System requirements: Where other software offers paint-by-numbers solutions, Finale offers complete freedom and flexibility. As a result, musicians around the world rely on Finale to create, edit, audition, print, and publish the widest variety of musical scores.
Creating printed scores and composing in musical notation are perhaps niche activities amongst the general music technology population, but to those who follow this path, notation software forms a central part of any computer setup. While there are numerous software products that might appeal to the interested amateur including some creditable iOS apps , two giants have, until recently, dominated the professional field: These two products were last reviewed in SOS in the July and December issues respectively, since when Steinberg have also released the hotly anticipated Dorico.
Previewed in depth by Mark Wherry in SOS February , this has been in development for a number of years and the team involved includes many of the original Sibelius developers. Steinberg have obviously made a considerable investment in Dorico, so the professional notation software market would seem to have just got a whole lot more competitive.
Sibelius itself has reached v8. So, what does the latest version of Finale have to offer to existing and new users? Are there enough new features and refinements to keep the loyalty of the current user base, and does the latest release offer that something extra that might encourage new adoptees?
The first administrative thing to note is the obvious change in numbering. Gone is the year-based naming scheme and, instead, we now have a more conventional version-based approach. That this release is called Finale 25 simply confirms the longevity of the Finale brand! While there are some workflow refinements to be found throughout the new version, Finale 25 is going to feel like a familiar world to existing users.
That might be seen as either a good or bad thing depending upon your perspective: The move to bit architecture means better support for large third-party virtual instruments. The highlights amongst the changes are perhaps fourfold. As with other complex music software, the advantage of a bit environment should be increased performance and, in particular, access to more than the 4GB of RAM that bit architecture supports.
Finale retains its core feature set, including the Mixer window shown here. In practical terms, the obvious benefit will be the ability to drive more complex and hopefully realistic sample-based virtual instrument sounds.
I had no problems, for example, loading the bit AU version of Kontakt 5 into Finale and accessing some of the various Kontakt-based orchestral sounds I have on my own test system. The down side of the move to bit is that bit support has been removed at a stroke.
The GPO library has always punched somewhat above its weight sonically, given its price and relatively streamlined size, and I can imagine it being perfectly adequate for some types of Finale user; it might not deliver the same sort of realistic virtual performance that can be squeezed out of larger and more expensive libraries, but as a tool for checking how your compositions and arrangements are going to sound, it does a good job.
Over new sounds are now available as standard, of which the highlight is perhaps the rather good Concert D grand piano from GPO5. There are lots of other new goodies to explore, too: A number of organ sounds have also been added, including a second church organ.
The string section gets a third solo violin with key-switching but also a set of second violin section sounds; you can, therefore, simulate the sound of first and second violins in a more satisfying fashion. These include balalaika, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern percussion, djembe, dulcimer, fiddle, Highland bagpipes, Irish flute, kalimba, Peruvian panpipes, Uileann bagpipes and ukulele, amongst others.
There are also a large number of GM-style sounds, covering a range of non-orchestral sounds. Wired For Sync Talking of film or media composers, one feature removed from this version of Finale is support for video playback.
Finale 25 adds ReWire support. ReWire is obviously a very well established protocol, and perhaps the most surprising thing here is that it is only being added now. It simply worked without any faffing about and Finale was more than happy to sync to playback within Cubase with a video window operating and to follow tempo changes contained within the Cubase tempo track. With all your non-orchestral sounds handled within the DAW, and Finale providing playback for those elements that require formal scoring for live players, this looks like a decent working solution based on a robust synchronisation technology.
However, perhaps the one that deserves particular mention is the option for scanning printed scores for import into Finale. This has now disappeared from the launch dialogue when you start Finale MakeMusic have indicated this is because of the potential it creates for copyright infringement by users. Respecting copyrights is, of course, a cause that most musicians would have some sympathy with.
At the same time, though, there were all sorts of legitimate reasons, including some very obvious educational contexts, where a user might wish to scan printed scores that they have purchased in order to experiment with, and learn from, the notated music. Of course, there are ways to work around this. Going Up Creating detailed musical scores for use by, for example, a large orchestra, is a pretty daunting task and, like Sibelius, Finale allows you to take that process from the blank page, through the composition and engraving stages and right up to the final printing process.
So, if you are a current Finale user, should you upgrade? Well, if you have access to a fully bit system on which to run the new version, then I suspect the improved technical performance offered by version 25 will bring some clear benefits, especially if you rely heavily on virtual instruments. However, in terms of the actual features available for creating and crafting your score, this is perhaps an incremental update rather than a massive step-jump.
Against that, of course, should be set the fact that Finale already had a massively comprehensive feature set. Just how much more can you add to an application that already does everything? Here, you have the core of the original Sibelius team given the opportunity to start from scratch and perhaps reimagine what a modern software scoring environment should look like. The grass on the other side has to be super-green and the crossgrade price very competitive to make learning a new application preferable to sticking and updating.
Existing Finale users will, I suspect, be sticking with the familiar, at least until there is a much clearer idea of just what Dorico might have to offer.
Finale 25 is, on the surface, an apparently modest incremental development of an already comprehensive program. Finale 25 should, therefore, bring performance benefits both now, and over the course of the next few update cycles. It is a change that will keep giving. There are also monthly subscriptions and crossgrade offers available.
Discounted educational pricing is available on most scoring packages. Perfect Pitch Certain orchestral instruments are known as transposing instruments for example, the Bb clarinet. These are generally members of a family of instruments that are often played with the same fingering patterns, but where differences in size mean that the same fingering generates notes of a different pitch on different variants.
In notation for such instruments, it is a convention that the notes are displayed as if for a non-transposed instrument. So, for example, when the player of a Bb clarinet sees a C note in a score, they would play the fingering that would generate a C note on a C non-transposing clarinet, but this would actually result in a Bb note being sounded by their Bb instrument.
Finale 25 now handles the input of notes for transposing instruments in a more appropriate manner. Although Finale had always handled the playback of such transposing instruments correctly, in previous versions the user would hear the notated pitch rather than the transposed pitch when entering notes. This had become a bit of a long-standing grumble, and has been fixed in Finale Pros Move to bit format should bring performance enhancements both now and in the future.
Expanded GPO sound set provides a considerably broader sound palette. Cons Relatively little development in terms of core scoring features.
Option for scanning printed scores has been removed. Summary In delivering a fully bit application, v25 brings Finale firmly into the modern computing world with obvious performance potential even if, in other respects, the update is a modest evolution rather than a revolution.
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