Remember notation? Stuff you hand to actual musicians? (Remember them?) Score production remains a very big deal, especially since some of us find hand-scoring about as much fun as digging trenches with our teeth.

MakeMusic this week has announced preorders and feature set for their next release of Finale, Finale 2006, continuing their annual upgrade ritual. A bit like Star Trek movies, lately even-numbered years have been bigger than odd-numbered years. Finale 2004, for instance — major upgrade. Finale 2005 — indispensable for some, but a relatively minor upgrade. (Though I do hear Spock comes back to life.)

One thing I have noticed in the larger upgrades in recent years is lots of eerie similarities to Finale’s main rival, Sibelius. So, I’ll divide up this year’s upgrade into genuinely cool features and “me-too” features. (Not necessarily a criticism, mind you: what’s great about rivalries is they tend to spur new development.) Read more for the breakdown.


Native Instruments VST/AU integration: This is just too cool for words. But why will neither notation product integrate real VST/AU support? Or, while you’re at it, ReWire?

Integration with Garritan Orchestral Library: Sibelius has had a Kontakt Player-powered sound library for years, but Garritan sounds better and has more features.

Tap tempo: For those of you used to recording this way, this is great.

Sequener-like controls: Finale has been gradually adding sequencer features to its notation product, and the new Studio View gives you mixer-style controls in the notation view.

Mid-measure repeats, measure splits: If you’re not an engraver, you don’t know or care about this. But these are the kinds of tricky jobs at which Finale really is better than Sibelius.


Textured paper: Okay, this is just silly. Only MakeMusic could so proudly trumpet a feature as useless as textured on-screen paper so shamelessly, when Sibelius version 1 had this feature.

Engraver copy: Checkboxes for individual elements of a selection, straight out of Sibelius. Matter of taste: I still prefer Sibelius’ selection tools, though Finale die-hards love things like the Mass Mover.

Mixer view: Clearly a copy of Sibelius’ mixer, though Finale’s implementation does look more mature.

Backwards compatibility: NOT including backwards compatibility in previous releases = big mistake. But at least they finally corrected this, and XML import/export is a real boon.

Chord analysis: Long in plugin form in Sibelius, though probably better-implemented here. But this is on the list to encourage you to go back to school for theory if you can’t analyze a G7 chord. 😉

Mac anti-aliasing: This is because I complained about the ugly screen output in my Macworld review, isn’t it?

Overall, I’d say this is more of a Voyage Home (Star Trek IV) than a Wrath of Khan (Star Trek II). If you’re a Finale user, you’ll probably want it. The real story is the fantastic sequencer/MIDI controls, tap tempo, and virtual instrument integration. As for bread-and-butter notation, that’s limited comparatively (though handbell lovers will appreciate the new — oh, never mind).

So where’s Sibelius 4? That’s the big question. Sibelius’ upgrade cycle is generally considerably longer than Finale’s, but I expect this to be a big upgrade — and I think it’s likely to show up soon. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, I look forward to getting my hands on the new Finale, even though I think I’ll stick to Sibelius for producing my own scores.

  • relytrenrut

    First, the feature that makes GPO work well with Finale is the improved Human Playback feature. Robert Piechaud, Human Playback's creator has been a GPO advocate for some time, and the features he has added really save the user a lot of time. Also, he's planning on supporting future editions of GPO, so this is going to get better. Finale's default playback is the best of any notation software by quite a large margin (even taking Notion into account). And since Sibelius did not improve this with their new version 4, it appears this will stay the case for some time.

    "Engraver Copy and Paste" was listed under the "Me Too" section. Obviously Finale has had filtered copying for far longer than Sibelius has. What's new in this is a fast way to bring it up during the paste process itself (ctrl+shift+click does a paste special) and easier access to the filterable items. It also improves the handling of cross-document and clipboard copying.

    Backwards compatibility is also listed under "Me Too." Finale has been including the Music XML plug-in for this purpose since Finale 2003, but only on Windows (since it took the creator of Music XML a long time to create the Mac version).

  • admin

    On GPO: Human Playback's GPO-specific tweaks are terrific, I agree, but that's a 2005 feature, not 2006. What's new here is including sounds from GPO and new integration for Kontakt. I'll clarify the Kontakt integration later this week as I've learned more from MakeMusic. Robert's doing great stuff with Human Playback, I agree, and while Sibelius was the first application to add this feature Finale has an edge here.

    I might reconsider Engraver Copy and Paste, but the ability to check off specific elements is much closer to Sibelius' Edit > Filter > . . . commands than to Mass Mover and the like.

    I'm going to stand by my gripes about Finale and backwards compatibility. MusicXML inclusion is terrific, and Finale led the way here, but the lack of backwards compatibility in previous versions lost a lot of customers, especially in the educational market.

    I guess I should have added a third "`Bout Time" column, because both of these features are things I welcome. And I expect Sibelius will have features that fall under 'Bout Time, too! (actually, I already would place fixing tie placement SQUARELY under that category in Sib 4)

    Thanks for this feedback, though, as I was going to do a Sibelius 4 – Finale 2006 comparison in terms of what the headlines are, what makes news, etc.

  • relytrenrut

    Thanks for the reply.

    Actually, there are a number of improvements in Human Playback for GPO that are specific to 2006. Slur support, better overall dynamic/mod settings, and advanced instrument technique support (such as interpretation for string articulations like pizzicato and automatic alternation of left/right hand strokes for percussion) – this is all new to 2006. Issues such as string attacks have also been improved in 2006. I think it's actually fair to say that there's more new for Human Playback GPO support from 2005 to 2006 than there was from 2004 to 2005.

  • relytrenrut

    "I might reconsider Engraver Copy and Paste, but the ability to check off specific elements is much closer to Sibelius' Edit > Filter > . . . commands than to Mass Mover and the like. "

    I'm afraid I don't really understand this. In previous versions of Finale, dating back to the early 90's, it has been possible to check on/off various elements for copy and paste as well as clearing. This was always done via MassMover/MassEdit, and it continues to be so. Finale 2006 reorganizes and provides easier access to these filters, but it in no way has become closer to Sibelius in regards to filters.

  • Guest

    By the way, Overture 4 at, has real VST support. It is a full host and supports all the sample libraries, including instrument definition files most of the standard libraries. GenieSoft is providing a special download version for a couple of weeks. Its worth checking out.

  • Guest

    Admin wrote: Robert's doing great stuff with Human Playback, I agree, and while Sibelius was the first application to add this feature

    Sibelius "Espressivo" has nothing to do with Finale's "Human Playback". Espressivo is a joke comparing with the level of performance reached by Human Playback, which clearly wasn't designed by mimicking Espressivo.