Interview by Jari Williamsson, January 2005Johannes has become a specialist on old-style engravings. He has made detailed studies to achieve the look of old music editions using Finale. Here he talks about his discoveries. His web site can be found at http://www.musikmanufaktur.com/
What is your background?
My main carreer is that of a freelance baroque and classical violinist.
I run a chamber ensemble and play for various period instrument ensembles all over the world. Engraving is something I do when I am otherwise unemployed, or to use the traveling time on trains etc. I depend on a laptop. I do some engraving for money, although performing has absolute priority.
Why did you start using Finale?
Perhaps I should start with my first contact with Computer Engraving.
When I was about 17 years old (about 1987/88) I owned an Atari ST computer. I don't know how I first came across computer engraving, but I bought a very basic application called EZScore. It could do a maximum of three staves and was very limited in some respects, but I used it on my first "project" when I was asked to play for a little baroque dance group, and the hand written music we were given were rather unreadable scores. That's how it all started.
I went through pretty much all the available software packages on the Atari, including Notator, ScorePerfect, and MasterScore II. The results varied, but with MasterScore I did my first payed engraving job for my teacher Simon Standage (a sonata by Franz Benda, which has been released on CD).
To cut a long story short, I mainly needed a way to prepare parts for otherwise unpublished material, or material for which only inferior editions exist. I also have had plans to build up my own little publishing house for a long time, but until today this never materialized.
When did you first start to use Finale?
Sometime in the early 90s I was finally able to afford my first Mac, a Powerbook Duo. (I had been in contact with Macs a long time at university and loved them) Finale was one of the reasons I wanted it, and with the student discount I eventually got it. I think it was version 3.2, and I was running it on the Powerbook Duo with a 68030 processor, 4 MB of memory and a 640x400 greyscale screen. I think I have bought every single update but one since.
Working with music publishing tools over such a long period of time, what do you think of the evolution so far?
Two main factors make a good engraving package: Usability (essentially meaning how quickly one gets the desired result, and how difficult the software is to learn) and flexibility (meaning how much of the immensely wide spectrum of engraving can be achieved). When I started with the more than simple EZScore you could enter notes, but that was pretty much it. But at the same time Score could probably already get almost anything on paper. But you needed to be both a computer expert and an engraving professional to work with it.
Finale always went a middle way, at least as long as I used it. It could do a lot, and was graphic oriented. But it also had shortcomings in both aspects. Not everything was possible (although one could find work-arounds for many things) and it was still a very complex program, which took a long time to master. I guess when the main competitor, Sibelius came along, Finale just had to improve both on usability and output quality. And it did. I have very limited experience with Sibelius, but Finale's flexibility has always been its strongest quality. And its usability has improved a lot over the years.
Where do you get your knowledge about music engraving?
Mainly from looking at music published by the big publishers. But also from some literature, and not the least from the Finale Mailing list.
Personally, I think a good eye will teach you a lot.
For an "un-trained eye", do you have any tips on where to start improving the skills? What's most important to put attention to?
Difficult to say. A good way to start is to look at some of the major publishers and find out what they do differently. Personal taste does play a role, and perhaps others will not agree with me on certain preferences. Perhaps start by reading a good book on engraving standards (like Ted Ross). Then look at editions and see how they follow the standard or not.
In some Finale groups, you're rather well known for your work on emulating the look of Henle editions in Finale. Was the purpose just to catch the beauty of those engravings, or was it something else?
Originally I just noticed that what I printed with Finale was not as readable as most commercial publications. This was back in the days when Finale came with only the Petrucci font and very poor settings. I started to tweak, and realized one could tweak almost every parameter in the Finale output with the exception of the font. The next step was to pick an edition I liked and get as close to it as possible. Long years of string quartet playing from Henle editions led me to pick a page from a string quartet and see how closely I could mirror it (just for me, naturally I would not make such a clone available!). Around the same time a Finale update introduced the Engraver fonts, which were much better than Petrucci, although I still found a lot of problems. The Maestro font provided even more improvements and I ended up using a mixture of the two (which I still use for some of my engravings). This also helped me to learn about many hidden features of Finale.
Henle also has a relatively consistent look, compared to others. Even though they change their standards (not all their editions use what I call "Henle beams" for example), I can still recognize one of their engravings almost instantly.
Actually, there was one more factor: Back in my old Atari days I came across a software package called Amadeus. At that time it was commercially available, but very expensive. As far as I know it was originally developed for Henle, and later taken off the market and became Henle's own proprietary software. I think they are still using it. I couldn't afford it, but I still have their advertising material. The output was extremely high quality.
How did you approach such an "emulation"? What obstacles did you find in Finale along the way?
Well, the main obstacle for a long time has been the fonts. Let me just point out that Henle have their own, copyrighted fonts, which are not available to anyone but Henle.
And the other big issue was beams. They either had to be hand-tweaked, or they looked terrible. That was a problem until Robert Patterson released his Patterson Beams plugin. When he released the first version it still couldn't do "Henle beams" which are quite special. But Robert was very responsive to my requests and very quickly extended the functionality so that it is now possible to get almost any kind of beam placement in Finale, including what I call "Henle beams".
There are also some other minor problems which can be worked around with some tweaking, although today there is only very little. In fact I was told that Henle has used Finale on a few projects.
Could you elaborate a bit more about the differences you feel between Petrucci, Engraver and Maestro?
To me Petrucci looks just plain ugly. The noteheads are too narrow, the clefs look unbalanced, the flags are too thin. Engraver was a major improvement, nice clefs, and flags although the noteheads are a little wide for my taste.
