Interview by Jari Williamsson, January 2005

Robert is a composer/conductor who now has arranging/publishing as his main source of income. Here he discusses how he uses Finale in his work.

What's your background?

BMus and MA in Conducting from U-Conn. Worked as Musical Director in Theatre, Conductor for Carol Channing, Rita Moreno, and Harry Connick Jr Keyboard & stand-by Conductor at Radio City Music Hall Started arranging and publishing business in 1990 which has become my main source of income, with occasional guest conducting engagements.

web site is:

How long have you used Finale?

Started with Finale in 1990. I think it was version 2.1

How would you describe the evolution of Finale during these years?

It has gone from being the equivalent of a pencil to a full-fledged, semi-automated and very intuitive production house!

What kind of work do you do with Finale?

Composition, arranging for symphony orchestra/Pops, self published and operate my own rental library. Clientelle includes over 250 orchestras in 10 countries, and 4 CDs have been released with my arrangements on them, with 2 more due in late 2005.

How do you use Finale as a composer’s tool?

Mostly for notation, and proofing via playback features and range-checking plug-ins. Being able to compose or arrange and ending up with totally professional looking scores and ready-to-print parts in a God send. Being able to edit absolutely anything I want makes my life as a publisher much easier as well.

Do you compose directly into Finale or do you use some other "preparation stage" (pen & paper, sequencer, etc) before that?

I compose directly into Finale, but since I work on Symphonic material, there are usually at least 2 steps: score score on 2-5 staves, then full orchestration. When doing a choral work, starting with choral parts and 2 staff accompaniment before orchestrating, I therefore generate the piano/vocal reduction first!

What is your approach when you split the reduction into a full orchestration? Do you put details like slurs/articulations/expressions in the reduction, or are that added first in the orchestration?

I usually make a new document from scratch. Articulations are only in to orchestral score since most articulations that apply to instruments don't apply to piano, and the short score was mostly for compositional/reference purposes anyway. With vocal pieces, some "phrasings" are put into the piano part to give the accompanist a feel for what the orchestra will be doing.

Do you re-edit your older scores?

I will on occasion re-edit older scores but usually only to make orchestrational improvements based on numerous hearings of live performances. On rare occasions, a re-edit will be to tighten the structure of an original composition or arrangement.

Is Finale's playback of importance to you as a composer?

It is invaluable to play back! I must say, I long ago invested in a bank of synths and samplers, which I still use for playback and generating demo recordings, but I'm glad Finale now has it's own built in sounds. It would have saved me several thousand dollars a decade ago!

How do you prepare the playback in Finale? Do you use Human Playback?

Actually, I just hit the playback button to feed the MIDI info into my synths. Sometimes I will save as a MIDI file and import in "Performer" which I can edit to make a very realistic human playback. Now, from what I understand, Finale's new human playback is quite convincing, I just haven't really had the time to fully investigate it yet. I guess that's the downside of getting so much work!

Do you send your music to publishers?

I self publish mostly, although Schirmer does handle my 7 Raymond Scott arrangements.

Which additional tools do you find useful when you work in Finale?

Being able to send scores and parts electronically via either .mus files or PDF has become a great time and money saver.

Do you use any 3rd party plug-ins or fonts in your work?

Not really. Essentially everything I need is right in Finale itself.

Do you print/bind the scores and parts yourself or do you send them to a print shop?

Since symphonic music requires either 10x13, 10X14, or 11X14 cream colored 70 pound vellum paper, it's actually cheaper for me to do it all in-house with an 11x 17 copy machine and a VPC taping machine.

As a conductor, what would you think is most important to keep in mind to create a really good conductor's score layout?

That paired instruments are clearly delineated, and that instrumental groups are stand out on the page, that is, the winds should always be grouped and instantly identifiable. Ditto, the brass, percussion,  and strings. Leave plenty of space for notes and/or markings that nearly all conductors will need to put into your score. Make sure phrasings and articulations are exactly what you want to hear, but beyond that, don’t over-mark your own score.

Which direction would you personally like Finale to take in the future? What do you currently miss the most today?

At this point, there's little Finale can not do, short of reading your mind and notating what you're hearing inside your head.