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Just Because You’re Resting, Doesn’t Mean You’re Lazy…

Placing Rests for Use in Slash Notation

They say “rest is good for the soul.” Well, The Finale Guru says that “rests are good for the rhythm chart.”

Let’s face it, most rhythm charts have a lot of measures with slashes in them (slash notation). Sometimes there’s only one chord, or maybe two, in any given measure. So often, I see rhythm charts where people have simply thrown in a whole note, or whole rest and applied the slash notation style to the measure. Or, even worse, I’ve seen charts where people have copied over the right-hand of a piano part and then applied the slash notation. “Why is that so bad?” you ask. I’ll tell you why. It all has to do with spacing.

Scenario 1: With only a whole note (or rest) in a measure, Finale doesn’t really have any way to accurately gauge the spacing for that measure, even with the slashes. Finale seems to space the music more around the information in the measure, not the slashes. The end result, you might get narrow measures with slashes crammed against each other.

Scenario 2: By copying the right-hand of a piano part, you are likely to get all sorts of unnecessary information in your measures. Ever had a slash bar that spaces out as half of a line? You take a peek in the music to find that you’ve copied a piano part that is full of 16th note arpeggios. Yeah, kind of a waste, huh?

Both scenarios are undesirable because of what you don’t see “hidden” behind the slashes.

Solution: Do you remember what The Finale Guru said earlier? Go ahead, peek up at the top. No really, go ahead. That’s right! Good guess – rests! All you have to do for a very clean and well-spaced measure of slash notation is fill the bar with quarter rests (assuming you’re in 4/4). This gives Finale something on every beat with which to use as a guide for spacing. It’s easy to create a measure or two with rests and simply copy the measures as needed throughout your chart.

See, rests are good for the soul and for Finale. You know what else is good for the soul? Chocolate…

Attack of the Clones!

Cloning Lyrics

Okay, hopefully this will be more helpful to you than George Lucas’ episode 2, in all its glory.  Personally, I’m not really a fan of cloning. I think there are some inherent risks involved, like accidentally cloning Jack the Ripper, Hitler or maybe Carrot Top, for example. However, when it comes to lyrics, I’m all about cloning.  If you’ve never cloned lyrics before, please sit down for this…

Let’s say, you’ve got a vocal arrangement containing different staves with vocal parts on each of them, but at times they all sing the same lyrics.  Instead of re-typing all of those lyrics or using the Selection Tool to copy them from staff to staff, you can “clone” the lyrics.

  1. Select the Lyrics Tool.  Then go to “Lyrics/Clone Lyric”
  2. Now, you can select portions of the music much like you would with the selection tool.  Simply, highlight the region containing the lyrics you like, and simply drag them  to the staff that you want to be a duplicate. Easy, huh?
  3. Here’s the best part: After you finish your first rehearsal and the vocalists tell you that you typed “I’ve hat the time of my wife” instead of “I’ve had the time of my life,” you simply make the changes in one place. Finale fixes your minor fashion faux pas in every place where you cloned the lyric.

Let’s review: George Lucas clones = bad, Finale lyric clones = good. You can stand up now…

– Many thanks to my good friend and vocal arranger David Wise, who first taught me about cloning lyrics. I nearly had a coronary when he first showed me this.

Top Tip #6 – EVPU’s

#6 – Set EVPU’s as the Measurement Unit

Quick! What’s the value of the top system on page 3? – 0.23611. What about the distance between systems 7 and 8? – 0.3125. What’s the definition of pi? – 3.14159265358979323846…

I know, these are easy questions for all those math geniuses out there. But what about the rest of us?

Here’s an idea, instead of using inches as your measurement unit, try switching to EVPU’s. What does EVPU stand for? Honestly, I don’t remember and I couldn’t care less (actually, I do know and I do care, but it sounded cooler the other way). What I do care about is that when I’m in EVPU’s, I see numbers like 144, 288, 110, etc… Come on, that’s gotta be easier to deal with than 0.23611.

It’s an easy switch. Ready? Follow me… “Finale /Measurement Units/EVPU’s.”

Done. See, I told you it was easy.

Try living in the world of EVPU’s for a while and see if you ever switch back. Of course, if you need to switch back to inches (or points, or picas) for a specific reason, you saw how easy it was to go back and forth.

Oh, I forgot to ask. One more question. What’s the airspeed velocity of an un-laden swallow?

