-start video tips help ease the initial dive into the world of noteheads, beams, and articulations.

The new Maestro font is wonderful, and the Jazz font is a great bonus. The Setup Wizard and Staff Styles feature work great, making initial score setups a breeze, and the onscreen documentation is well written and thorough. For high-end, professional-level notation features and the flexibility of working with a variety of music fonts, Finale is the top choice in my book.

Producer and songwriter Rob Shrock is the musical director for Burt Bacharach. He has also worked with Elvis Costello, Dionne Warwick, and LeAnn Rimes and is currently working on the Island Records debut of Mikaila.

One of the most versatile aspects of Finale is its ability to utilize different fonts. Coda has been instrumental in developing fonts that have elevated desktop music publishing to professional levels.

The new Maestro font, painstakingly designed by Coda with the assistance of European classical music publishers, is now the default font in Finale 2000. Petrucci was Coda's original font for Finale, and it's still available for backward compatibility with older Finale files. The Jazz font emulates the look of handwritten copy, typically used for live performances and recording-session charts.

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