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Understanding Finale®: A Look at the Family
By Kyle Ware
12/7/2010 11:42:00 AM

Finale ReaderThis is the newest and cheapest product of Finale® available. How cheap is it? Well, it’s free. However, there is a catch: you cannot compose with it. This software allows you to open, play, and print any Finale family file and MusicXML files. So why would you want this if you cannot compose? Here is a perfect situation: Your school band director uses Finale 2009 to make the new marching band show. Instead of waiting until the end of summer to send everybody music, it’s emailed to you. Using Finale Reader, you can open this file and start practicing! This program can only be downloaded from the Finale® website: www.finalemusic.com/Reader

Finale NotepadThis software use to be free…well, not anymore. The good news is that it is still a good value for the money. Finale NotePad® allows you to compose on up to 8 staves and will allow you to import MIDI. All programs from here on up will allow you to use a mouse, a computer keyboard, or a MIDI device/keyboard to input notes. Unfortunately, if you use a MIDI device/keyboard, you will only be allowed to input as a Step-Time entry, meaning you can only input notes one at a time (chords are fine). All other software above NotePad® allows for Real-time entry (inputs as you play to a metronome). Sound-wise, this program will give you the typically “old cell-phone sound” that everybody knows and loves. All joking aside, the sounds will not be very realistic, but you can at least hear what you are writing.

This program is great for somebody who is looking for a very cheap way to input notes. You will be very limited to 8 staves, so if you have any desire for more instruments, take a look at PrintMusic® or higher up. However, if you are just looking at testing the water, this is perfect! Finale NotePad® is still only available through the Finale® website: www.finalemusic.com/notepad . It is available as a download or a CD-ROM (CD-ROM will be more expensive). This product lists at $9.95 for the download and $19.95 for the CD-ROM.

Finale Song WriterYou have to really dig deep down to find the differences between Finale SongWriter® and NotePad®. You are still limited to 8 staves and everything still sounds the same. A major difference is that if you use a MIDI device/keyboard to input notes, you can use Real-time entry (meaning you can play like normal and the notes will appear on the screen). Also, NotePad® limits you to 1 lyric verse, while SongWriter allows you to write up to 6 lyric verses. Finally, SongWriter allows you to save as an audio file (.mp3, .wav, .aiff), something NotePad® cannot do. Once again, you are still limited on what you can do with this software. If you just want to test the water, this is perfect. If you are looking for something with more power, everything from here on out is up your alley. This is available from West Music. This product lists at $49.95.

Finale Print MusicFinale PrintMusic® is one of the most popular titles out there and for many reasons. Despite being considered a “watered-down” version of Finale, this program offers the essentials to complete what you want and starts to give it a realistic sound. The number of staves is still limiting (24 staves), but unless you are composing for an entire orchestra or a full instrumental ensemble, you might not need more than 24 staves. PrintMusic® gives you the luxury of the Step-Time and Real-Time entry via MIDI device/keyboard and an unlimited amount of lyric verses to write. But what sets this apart from the rest is that the idea of Extract Parts starts to come in. This is a feature that allows you to extract all of the parts from your score (all 24 staves if you used them) and create individual sheets to print out or edit. Word of advice, if you make an edit in an extracted part or the score after it is extracted, you will have to go and adjust it in all relevant places (Linked parts will come in handy in the Full Finale®).

Other great features in PrintMusic® are: inclusion of Row-Loff™ Marching Percussion sounds, mixer, and the ability to import/export TIFF files.

PrintMusic is perfect for anybody who just doesn’t want to make that leap to Allegro® or Finale®, but wants something that will really let them get their hands dirty in notation. PrintMusic is available through West Music. This product lists for $99.95.

Finale AllegroFinale Allegro® is as close as you can get to the full version of Finale® without it being the full version. The differences between Allegro® and the one below it are fairly drastic. We start to see an unlimited amount of staves to compose on and the ability to use both compound and additive time signatures. You will still be limited on sounds (still will have Row-Loff sounds and general MIDI). In my honest opinion, if you can afford Allegro® save up a little more and purchase the full version of Finale®. Allegro® only becomes useful if you are not a student/educator/church/therapist and cannot get the education discount. Finale Allegro® is available from West Music. This product lists at $199.00.

Finale LogoNow it’s time for the big daddy of notation software. Finale does it all: unlimited staves and lyric verses, those realistic sounds from Garritan and TapSpace Virtual Drumline, linked parts, the ability to alter almost any engraving detail. Honestly, there is not much you cannot do with Finale®. The only downside is that because there is so much to do in there, it will take a while to figure out how things work. But with a little time and some hard work, you’ll have it practically mastered!

You will see this title listed as two different things: Finale® Academic and Finale® Retail (or just plain Finale®. These are the same exact products, just one is a price break for students/educators/churches/therapists (with proper documents to satisfy the price requirements) and the other is available for everybody else. Finale typically does come out with a new version every year in the summer (big emphasis on typically), so if you are not able to get the upgraded version, don’t worry. There are still quite a few people who insist on using an older version because they liked it so much.

Click here for Finale® Academic. This product lists for $350.00.

Click here for Finale® Retail. This product lists for $600.00.

One last thing: if you are not sure about which program will work for you, try a demo. All of these available for a limited demo that you can download and play around with. You will not be able to save and you will only be able to print 1 page (it will also include a watermark). Most will work for 30 days. For more information, visit http://www.finalemusic.com/store/demos.aspx.

If you would like to see more comparisons to the entire Finale® family, click here.

Tags: Finale Software, Finale Reader, Finale NotePad, Finale Songwriter, Finale PrintMusic, Finale Allegro, Software, Music Software, Sheet Music Software
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