My student struggled to get Finale’s notation software successfully loaded on his laptop. Once the marathon effort was successful, he turned, looked at me and asked, “Now what?”  The first step, of course, was the run the Finale Setup Wizard.

Finale's Setup Wizard can be your best friend!

I’ve been using Finale since 2001, but I still start every single document with the Setup Wizard. Sure, you could start with a blank document and build out your score from there… but why would you? I’m a big believer in using the fewest number of clicks possible when using computers. The Setup Wizard is fast and efficient, so definitely always start there. 

When you first load Finale, this opening launch window pops up. Ignore the Default Document – it’s too much work to personalize. On the left center side of the screen, you’ll see a button reading, “SETUP WIZARD.”  That’s what you want to click.

Score Setting menu asks for time and key signatures, tempo, pickup beats, and number of start measures

Ensemble, Document, and Page Sizing in the Finale Setup Wizard

If you lived in a perfect world, where you had every concert band instrument available, you’d click “Concert Band (Full)” and be happy. However, I’m in an international school with a highly mobile population. I’m never going to have the perfect setup, and so for me, it’s easier to click, “Create New Ensemble” and to build up my band from what I’ve actually got. 

Next, I need to figure out what type of type face I want.  The engraved style is best because it comes with all the available options for articulations, phrasings, etc. The problem is… it’s also pretty boring. I’m an extrovert, and I want my scores to be cool and interesting looking. That’s why I always pick, “Handwritten Style” for my score option. I just think it looks jazzy and cool. Sure, you don’t always get the articulations you want, but your scores do look awesome. 

Select a Document style menu within Finale Setup Wizard with two possible font choices, including engraved or handwritten font styles

The last option on the opening screen of the Finale Setup Wizard is to choose your page size. The default is Letter size, which is great for our North American friends. However, the rest of the world uses A sizings, so I’ve got to use the pop-down menus to pick A4 for my score and part page sizes. 

Finale Setup Wizard gives four options for page setup, including score size and orientation and part size and orientation

Finale Setup Wizard: Choosing Your Instruments

There are plenty of options in the Instrument panel. Just click on the instrument family pen to the left and the list of available instruments will populate beside it. If you aren’t exactly sure which instruments you want, then don’t fret – it’s very easy to add and remove instruments once the document is finished. 

To choose an instrument, simply  double click on its name.

Selecting Instruments menu within Finale Setup Wizard instrument families to the left and available instruments to the right.

The instruments you choose appear in a menu on the right side of the Finale Setup Wizard. Sometimes they appear in the correct order, and sometimes they are wildly wrong. Luckily, there’s up and down arrows that can shift your instruments into the correct positions. Want to remove an instrument? Just click on its name and choose the <Remove button. That’ll send the instrument back to the family panel on the left. 

Reorder menu within Finale Setup Wizard with add and remove buttons as well as up and down arrows for changing instrument order in the score.

But what if you don’t know the order? At the bottom of the instrument window there’s a Score Order pop-down menu that sets defaults for you.

Reorder menu within Finale Setup Wizard will automatically recorder your instrument choices according to the pop down menu ensemble type menu

Here’s some friendly advice on setting your score order:

  • Soloists go over a piano accompaniment.
  • Orchestras a bands have woodwinds, brass, piano, percussion, and strings
Symphonic Bands / Orchestra
Bass Clarinet
Alto Sax
Tenor Sax
Baritone Sax
(My scores never look perfect because I have a mish-mash of saxophones, strings, and guitars mixed up in my symphonic bands.)


Piano Accompaniment

Score Information - Makes sure you fill this out HERE

Most of the options in the Finale Setup Wizard can be added, changed, or removed later. No problem. The written text, though, is a huge pain to add if you don’t do it now. As you know, I hate having unnecessary clicks.  There’s no good text menu in Finale, and so you have to keep going back to click on the Text menu. It’s clunky and the text never lands in a good position on the document. My best workaround is to do it correctly the first time – ion the Score information window. 

Score Information menu within Finale Setup Wizard asks for title, subtitle, and names of composer, arrangement and lyricist

Finale Setup Wizard: Score Settings

This section is helpful, but actually really easy to fix once the document is opened and workable. The main menu has options for changing the time signature, key signature, tempo, pickup measures and number of measures. If you get any of these wrong, it’s really simple to fix them. 

(Sometimes… and I know this is a bit lazy… sometimes I’ll click through this screen without entering anything until I’m sure I know what I want. Ever have a day in which you know which instruments you have, and you know your piece, but you aren’t 100% set on the key or tempo you want? Me, too.)

Score Setting menu asks for time and key signatures, tempo, pickup beats, and number of start measures

Voila! Finished!

Once you click the Finished button, the Finale Setup Wizard will load a bunch of sound plug-ins. Wait a few seconds, and your score will magically appear. From here, you can choose either page or score view, grade a note, and begin your creative journey. 

A finished Finale document created using the Finale Setup Wizard. A three stave score with playback menu, tool bar, and simple note entry shown.

Would you rather watch it than read it? Check out my video tutorial.