Composition and Notation

Yuri riding his milk chocolate Easter Horse

Yuri riding his milk chocolate Easter Horse

Finale as a Boon

Finale is a sensational program that puts power to notate and compose music in the hands of people who otherwise would never have such a chance.  Those who do not play piano now have the opportunity to try out voicings, chords, and sounds they could never produce alone.  Finale lets aspiring arrangers and composers create masterworks with professional publishing quality, and allows for playback of what you’ve written.  It’s an absolutely indespensible tool, and it (or Sibelius) is highly recommended.  In order to download Finale Notepad, the freeware version, you should visit  Give it a whirl!  It will be your best friend.

Finale as a Bane

Warning: Yuri is currently mounting his hobby horse for a wicked ride on a coiled spring!

Finale 2009 – the world’s most powerful music notation software – lets you express your creativity and love of music. Compose, arrange, notate, and print engraver-quality sheet music. (emphasis added)

Finale is a fantastic tool, but it is fundamentally a tool for music notation; it does a rather pitiful job of performing pieces written for it.  Since we’ll be composing for the voice and not strange synthesized “oo”s, it’s wise to take extra care when using Finale.  When people write music in Finale instead of at a piano, an instrument, or with their voice, there’s a neigh-unavoidable tendency for it to come out sounding like Finale playback.  And it makes perfect sense that this should be the case.  Instead, work on picturing in your mind what your arrangement might sound like sung by real people.

We’ll discuss this later in detail, but the short of it is that the best way to arrange is to remember that vowels, syllables, dynamic effects, and fantastic sounding voices are by far the most exciting and interesting parts of a great a cappella arrangement; Finale can provide none of these for you, so if you use it to test the sound of your arrangement, you’ll be apt to miss the best parts!  Don’t let this happen to you.

Alternative Technique: Multitracking

Highly recommended is the use of multi-tracking recording software such as Adobe Audition to record yourself singing your arrangement.  By multitracking yourself or friends, you will get an opportunity to hear what an arrangement sounds like when performed with voices.  Better still, by singing every line throughout, you’ll be forced to learn what parts are hard to perform, which contain improveable voiceleading, and how to teach the group how to do certain sections.  This process could be done anywhere along the line, but also works quite well as an initial compositional sketchbook.  More on all this in Advanced Explorations.

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I think that you can use audacity to multitrack…just keep recording tracks and listen to the previous track…haven’t tried it myself, but I think that it’s possible.

Written By bombaycharlie on December 21st, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

Yes, I’m using Audacity to arrange a piece myself right now. You can download it for free to record multiple tracks, and if you’re a girl or a tenor, you can even adjust the pitch so that you can sing the bass part in your range and then move it down an octave. It will sound strange, but it’s better than having it in a higher register. Google it.

Written By S'wonderful on December 28th, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

As far as freeware compositional tools, I highly recommend not using Finale NotePad. Finale is a great program for those who wish to spend $600, but for those who want free notation software there are better alternatives. I used to write all of my music in MuseScore (which I believe has a highly superior interface to Finale and is free), but because it lacks a few features (for example, when you add crescendos or other longer lasting effects they only apply for a certain range, and extending them as printed will not affect the notes they affect in playback) I have since started using LilyPond. LilyPond is also free, but requires that you type music in a sort of code. Once you learn the language, typesetting music can go very quickly, you don’t need to know where notes are on various clefs, and you can get beautiful scores/parts with all the effects you want. Combined with SynthFont and the right Soundfonts, you can make synthesized playbacks of equal quality to Finale’s.

Written By Tyler on June 4th, 2011 @ 11:04 am

Finale is quite good, but sometimes a little bit complicated. I’ve been using it for several years I’m quite happy with it.

“…by singing every line throughout, you’ll be forced to learn what parts are hard to perform, which contain improveable voiceleading, and how to teach the group how to do certain sections.”

It’s a good advice. I began to do it, but it takes too much time. I’m only doing it with Tenor, my voice. But that makes me rewrite some phrases. I mean, what I thought belonged to the Tenor, now I think it’s better to give it to the Soprano, for instance.
I,m doing it with Cubase. I don’t know about Audacity, to be honest.

Written By joseoscar on February 11th, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

If you have the money or will use it for other stuff, Sibelius is far better, easier to use, and intuitive than Finale.

I’m not sure how the sound is for voice…for instrumentals, the MIDI sound is cringeworthy but if you get the actual Sibelius sounds, it’s pretty freaking amazing (probably because it’s taken from records of actual instruments).

The only downside to Sibelius currently is its propensity to crash without saving and/or corrupting files, so save often, but usually if you do some digging, the backup files exist and I’ve never had a problem with those corrupting.

Written By Hollis on December 14th, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

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