In this post, I interviewed my co-author, friend, and mentor, Vince Leonard. The topic of this post is how to determine the page size for scores and parts in Finale and Sibelius.

TR: Do you have a set size in Finale and/or Sibelius for individual parts?

VL:  Yes. When I first started with Finale 1.0 back in the late 1980s, I measured the manuscript paper I’d been using when copying parts by hand and reproduced those dimensions in Finale.  At the time I could only print on letter size paper so I had to shrink the dimensions from my 9.5 by 12.5 manuscript paper.  Thanks to zoom reduction copiers, I knew the letter size page size was 88% smaller than my manuscript paper.  So, I made my computer part page 88% when printing on letter size paper.  I also reduce the staves a little as well.  At 100% it looks a little large, so I reduce the staff 90%.  That’s enough to make a crowed system look a little less cluttered.  I now have a printer that allows me to print on 9.5 by 12.5 paper, but I still use the individual Staff reduction.

In Finale, to reduce the staff size, choose the Page Layout Tool and from the Page Window, choose Resize Page (Page Reduction).

In Sibelius, to reduce the staff size, choose Layout > Document Setup and reduce the staff size.

TR: When do you start to reduce the size of  the page? How many parts in a score?

VL: Everything I create in Finale and Sibelius is reduced to some degree.  My first job was working for Bill Holcombe at his music publishing and engraving business, Musicians Publications back in the 1970s.  They used music typewriters for engraving, which had a fixed staff size so everything had some degree of reduction to it.  So when I started using computers, I copied the engraving model I knew from my past experience.

Even in small scores, as you can see from the quartet and quintet examples in our Finale and Sibelius books, involve reduction.  One of the things I learned from Bill was to maximize the available space on each page.  With scores, the music is smaller compared to an individual part even though both pages may be letter sized.  I want to fit as many systems as I can on that score page so I’m not constantly turning pages.

In Finale, to put a specific number of systems per page, choose the Page Layout Tool and from the Page Layout menu, select Space Systems Evenly. Enter the desired number of systems per page.

In Sibelius, in the Layout tab, you can reduce the space between systems to fit more systems on the page.

TR: When do you use Landscape for Scores?  How many staves?  What staff/page reduction?

VL: I use landscape orientation for smaller instrumentation where the system looks to spread out vertically in portrait orientation but there is insufficient space for two systems to fit on a page.  Traditionally landscape orientation is used in Jazz Ensemble and Marching Band scores, but since neither Finale or Sibelius default to landscape when creating a new score, a lot of writers not accustomed to the traditional layout just use portrait orientation as set up by the software.

I would start looking at Landscape somewhere between 6 to 10 staves per system and up to standard jazz ensemble size, between 20 and 25 staves.  With landscape orientation scores, there is less vertical space so reduction is more important to allow for sufficient space between the staves.  Scores always involve a tradeoff on space and at times there is not enough so you have to make due and just adjust things so they do not collide.

Both Finale and Sibelius will set up a newly created score in such a way that the staves fit on whatever page you select, so you don’t have to worry about that at all, unless you want to refine it a bit.

Before dealing with numbers it is worth noting that in Finale there are three elements that all be reduced, either using one or in combination to achieve the final look.  There is the overall size of the page, the size of the staff system (each group of staves in a multi stave piece) and the size of the staff itself.  Page reduction will reduce the size of everything on the page including the music and all page text.  Staff System reduction effects only the music on the page (leaving the page text unchanged), and Staff Reduction effect only a specific staff.  Anyone who has attempted the art of juggling knows that keeping three things going at one time is very hard, so I usually use only one or two of these options at a time to get a score where I’m happy with it.  My first choice is the Staff System Reduction.  This dialog box has two settings, the first is Staff Height, which is a unit of measurement, and the Resize System percentage.  The Resize System number will be the one most adjusted, but don’t ignore the Staff Height setting, if you get complaints about scores being hard to read, this number may be the biggest part of the problem.  I ry to keep it in the 80’s, using EVPU’s as my unit of measure.  If I can keep it at 88 in a large score that’s a good thing. The Resize System number will be in the upper 50’s to low 60s for most scores, with some additional staves added it may get into the low 50’s.

In Sibelius, these settings can be found in the Layout tab in the Document Setup section, the Staff Size setting performs a function similar to the Staff Height in Finale.  I usually prefer it just a setting or two smaller than the Sibelius default for most scores.

Both programs have the ability to make adjustments in between staff distances on a page by page basis once notes are entered and specific problems present themselves, but my focus here is the template, or default document that begins the process.

TR: How about large scores such as band and orchestral scores?  Do you use larger size paper and if so, what sizes?

VL: I’m a big fan of 11″ by 17″ paper for large ensemble scores.  After spending many years limited to letter and legal size paper it was very liberating to have that much space available.  I used to print large orchestra scores on legal size paper and use a photo copier with zoom enlargement to copy each page onto 11” by 17” paper. Now that I’m working with some orchestra and chorus pieces, once again the page is getting tight.  One answer to combine instruments on a single staff to save some space, but only instruments with the same transposition.  This is something the neither Finale, in Setup Wizard, or Sibelius, in Quick Start, do automatically.  Set the number of staves manually, then rename the staves to reflect the instruments on them.

TR: Are the templates that are supplied with Finale and Sibelius good places to go for reduction?

VL: They are a start, but I also look at samples of print music and take the best of both.  I print out a sheet of a blank template and compare it to print examples to check staff size, distance between staves and margins.  One of the first things you may notice is the distance between staves, especially with Finale documents.  Finale places an equal amount of distance between each staff of a score in the Setup Wizard. (There is a way of adding additional distance when creating a score, it’s the Add Vertical Space button in the second pane of the Setup Wizard)  If you look at published non computer scores, you will find different distances between the staves.  This has to do with parts that can go high above or below the staff and to put a little extra distance between instrument groups for easier visual recognition.  Sibelius automatically places some extra distance between instrument families and grand staff instruments but not within an instrument family.

TR: Any other recommendations?

VL: When creating large band and orchestra scores, take the time to add readable measure numbers to the score and number every measure.  It saves a lot of time in rehearsal. The number one thing I have to do to computer generated scores in the Philly Pops Library is to manually write in numbers on scores where the default size and placement has not been changed.

You can contact Vince Leonard at