Finale was the reigning champion of music-scoring packages throughout the 1990s. However, since Sibelius was ported to the Mac a couple of years ago, the situation has changed. Despite
its name, Finale 2002 has been around for some time, but hasn’t yet been updated for OS X. Nevertheless, there’s life in the old dog yet. The user interface has been streamlined, and a raft of new features has been added to help it to compete more effectively with Sibelius and other rivals.
Finale is widely used in education, especially in the US, and there are plenty of good reasons why. For instance, the Exercise wizard lets teachers easily create up to 56,000 printed practice lessons for their students. There are lots of features to suit music publishers, too. For example, the Patterson Beams plug-in lets you change the beams in your music to follow a specific house-style – and for Scandinavian users, Scandinavian chord spellings are provided.
The Explode feature lets you instantly expand music from one or two staves into full orchestrations; and the Auto Harmonizer plug-in lets you add a number of new voices to an existing melody. Presets
such as Guitar make it possible to create harmony-stacks typical of the instrument. More than 60 plug-ins are available, offering all manner of useful functions. My favourites are the Composer’s Assistant Plug-ins – including Chord Morphing, which generates a variety of smooth between-chord transitions; and Melodic Morphing,
which creates a melodic transition from one melody to another.
There are lots of ways to get your music into Finale. Apart from the usual MIDI-keyboard entry and step-entry from the computer keyboard, you can scan music using the built-in MIDISCAN feature, or import music scanned elsewhere. You can even play a woodwind or brass instrument into a microphone connected to your Mac, and the program’s MicNotator feature will convert the audio into notes in your score.
Finale also lets you turn your score into a Web page that you can publish on your own site, on the Finale Showcase Web site, or on the Net4Music self-publishing site.
Printing is one of Finale’s many strengths, and after years of refinement, the page-formatting and printing features will make most publishers very happy. The sheer weight of features available ensures that you are getting great value for money – and Finale retails for over £100 less than its main competitor, Sibelius.