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Finale for Classical Guitar

This article deals with the way I have tweaked Finale to be suited for notation for the classical guitar. Finale can be used and organized in many different ways, and the following reflects the way I like to work. First, I prefer keyboard shortcuts over the mouse for as many functions as possible. Second, I want my work to be consistent over time – My layout should be the same for all my scores. And finally I want some logic in the way the short cuts works – to make it easier to remember how to.

To full fill the first goal, you have to define a lot of shortcuts from scratch. The second goal is dealt with by making a template where all the tweaking is saved. And finally you have to rearrange a few things in Finales user interface.

If you find my goals useless for your benefits – then stop reading now. It is waste of your time 🙂

Arrange the toolbar and assign shortcuts to the tools

You can assign F-keys to the tools buttons (search help system with this phrase: “Using keyboard shortcuts”). You have to select a tool, and then hold down Shift while you press the F-key you want to assign each tool.

The tool bar can be arranged as you wish, using the menu Windows | Customize the palettes | Main tool palette.

I use the following set up for the tools.

F1 F2 F3 F4
Help Tuplet tool Time signature tool

Repeat tool

F5 F6 F7 F8
Text tool Smart shape tool

Articulation tool

Expression tool

F9 F10 F11 F12
Page layout tool (Empty) Key signature tool Simple Entry

Notice the separators I have added in my organization of the Main Tools Palette, they correspond with the blocks of F-keys. Then I find it more easy to remember which F-key goes with each tool.

(F10 is for an unknown reason impossible to program – at least on my system).

Some of the F-key short cuts only works when you have written notes in the score. And sometimes you can’t see which tool is selected – but it seems to work anyway. From time to time I have to find focus again using the mouse. It could be me or it could be bugs – who knows…

A template

You can download my guitar template here…

The arrangement of the tool bar, described above, is not a part of the template. If you want to rearrange the tool bar, you have to do it yourselves – but the rest should be included in the template (at least I think so – if not, please tell me).

Finale comes with a lot of shortcuts, and if you search Help, you can find a long list of predefined short cuts.

But symbols and their shortcuts used for classic guitar notation is not a part of the standard set and unfortunately Finale does not provide a template for us to use.

Below I describe the shortcuts and the different symbols included in my template.

Smart Shape Tool

1. Select the Smart Shape Tool with F6

2. Hold down the shortcut key and “double click-drag” where you want to place the chosen symbol in the score.

1-2-3 …… 8-9-0 (numbers above the qwerty)

Full barre in fret I-II-III ….. VIII-IX-X

q-w-e ….. i-o-p (follows the numbers keys)

Partial barre in fret I-II-III …. VIII-IX-X




Dotted horizontal line


Horizontal Line




Horizontal line with one hook up

S (Memo tip: Slow down)

Ritardando with vertical dotted line


Flageolets (Harmonics)

3. Return to Simple Entry using F12 followed by left or right key.

Articulation Tool

You will probably use the articulation tool from the Simple Entry mode – and then you can use the * key at the numeric keyboard. It is handy, because the positions I-X are assigned with numbers. If you go to the Articulation tool without a single note selected, you have to click on a note and then select the symbol from a list – which I find tedious.

  1. With a note selected – activate the Articulation Tool with NumPad *

  2. When the dialogue box pop up – enter a key from the list below, or use Enter to see the whole list of preset symbols.

1-2 … 9-0 Position I to X
Q-W … O-P Position X1 to XX
S Staccato
A >
F Fermat
M Mordent
D Tril

Vertical curled line, adjustable length


Rasquedos small, arrow up


Rasquedos medium, arrow up


Rasquedos large, arrow up


Rasquedos small, arrow down


Rasquedos medium, arrow down


Rasquedos large, arrow down

Expression Tool

As with the Articulation tool, you can activate the Expression tool with a note selected and then activate the tool with a special key: X

  1. With a note selected, activate the Expression: X

  2. Enter a key from the list below, or use Enter to see the whole list of pre-set symbols.

0 (Null)

Open string


Left hand first finger


Left hand second finger


Left hand third finger


Left hand fourth finger


Right hand thumb


Right hand middle finger


Right hand index finger


Right hand ring finger


First string


Second string


Third string


Fourth string


Fifth string


Sixth string






















a tempo
















Moderato (= 108)

Work flow

When I use Finale, I have a work flow like this:

  1. Enter time, key, repeats and alike – making a frame.
  2. Enter 1. voice with a midi-keyboard – 8-bars at a time.
  3. Enter 2. voice (and the 3. as well) to the 8 bar period.
  4. Listen through the piece to catch as many typos as possible.
  5. When I have finished writing notes, I work through the score with the arrow keys or mouse and adds the additional musical symbols like expressions, articulations and so on. If there only are few additional musical symbols, I’ll skip this step and add them in step 6 instead.
  6. Then I add all RH and LH fingering using the arrow keys to move forward note by note. When a fingering is needed, I use the shortcut sequence: X  ->the appropriate key (p for thumb, 1 for first finger…). I often add position, barre and string symbols at the same time. You can add as many symbols to a note as you want – just repeat X  ->key or *  ->key.
    When you add fingering to an accord the finger symbols will end up in a “heap”, but I just leave them until next step. Add the left hand fingering from the lowest to the highest note in the accord. I’ll work through the whole score (or section) this way, just laying everything out without caring about the layout.
  7. Now I use the mouse and the arrow keys to move everything in place. If you have added the fingering in accords bottom up, you will have the fingering for the lowest note in the top of the heap – just grab and drag in place.
  8. Lines (using the Smart Shape Tool) are normally the last symbols I add. Use F6 to select the tool, choose and hold down the appropriate key while you double click-drag in score with the mouse where you want the line.
  9. Proof read with guitar in hand – this is the funny part.

Step 6 is the key to save time – just adding all items needed during a single pass using only the keyboard and then order them in the next pass using the mouse, is a work flow that suits me. It’s like when I’m cooking an expensive and complicated meal – I’ll always place all stuff needed on the table before I start.

I wish you Bon Appetite!


  1. Chris Kohne says:

    Great info…is this using the complete version of Finale or is it Finale Allegro? Are you familiar withe 2003 product, Finale Guitar?
    Looking for the best solution for creating classical guitar notation….

  2. abj says:

    Hello Cris
    It is for the complete version of Finale. I havn’t looked at other Finale products.
    Allan Bergmann Jensen

  3. Arild Jensen says:

    Great template, thank you for shering this!

  4. R. Duane Hendricks says:

    Thanks for this.

    Is there a way to do a golpe or tamb. on selected notes for playback purposes?

    1. abj says:

      Hello Duane
      You can make a instrument change for golpe and tamp. notes and then try to find an instrument with a golpe/tamp. sound. Then change back to guitar afterwards.

  5. Alex says:

    MANY Thanks for you downloding your template. Such a full exellent information I searched for the long time. It is realy very helpful!

  6. Thanks for this. But, what about adding the number of the string with the circle around it. Can you do that? I don’t want it spelled out.

    1. When you use the shortcut it will add the string number with a circle – it will not spell it out. It is just written like that in the list.

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