Top Tip #5 – Don’t Be a Drag

#5 – Don’t just drag an expression around to wherever you want it – always anchor it to the closest item you can.

Yes, this seems a bit picky, maybe. But, if you know me personally, you know that I’m a perfectionist. So it is really not uncharacteristic of me to point out piddly, little editing details like this. On second thought, maybe this isn’t so piddly, is it? Why do I even bring it up?  I’m glad you asked. Here’s why:

1 – When you drag an item far from its initial point of attachment in order to place it just where you’d like, Finale remembers the distance that it is from its original “home”. This can prove to be hazardous to your expression’s health when viewing the music in page view vs. scroll view, or on the part only vs. on the score. Remember, Finale is a computer program and only does what you tell it to do, so all it knows is that you dragged that expression 2 inches away from its home.  It doesn’t know why and doesn’t care.  Many times, I’ve seen expressions that were dragged to a desirable location on a score, but ended up way off of the page when viewed on the part.

2 – The other reason I bring this up is because Finale has made it easy to adjust where an expression is attached. By holding down the option key before selecting/dragging an expression, you can toggle on/off the “Anchor Indicator Lines” option (in your System Preference). I have the Indicator Line set to remain attached and not move. By, holding down the option key before I move an expression, I can easily allow it to move to another location. So, either way you choose to have this preference set, Finale’s made it easy to edit this.

The point is: in the end, you want to be able to edit your music easily and quickly. Expressions that “behave” and don’t act erratically from one view to the next will surely save you time.

Top Tip #4 – Linked Parts

#4 – Use Linked Parts no matter how small your score is.

I recently had a friend tell me how much he hated cars. “Why?”, I wondered. Was it because of the emissions, or maintenance, the price of gas, etc…?  “No,” he said. “It’s because your arm gets so tired doing all of that cranking – just to get the car started.” Then, my friend went on to complain about doing parts in Finale, because extracting parts is such a pain. I said, “really? What version of Finale are you using?” Somewhat sheepishly, he admitted to not having upgraded in a while. Then he finally just said it, “Finale 2001.”

Okay, that’s not a true story. At least not the part about the car. But the Finale part is true.  Sad…but true.

Comparing Finale of old (pre Linked Parts) to the Finale of today is a lot like comparing the cars of the 20′s to today’s. They’re just really worlds apart. You’d laugh at the guy griping about the cars, but when it came to Finale, you might just join in on the fun. “Boo, Finale. Part extraction is terrible.” Blah, blah, blah.  Truth of the matter is, you should laugh at him.

Okay, this is turning into a rant. Sorry.

Bottom line – Linked Parts is one of the greatest innovations in Finale over the last decade. This post wasn’t intended to become a tutorial on Linked Parts, so I’m not going to do that today. But, I will tell you that you simply must use Linked Parts every chance you get. Is it perfect? No. Has Finale improved it over the last 7 years? Yes. Does it save you a lot of time? Most definitely, yes.  Whether you’re creating only a few parts, or 30 (or more), using the Linked Parts features provides a way to edit your parts consistently, scroll between parts effortlessly, edit and adjust your score and parts more efficiently, and a whole lot more.  Linked Parts has saved me countless hours and it will for you to – if you just try it.

Remember that concept about the flying car? Man, now that thing would have been so awesome…

Top Tip #3 – Aligning Hairpins

#3 – When adding hairpins in multiple staves, right-click to align vertically.

First off, let’s all be clear on what a hairpin is. No, I’m not talking about those little clips that you find in your grandmother’s bathroom or in your sister’s bedroom on all of her Barbies.  If that’s what you’re envisioning right now, then my references to staves, aligning and editing really make no sense, do they?  No, in music, a hairpin is when you have a crescendo marking ( < ) immediately following by a decrescendo marking ( > ). The result: < >  See? It looks like a hairpin.  Nowadays, most guys seem to use the term “hairpin” to refer to either the < or >, or both together.

With Finale’s right-click contextual menu concept, all you have to do is select any group of hairpins (click and drag) and right click on the one that you feel is most properly placed. In the contextual menu, you have two options: “Align Vertically” and “Align Horizontally”. Choose which option you desire and Finale aligns them instantly. “Align Vertically” is great for an entire score up and down the page, while “Align Horizontally” works to ensure that hairpins sit the same distance under any given number of staves. Both are useful and quickly allow you to clean up your score.

