When writing a score in notation software, I do most of the work on the computer. A few years ago one of my grad. Students at the University of the Arts asked how I composed. I told him I sketched the piece on manuscript paper and then created the score in notation software. He said, really? Why not do it all in the software so you can take advantage of copy and paste? That was good advice. Ever since then, I create several scratch staves at the top of the score, often just a treble and bass staff. Then I compose the melody, bass line, counterlines and some of the harmonies and chord symbols. I then can copy and paste these ideas into the score and save time.

BTW, be sure to use the instant copy command that is used in both Finale and Sibelius. Select the source material, hold down CTRL (Win) or Command (Mac) and click the mouse in the destination bar. It saves a lot of time. The highlighted portion is not lost so you can do this multiple times throughout the score.

Scketch Staves

So, when I am creating my sketch and there is going to be harmony in a section of the entire score, I place the chords in one voice of the sketch score. Then, use Explode to push them into the specific part of the arrangement. Here are the steps:

1. Enter the block chords in the sketch part.
2. Select them with the Selection Tool.
3. Press the shortcut the number 2 or choose Utilities > Explode Music.
Explode 1

4. Make the appropriate settings in the Explode Window – how many staves, and where to place the notes. Finale does the rest.


Band-in-a-Box Plug-ins 
The second time saver that I find very Helpful in Finale is the Band-in-a-Box plug-ins. These are borrowed from the www.pgmusic.com program Band-in-a-Box and work best as follows:

1. Enter a melody in the Sketch part
2. Add the chord symbols
3. Select the source material
4. Copy it to the first part, in this case the 1st trumpet.
5. Select the source material.
6. Choose Plug-ins > Scoring and Arranging > Band-in-a-Box Auto Harmonizing. I often use the Drop 2 when scoring for a group of instruments. For more information on drop 2 voicings check out:


7. Create the settings to place the three new voices in the parts starting with trumpet

The screen shots in this post are in trasposed view in Finale. You can also view a transposed score in concert pitch by selecting it from the Document menu.

Also, if you own Band-in-a-Box, the program has many more options that can be experimented with for auto-harmonizing. If you like one, in band in a box, save it as a MIDI file and import it into Finale.

Use Sparingly
Use these tools sparingly. They are not going to make your arrangements instant masterpieces. You still have to develop the ideas, orchestration, unison passages, etc. However, if you want to harmonize a section, Explode and Band-in-a-Box auto harmonizing are great time-saving tools. You can also experiment with different voicings and choose the best one for a particular passage.

What time saving scoring and arranging tools do you find most helpful in Finale?