Maestro has nice noteheads, and pretty standard clefs (I prefer the Engraver clefs), but it is a good allround font.
You mentioned some hidden features you discovered along the way. Would you mind sharing some discoveries?
One, which is now obsolete, was the discovery to use dynamics as articulations, giving me a way to make them autoplacing. This has saved me a lot of time over the years, but is no longer necessary, as Finale now has very powerful autoplacement for expressions. Another one, which I use regularly, is to use staff styles to make staff names appear with a lot of flexibility in scores. There are also tricks to use "Mensurstriche" for only part of a system etc. There are numerous little tricks like this, but they come as I need them, I don't keep a list.
If you describe what you call the "Henle beams", what are their characteristics? In what way do they differ from "Ross beams" (as displayed in the examples on pp 104-110 in Ted Ross: The Art of Music Engraving & Processing)?
They never cross spaces and remain relatively flat. I find this adds to readability, but I also find them nicer from an aesthetic point of view.
In terms of aetethics, do you make a difference between the score and the parts?
No. Certain parameters are different, larger staff size, page turns, but otherwise the same approach. I try to prepare my score so that I only need to do little work before extracting parts. Autoplacement for expressions added a lot of luxury to this, along with repeat staff-lists.
Do you have a couple of "house styles" that you shift between depending on the project, or do you have a fixed style that you apply to all your projects?
I have several styles, and theoretically I can get very close to any house style. I have one which I use for my own projects, which uses my fonts. Then I have another one, where I try to use only Finale fonts. This is necessary when publishers want to keep the Finale file and want to be able to edit it, since I am not giving away any of my own fonts.
Do you feel that there's a different look to Henle editions nowadays (when they are computer-engraved) compared to the old hand-engraved editions?
No. Henle has been extremely careful to preserve their particular engraving standards. And I think they were successful - I assume that all their new publications are done using computers, but I would not dare to say which ones are and which ones aren't - I simply couldn't tell.
What are you general conclusions if you compare Finale out-of-the-box and a hand-engraved Henle edition?
In recent versions Finale has provided much better settings out of the box than it used to. I dare say that I had some part in this. Still, what you get out of the box is a pretty standard look (just like with Sibelius). To get closer to any particular publisher, not just Henle, settings need to be tweaked. For Henle in particular no font which comes with Finale even gets close to their fonts. However, although Finale provides better settings, more automatic functions, better spacing etc than it did years ago, there is more to a well engraved publication than just settings. Many decisions still have to be made by the engraver, and that is where Henle is for the most part superior to others, they employ the best engravers.
What are your additional tools when you prepare your documents for publishing?
I actually do almost everything inside Finale. The main third party tools I use are plugins, especially
- Patterson Beams: No edition I prepare goes out without having been treated by this fantastic tool,
- TGTools: indispensible! TGTools facilitates many tasks that otherwise would take enormous amounts of time. The Staff-List Manager is one of my favourite tools.
- TieMover, SettingsScrapbook and MeasureNumbers, also from Robert Patterson.
I also have a few fonts which don't come with Finale. I actually made up my own music font (not available since it uses various symbols from other fonts), and a figured bass font. For some time I used Ansgar Krause's figured bass font, but I since prepared my own which I prefer.
Outside of Finale I use Ragtime to prepare any text pages. I usually save them as EPS and load them into the Finale document.
One of the biggest improvements for my workflow came from buying a large format laser printer. Before I would print out A4 pages and then go to the next copy-shop to prepare the booklets. Now I can just print booklets out in two passes, fold and staple them. FinaleScript helps with the printing routine.
When you start editing a Finale document, do you have special "steps" that you follow for all your documents or do you just "feel" what needs to be done?
Well, I have certain routines, but I don't always follow them. However, especially with engravings I do for others one step is really important: Error checking. I print out everything, take a red pen and mark anything I notice - collisions, engraving errors, spacing issues etc. (naturally I also check the musical text several times).
When scanning through the printed pages, do you use any special method to make sure you cover every aspect of the printed result?
Not really. I just make sure I look through every measure, and every staff.
Do you tend to edit "numerically" (entering coordinates/sizes in the different dialog boxes) or "optically" (using the WYSIWYG interface to move where it looks right) in Finale?
Both. Ie, if I edit the stem lengths of middle parts I usually do this numerically, so that I keep inconsistencies to a minimum. When I do the layout, I quite often do it by eye.
Do you tend to a use keyboard macro program for numerical input (or for other editing tasks)?
I use a macro program, though not much for numerical input. When I was still on OS 9 on the Mac I used a fantastic package called OneClick, which allowed very complex macros. Now on OS X I use iKey. It is less powerful, but can do quite a lot. However, I hardly ever use it to tweak individual items, most of my Macros do things like add a title page with the right text blocks or just add keyboard shortcuts. This is especially necessary as I use the English Finale version on a German keyboard, and many of the keyboard commands don't work.
What do you personally miss the most in Finale as it is today (Finale 2005)?
1) Handling of clef changes after the key sig at the beginning of a System. This is a major problem for me, as it is necessary for cue notes, and the work arounds take a lot of time.
2) Better handling of Cue notes. There is a powerful plugin for this, but it still requires far too much tweaking. What I would like to see is a Cue Note layer integrated into staff styles, and fully automatic. I hate having to move all the rests by hand. And it really becomes awkward when cue notes go up to the middle of a measure.
3) Better screen display with full antialiasing.
4) Better handling of text blocks, title pages, esepcially for part extraction, and more custom fields in the File Info.
5) Customizable keyboard commands (and correction of the delay bug on Mac). Finale is very unfriendly to keyboards in other languages.
I have many more on the wishlist...