Finale Songbook

I am happy to announce that Finale has finally released its first mainstream iPad app, Finale Songbook. Finale Songbook is a free app that allows you to read Finale files on your iPad. I love the name of the app, as it hearkens back to the song books of the jazz standards. The app opens to the main library, in which you can view your selections by playlists, title, composer, or file name. The library also includes a search bar, as well as a number of sample files and instructions on how to use the app.

The main view of music in Finale Songbook allows you to turn pages left to right, to play back the music, and to set the tempo. A cursor shows where you are at the time of playback, and pages turn along with the playback of the music. In theory, a musician could turn down the volume of their iPad, follow the cursor, and have pages turn for them at the correct time. At the current time, you cannot adjust audio levels for each individual instrument.

If a score is used (in place of a piece for an only for individual instrument), you can choose to view the complete score, or one of the parts in the score. Truthfully, if publishers would sell their songs as Finale files, this would make the distribution of parts quite simple in an ensemble.

Finale Songbook also includes a performance screen, where all of the additional information (slider bar, settings, playback, etc.) disappear and only the music is featured on the screen.

You can also e-mail a score, open it in another app, or print it.

The settings of Finale Songbook (v. 1.0) only offer two options. The first is to enable human playback, the other is to keep the iPad awake.

You can also use Finale Songbook with a Bluetooth page turning pedal like the Airturn or Pageflip Cicada. If you want to import a Finale file, you must import it through the iTunes document manager, or through e-mail. Repeats seem to work very well.

There are a number of missing (desired?) features in Finale Songbook. Some of these are options of a competitor, Avid Scorch, which can read Sibelius files. First, there is no Dropbox or iCloud integration, which would seem to be a logical addition to a future version of the Finale Songbook app. Second, there is no way to control the volume of individual parts in a score. For example, if you had a piece for SATB choir and piano, there is no way to mute three of the voices, raise the volume of the fourth voice, and then lower the volume of the piano. Avid Scorch has this feature. Third, there is no way to annotate a score in the current version of Finale Songbook–and this is a very important feature to me as a musician and as a music educator. I feel that we need to be able to write in our music–but how does one do that in a Finale score? I don’t have the answer, but I hope a smart programmer at MakeMusic figures it out. Fourth, I’m not sure how D.S. & D.C. settings work, particularly if you are in the full-screen mode. How do you quickly jump back to a spot in the score? The app seems to be in need of a hotspot feature. Fifth, Avid scorch brings the ability to transpose the key from its iPad app—this would be a welcome addition to Finale Songbook. Sixth, it might be nice to have the ability to change the size of scores on the screen, particularly for “weaker” eyes. And finally, the only file format that works with Finale Songbook is with Finale files, leaving users of PDF and MusicXML files out of the loop. Since MakeMusic owns MusicXML, I’d like to see the app be able to open MusicXML files (truthfully, I’d like to see the Finale extension eliminated altogether and MusicXML adopted as the standard for Finale). As a comparison, Avid Scorch allows for the import of PDF files, and also offers a library/store where music can be downloaded.

There is a bigger question/issue here, which is how to get the music publishing industry to change so that musicians can buy digital licenses and obtain music in a Finale or MusicXML format–this would be very beneficial for music educators who then could create custom assignments and accompaniment files in SmartMusic. This would terrify the music publishers who are wary of copyright infringement–but people already have photocopiers and scanners if they are trying to avoid copyright. This issue belongs in a separate post (and I’ve discussed some of this in my iBook), but this issue, conversion of existing resources to digital resources, and cost of digitial materials need to be addressed by the music publishing industry– soon.

Due to the penultimate paragraph, it may seem that I am negative about Finale Songbook, but I am quite happy with Finale Songbook v.1.0. Most importantly, it is a free app. If an app is free, and it works, don’t complain. Finale owners finally have a native iPad app through which to read their Finale scores. The app takes a while to load, but once it is running, page turns are fast and efficient. And I’m thrilled because the app gives MakeMusic more experience in the iOS marketplace as they bring future versions of SmartMusic and eventually Finale to the iPad. MakeMusic now has two iOS apps–SmartMusic Inbox and Finale Songbook–both are solid programs with a lot to offer.


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