Finale Songbook

I wanted to post a couple things about the free Finale player, Finale Songbook.

First, Finale Songbook was awarded with a Minnesota Tekne Award. From the Tekne press release:

MakeMusic’s Finale family of music notation software is used by over two million musicians worldwide ranging from amateurs composing in their basement to professionals creating music for Oscar-winning films. The Finale SongBook is an app that enables musicians and composers to take their music on the go. Finale SongBook allows musicians to leave the giant folder of sheet music at home, and still have access to all of their music on their iPad. Unlike competitors’ solutions, that allow users to only view and navigate sheet music, Finale SongBook users can view, print, and play their Finale files. From practice to performance, Finale SongBook covers the important features that gigging musicians and composers need, solidifying MakeMusic’s place as a leader in the Minnesota technology landscape.

Second, I'm using Finale Songbook for our musical rehearsals. The musical we are performing did not come with the option of a computer rehearsal score, so I've been putting all of the songs into Finale since August. We're about a month away from opening, and I've been able to create SmartMusic assignments for students having trouble with their parts (this show has several challenging quartets and quintets).

I imported one of my scores into Finale Songbook and found out that the voice parts default to the choral “Ahh” sound, which I generally despise and normally set as a piano sound. So I've been taking all of these songs (26 not counting A, B, C, and other variants of some numbers–do a musical and you'll know what's I mean), saving them to Dropbox, renaming them (for ease of downloading), and then removing vocal tracks, leaving me with piano and sometimes rhythm.

Although Finale Songbook doesn't have Dropbox capability (I wish it did), the musical staff and students can go to the Dropbox app, enter the choir's Dropbox general account info, and open any .MUS file to Finale Songbook. The result: instant rehearsal accompanist (particularly as our pianist is rehearsing most days with the pit band after school).

I've been finding some glitches with Finale 2012 in the process (I'm using the latest version, 2012C), such the swing feature doesn't work correctly (an important part of the show), so you have to create a miscellaneous expression, create a Swing expression, assign the expression, and then assign it to all staves to get your song to swing. I'm also having to turn off all the “recorded data” (even though most things have been scanned and imported into a new document after editing) in order to get Finale 2012 or Finale Songbook to play the tempos I've added with expressions.

Other than Dropbox integration, I'd love to see Finale Songbook add the ability to change the names of files (right now, these are based off the imported Finale file and cannot be changed), and to set the volume levels of each staff. I have had a few crashes of Finale Songbook (running on Beethoven, the choir's 3rd Generation iPad), with longer songs and with heavy use (including the deletion of files and reinstallation of files).

I am able to use Finale 2012 to make quick edits (e.g. Set a tempo, add a note, add a cue line), save the file to Dropbox, open the file from the iPad (in the Dropbox app) and then open it back into Finale Songbook.

Granted, creating a rehearsal track for a musical is a TON of work, even with scanning (again, I find PhotoScore Ultimate to be the most accurate software for scanning…saving as a MusicXML file), but in the end, we'll have a wonderful, consistent, customized (and customizable) rehearsal tool for the next four weeks until our show opens. You can't beat that.

All this said, there might be some place for MakeMusic in the world of musical theater. It is definitely worth considering.

(I should mention that my creation of a rehearsal score for our musical is for the benefit of our students and the files will not be distributed to other organizations. Musical theater companies get very upset about this sort of thing)


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