Lute Tablature in Finale (for B. Heimann)

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
Posts: 1878
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:03 pm
Location: England

Lute Tablature in Finale (for B. Heimann)

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:39 pm

Bernhard, here's the basic idea of how I set up the file. There are many, many variables which you may choose to implement differently; this is just the way that suits my work-flow:

I create two staves, a single, standard staff for guitar music (also the playback file), and the tab. staff (display/printing only). I enter all the music into the guitar staff whilst in scroll view. This is initially set in old fashioned "violin style" ie. in one layer and without separate voices; editing for voice leading, multi-stemming etc. is done in a second pass after the transfer to the tab. staff.

You may prefer to do it the other way around - tab. first or to omit the guitar staff entirely.

The tab. staff is defined in Em rather than Gm ie.

String 1: 64
String 2: 59
String 3: 54
String 4: 50
String 5: 45
String 6: 40

Visually there is no difference and it makes it easier to derive a guitar arrangement from the file without much extra work. If you require a playback file at the supposed "correct" pitch it's simple enough to change the key of the guitar staff.

It's just as easy to create other tunings and even different numbers of strings using these parameters

In the "Tablature Staff Attributes" pane choose:

Vertical Offset: 0.251 (this may vary depending on your choice of typeface, its style and point size)
This vertical offset parameter is used to position the letters between the staff lines.
Appearance: Use Letters

Go to "Staff Attributes" and choose to show stems. From there click the button for the "Staff Stem Settings" pane and select:

Stem Direction: Always Up
Show Beams: Yes
Use Vertical Offset For Notehead End Of Stems: Offset From Staff
Up Stem: 0.15001
Use Vertical Offset For Beam End Of Stems: Offset From Staff
Up Stem:0.5

These vertical offsets will vary:
(a) in order to avoid collision depending on style/size of typeface.
(b) according to aesthetic considerations.

Dealing with the seventh course (or more).
Create a measure expression "a" using the same typeface as that chosen for your tablature staff.
In the "Text Expression Designer" click on "Measure Positioning" and choose:
Position: Below Staff Baseline
Additional Baseline Offset: 0.04861

One might prefer to attach such expressions to the note rather than the measure - this will maintain the alignments after any further formatting of the score.

Further courses may be represented using slashed letters and or numbers (depending on the period and/or author) using "expressions" in the same manner.

Rhythm flag conventions.
Several lute editions adhere to a system which doesn't use continuous beaming - only displaying a single, flagged stem when the rhythm changes. This is easy to achieve through a minor manipulation of the time signature and staff styles. Here's an example for 2/4.

Finale's "Time Signature" tool groups and subsequently beams the notes according to specified beats. Whilst in measure 1 use the this tool to bring up the associated pane and select:

More Choices
Measure Region: 1 Through End Of Piece
Number of Beats: 16
Beat Duration: Set to sixteenths (semi-quavers)
Choose a Different Time Signature for Display: Yes
Number of Beats: 2
Beat Duration: Set to quarters (crotchets).

This will give each note an individual and separated stem/flag. To hide the unwanted ones use the "Staff Tool" to select the appropriate region and press keyboard letter "E".

There are some things to remember - for instance, the flags in lute tab. represent one step higher up the duration hierarchy - crotchets have a single flag (literally a "hook"); minims have a single flag on the opposite side of the stem. To create this flag you may need to use the shape designer.

Alternatively we can disable the automatic beaming and use the provided library of "Lute Shapes" which includes ready made stems, beams and slashed letters (/a, //a etc.) or numbers for extra courses (all of which can be modified to suit your aesthetic requirements).

Regarding fonts - in the example from the other thread I used "Fronimo Pavan".

Hopefully this is of some use to you although there are surely many things areas I have not touched on such as beam thickness, staff line distance, beam separation and so on (mostly matters of taste and readability).

Please try out some of the ideas in Finale 2012 and let me know if any of the functionality has been limited. Thanks,


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Bernhard Heimann
Posts: 1621
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 7:07 am
Location: Augsburg, Germany

Re: Lute Tablature in Finale (for B. Heimann)

Post by Bernhard Heimann » Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:30 pm

Hi Mark,

:merci: - I guess that is exactly what I need. Maybe it is also of use for other Finale 2012 users with a passion for lute music.
And thank you for your time you spent writing this documentation.
I'll try all this with Finale 2012 and give you feedback (may take some time, since I am working on three other projects not involving tablature),
but I am almost confident that it will work with Finale 2012.



Re: Lute Tablature in Finale (for B. Heimann)

Post by Yuval » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:11 am

Some time ago I opened a thread on the finale-forum about lute tablature: ... 1&m=417501

One of the results you can see here: ... n,_Robert)

good luck!

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Bernhard Heimann
Posts: 1621
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 7:07 am
Location: Augsburg, Germany

Re: Lute Tablature in Finale (for B. Heimann)

Post by Bernhard Heimann » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:21 pm

Hi Yuval,

Thank you for your links. I'll study the Finale thread carefully.
The IMSLP Link only produced an empty page unfortunately. I'll search for Robert Johnson.


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