One last thing I’ll mention – Do it as you go – makes editing easier later!  One way that I’ve become so fast in my Finale work is by learning to meld the creative aspect of Finale (note entry, writing in the music, etc…) with the non-creative (editing, cleanup, etc…). Both processes have to take place in order to create great music that also looks great on the page.  If you can find a way to incorporate portions of both phases into one workflow, you will likely save time and energy as you write. Okay, now you know my secret…

Top Tip #2 – Auto Spacing/Update Layout

#2 – Set System Prefs for Auto Music Spacing/Update Layout. It’s simple and helps in case you forget to.

This is really simple, but important too. Auto Spacing keeps the music looking nice and well-spaced as you work and Update Layout ensures that any changes you’ve made have been incorporated into what you’re seeing. Both can be found by going to System Preferences/Program Options/Edit. Click the buttons for “Automatic Music Spacing” and “Automatic Update Layout”, hit okay and you’re set.

 

Top Tip #1 – AutoSave

#1 – Set your System Prefs to AutoSave. Costs nothing to save. Costs a lot to lose your work.

There’s a reason this was the first tip I ever tweeted. Think about it, no matter what you’re doing, fast or slow, easy or hard, good or bad, pretty or sloppy, if you lose it all, that’s a real groove killer.  So, here’s what you need to do: go to System Preferences/Program Options/Save and Print and check the first two boxes – “Auto Save File(s) Every __ Minutes (I have mine set at 2) and “Make Backups When Saving Files”.  Then go to the “Folders” section (on the left) of the window and click the buttons for “Backup Files” and “Auto-Save”. Your computer will escort you thru the process of selecting a folder where you’ll save these files.

Yes, I realize that saving a backup of each Finale file will result in unnecessary files on your computer, likely taking up dozens and dozens of kilobytes of space. But, remember, it’s better to have files you don’t need than to need files you don’t have!

Soundtrack for Dragon Age: Inquisition

I recently had the opportunity to once again work with Trevor Morris and his L.A.-based team to create portions of the soundtrack to Dragon Age: Inquistion.  They called on me to serve as the orchestrator and also to conduct the orchestra sessions. Nothing beats standing on the podium in front of a room full of strings! Well, maybe one thing – later in the day standing in front of a room full of brass! Along with Trevor, I was able to work directly with both Ted Reedy and Phil McGowan, two members of Trevor’s team who are both fantastic. We recorded everything at Ocean Way Studios using players provided by Nashville Music Scoring. The game releases in November of this year. If you’re a gamer, it’s sort of a big deal. Can’t wait to see (and hear) it!

Medora!

It’s that time of year again! Nope, I’m not talking about spring or summer. The end of school, you ask? Nope. Here’s a hint – Teddy Roosevelt, Sherriff Bear, horses, and of course…elk.  That’s right – Medora! For the last 7 years, I’ve teamed up with Sandy Tipping to create orchestrated tracks for portions of Medora, North Dakota’s premiere outdoor entertainment show. As has been our procedure for the last few years, Sandy and I talk off and on about the show for weeks, even months. But, he waits as long as he can to actually send me charts and tracks, and then I write like mad for two days prior to the session. Okay, it may not sound all that appealing, but it seems to work for us. It’s usually not really all that stressful, unless of course your printer goes berserk the night before the session and you almost run out of paper too. Yes, that happened.

But you know what’s not stressful? Our tracking date at Westpark Studios in Franklin, TN.  Tom Reeves welcomes us in and we use just about every inch of space for a day.  Let me set the stage for you: Strings are in the main room/various Woodwinds are someplace else/the Woodwind players leave as soon as Piccolo overdubs are mentioned/all types of Brass players show up, sometimes different players for different styles!/Sandy and I chit-chat thru the entire tracking process/a lot of Animal Crackers are eaten.  But, at the end of the day, Tom has a smile on his face and says, “thanks for the call, see you next year.”  Next time you need a studio with a relaxed vibe, great work environment, and plenty of animal crackers, give them a call! http://www.westparkcreative.com/

So, next time you’re up in North Dakota, stop by Medora and check out the show. And please remember, it wasn’t my idea to call the song “Sherriff Bear, Shake it for Me.”

http://www.medora.com/do/entertainment/medora-musical/