Chant notation in Finale
  • rvisser
    Posts: 45
    What music software do people use for notating chant? I am most interested in ways that this can be done with finale. I thought I had heard of some sort of add-on you could do for finale that has chant notation, but I haven't looked into it.
  • LauraKaz
    Posts: 71
    Are you trying to notate the square notes or a modern-notation version? I know you can use stemless notes in Musescore, but I think you'll need another tool to write square notes.
  • CGM
    Posts: 664
    The Finale plug-in you're thinking of is called Medieval. It is almost as expensive as the Finale software itself. I haven't used it, so I can't speak to its efficacy or its learning curve.

    What I think most people here use for chant engraving is one of the Gregorio interfaces, either Adam Bartlett's (at Source and Summit), or Richard Chonak's. With these editors you can notate a chant and export it as a graphical file, then import that graphic into Finale. Both of these editors are free to use; you just have to learn the principals of using GABC (there's a helpful cheat-sheet at Chonak's website), and a long and thorough tutorial here (by Adam Wood, I believe).
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  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 300
    I much prefer using the meinrad fonts and Adobe Indesign for chant engraving as you have much more flexibility over where things go (specifically how vowels line up with notes). It’s not the easiest or best use of time - I’ve used Gregorio editors when in a rush.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • rvisser
    Posts: 45
    @ LauraKaz - I am looking for four line notation and square notes. I do use Finale with stemless notes for modern notation.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • rvisser
    Posts: 45
    @CGM - I think I will try Medieval. My husband is interested in this for notating Renaissance music as well, so it looks like this will do more than the Gregorio interfaces. I have spent so many years becoming proficient at Finale that I'm reluctant to try and figure out GABC, although I probably should ..
    @PaxTecum - if only Adobe InDesign didn't charge a monthly subscription!
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    I am using Apple Pages and the Caeciliae font, the GABC is good for quick things where you do not care too much about presentation and good use of the page.
  • CGM
    Posts: 664
    @rvisser — You note,

    I have spent so many years becoming proficient at Finale


    and as the kids would say, I feel ya. I've been working with Finale for over thirty years, and sometimes I have altered my own compositional choices when a musical idea would be too difficult to notate. I occasionally tell people that I think in Finale.

    Let me know how Medieval goes for you. If you and your husband like it, maybe I'll take it for a spin as well. I've done lots of little things with GABC, but I don't use it regularly, and so every time I do something with the Source & Summit or Chonak interface, I feel like I have to learn the system all over again. If Medieval works in a manner similar to standard Finale usage, that might be a better fit for my brain. (Or maybe I should just buy $250 of chant books instead.)
    Thanked by 1rvisser
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,697
    I’ve heard the learning curve is *quite* high for medieval. That said, I’ve also petitioned the développer to port it to Dorico, and he’s apparently open to the idea, but Dorico needs some more support for scripting apparently.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 538
    For me the deciding factor for using Gregorio is the existence of Gregobase. So many things I need are already on Gregobase, and if I don’t like their graphic or PDF, or want to mark in a bunch of carryovers or what have you to save time in rehearsal, or make oddly-sized scores, the GABC code is right there for each file, and then it’s just a very simple, quick job to make it exactly how I want in Gregorio, rather than having to start from scratch one more time with, say, Kyrie VIII….
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,697
    Gamba, that’s one of the reasons I’ve bothered to have a go at GABC. It’s not terrible once you get the hang of it, and, as you said, there’s such a huge pool of data ready for the taking. My main pet peeve with GABC is the lack of control over the automatically inserted hyphenation. It’s very erratic.
  • rvisser
    Posts: 45
    @CGM - I guess I'm not old yet...only 15 years of Finale usage, but that IS almost half my life ;) I'll report back when we've tested it out. My husband is teaching a high school music course for a homeschool co-op in our area. He takes orchestral scores and simplifies them to help the students analyze music while they're listening, and he's also going to be doing a little bit with early music, so alternative forms of musical notation will be helpful. He's a classical guitarist and really likes Renaissance lute music, too. I've actually never had a need to do tablature notation in finale. I should look into that too.

    One of these days I'll get around to using GABC...

    I have used stuff from Gregobase for Latin Mass, and there is a lot of helpful music in it. When I need to notate chant, it's simple stuff like psalms for daily Mass (without having to do all the ridiculous work around in finale to make it look nice). Or notating an excerpt of a longer chant to teach kids in youth choir.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,029
    I never got on with Medieval.
    But with the current SMuFL-compliant version of Finale (27.3), it's unnecessary.
    Chant in Finale is always going to be kludgy, and Gregorio produces better results. But for incidental chant (incipits, alternatim) I prefer to have the chant be an actual part of the file, rather than be a graphic imported from another program.

