While I started out composing and arranging by sitting at a piano with pencil and score paper, these days I tend to only sketch out a couple of things by hand, but do the bulk of my composing and scoring directly into the computer using Finale. There are a few tricks I’ve picked up using Finale in this way that make some of this process easier. In this post, I’ll show Finale users how to use the Explode Music feature to separate parts after putting them into a single staff.
I’ll be using a salsa composition of mine, El Ayer, for this particular example. It was originally arranged with a two trombone horn section, but for an upcoming show there will be instead two trumpets, tenor sax, and trombone. Here’s the horn soli with the original melody line in the lead trumpet while I’m inputing in my new four-part harmony just below it in the second trumpet using the Speedy Entry Tool.
Once you’ve got all your voicings set into a single staff, use the Selection Tool to highlight the staff you’re going to “explode.” Go up to the Utilities menu and select “Explode Music.”
In the box next to “Split Into:” put in the number of parts you have and make sure “One Note Per Staff” is checked. Depending on how your score is laid out you might want to choose to explode the music starting on a particular staff and then have each next part go in the staff below it. For my score I chose to arrange the order of instruments in the standard order that places woodwinds on top, so I’m going to choose the “New Staves Added to Bottom of Score” button instead. This will create four new staves and put each part into one of those staves, from highest to lowest.
One nice feature of using the Explode Music utility is that if you have articulations already attached to the notes it will copy those articulations to each of the exploded parts. It’s not hard to copy articulations from one part to another while leaving the pitches alone, but doing it this way saves you an extra step.
At this point all I have to do is copy and past each of the lines into the correct staff and then delete the extra staves. Rather than have to work out the voicings with paper and pencil and then input each part in one at a time, I am able to work on the voicings at my keyboard and input them into the computer at the same time.
There are some drawbacks to this method, though. It’s not as easy to double check your voicings looking at them stacked up in one staff sometimes and it’s harder to work backwards with your voicings (a helpful way to work out challenging voice leading passages). Still, once you get used to this it can be a faster way to get your ideas into the computer so you can get your parts out to the musicians quicker.