    The general process:
    Create a 4-line staff.
    Create a clef using the glyphs from the SMuFL font set. You'll have to knock out a clef from the 18 available clefs, but it will only obtain for this piece unless you create a template (advised), and you probably won't be using guitar tab in this project.
    Enter pitches for your first phrase, as quarters, planning how many you will need and giving the phrase the corresponding time sig, which you will hide. Note that you can create some neumes (torculus) by entering as chords and then use the Special Tools to move the noteheads around. Or just use the SMuFL multiple not forms.
    Use Staff Styles to remove stems, except for virgas etc.
    Utilities/change/notehead and select one of the SMuFL noteheads (Medieval and Renaissance planchant single-note forms)
    An early and imperfect example may be found here: https://www.cpdl.org/wiki/images/2/29/Audi_benigne_Trent_92.pdf
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    i use Finale and do this easy procedure:
    Though this in not square notation, but the stemless noteheads.
    Write the chant as modern music with quarter and half notes.
    1. Eliminate bar lines and time signatures
    2. Highlight all the notes and reduce all stem length to 000.
    Voila, chant notation.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,697
    FWIW (and since the OP asked this as a general open ended question and I’m known for making this reply) I use Dorico to great satisfaction for transcribing chant. Dorico allows you to work in open meter (no hiding time signatures or barlines!) so all you do is enter all the notes, adding tick and quarter bars only as you need them, then select all, use the jump bar to type “hide stems” and they all disappear in one go, et voilá. Done. It’s very quick.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • Well, if we’re talking about stemless notation, I’d give two pieces of advice:

    1 - Instead of setting the stem length as mentioned above, you can either turn stems off in the staff tool, or you can apply the stemless notation staff style.

    2 - Use the JW Meter plugin to “Create Time Signatures” instead of counting and figuring out meter length. My process for this is to use Speedy Entry, with jump to next measure and add rests turned off. I advance measures with the right arrow key. It looks a hot mess during entry, but once entered, you run the plugin, and boom—good to go. Just turn off time signatures in the staff tool. I did 400 pages of plainsong this way (Spanish Misal Romano), and it was a huge time saver.

    I’ll also agree with the prior commenter that Dorico’s open meter support is the better way to do this. I just finished a hymnal that was half plainsong/half metered, and my productivity was greatly improved.
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  • rvisser
    Posts: 45
    @ Jeffrey Quick - I haven't gotten the 4 line staff to work yet (I did just update my version of finale, so maybe that will help) but your comment to "Use Staff Styles to remove stems" is a game changer. I use to remove stems by going to Special Tool: Custom Stems and creating a blank stem, and you can only apply this to one measure, one layer at a time. Ugh. It was so slow.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,697
    Dorico is now on sale (until April 5th) for 30% off in case anyone is tempted to take the plunge:
    https://www.steinberg.net/promotion/dorico/
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,029
    Rvisser-
    4 line staff is easy IF you know where to look, but it's certainly not intuitive. If you go to the Score Manager and highlight your staff/instrument, in the lower right you will see "Staff [Standard 5-line]". That's a pulldown. Pull to "other"and it will give you the "staff setup" box. In the upper left of that, find "Staff lines", change it to "4" and hit OK. Note that this actually removes the bottom line of the staff, so soprano clef is no longer a thing. You'll want chanty clefs anyway, which means setting them up using the chant glyphs in SMuFL. It's harder than the 4 lines, but the manual instructions actually work, and once you have them set up you can save them as a template and not have to worry about them again.

    Marc- thanks for the tip. I've only just begun to work with the JW plugins (I've had them/known about them but never really used them. JW Staff Polyphony does miracles for cut and paste.)

    Re neumes: I'm editing some more from the Feroci-Matucci MS (by popular demand) and the chant there is written in black lozenges (and occasional diamonds). I've been entering neumes as chords and then using the Special Tools Notehead Position tool to switch notes to either side of the stem. But I've noticed that words align to the stem, not the leftmost note, so I'll just keep everything to the right of the stem and get better alignment. The notehead distances refer to the stem, but they don't at all have to touch the stem (which will be gone eventually anyway). Also, if you want a level torculus in lozenges, you can enter CDE, double-click the C and enable vertical positioning, and slide it up to D. Note that none of these techniques will work for you if you want chant that will play back correctly.
  • I've been entering neumes as chords and then using the Special Tools Notehead Position tool to switch notes to either side of the stem. … Also, if you want a level torculus in lozenges , you can enter CDE, double-click the C and enable vertical positioning, and slide it up to D.


    This is exactly how the English and Spanish Roman Missals were engraved, and is a fantastic technique for this sort of notation in Finale. When I did the Spanish Missal, I learned the technique from some samples of the English Missal I was given to study. I was surprised at first when I found it, but it’s absolutely brilliant. Saves a ton of time.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    I still have not bought into Dorico nor have I upgraded to Sib 7… this forced me into a holding pattern and I’m using Musescore 4. For free software, it really is pretty good. However, I do not know if you could do any kind of chant notation.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz