Setting Up Exercises and Drum Beat Notation in Finale!

If you are a drummer and/or a drum teacher, it is often useful to be able to set up basic exercises for your students or yourself. I am going to show you how to easily do this in Finale.

Finale is a professional music notation software that can be used for everything from simple exercises to full scale orchestra and film scores.

First, we are going to develop a simple rudimentary exercise for the snare drum or practice pad. To get started, launch Finale and click the Setup Wizard button:

This will bring to dialog box that allows you to select from a variety of default ensembles to select from. Since we are only interested in a single instrument, go ahead and select “Create New Ensemble” and then click the Next button.

You will see there is a selection of instrument categories. This dialog box allows you to add instruments as needed to the ensemble you are going to notate. We are going to select Drums, then select Snare Drum.

After that click on the Add button, which will add the snare drum to your ensemble (it will be the only instrument). Finally click on the Next button to move to the next dialog.

The next screen is where you can type in quite a bit of information about your score. I am not going to enter everything here, but feel free to put in as much information as you want. I titled this particular example: “Snare Drum Rudiment Example.”

The next dialog is important. This is where you will set up your time signature and your tempo. You can also set up your key signature if you will be working with pitched drums or other instruments. In the upper left hand corner of the screen, is where you will enter your time signature:

We will leave as the default time signature of 4/4. Note the ?/? listed as the last choice. This allows you to set up for odd meters such as 5/8 or 12/4.

Since we are dealing with a non-pitched instrument, we will skip the next section on the lower-left where you can set-up a key signature. Since we have already selected a snare drum, Finale® already knows that a key signature is not required.

The upper right corner is where you will establish the tempo you would like for your exercise. You can include any term you would like to use, like “Largo, Allegro, or Moderato.” You can also specify an exact metronome marking; or you can do both.

If you would like this to be displayed be sure to check the box marked Specify Initial Tempo Marking. I am going to specify “Moderato,” and a tempo with a metronome marking of 72. This is also the tempo that your exercise will play back at if you want to listen to it.

We are also going to skip the last section in the lower right corner of this dialog box. This allows you to specify a pick-up measure if your exercise has one. The very last item in this dialog box allows you to specify the exact number of measures of your piece if you know that information. This is not really essential as is quite easy to add and delete measures as need when you are working on your composition.

Click on the Finish button. We are ready to start entering music!

There are two methods for entering music in Finale using the computer keyboard and mouse. One is called Simple Entry, the other is called Speedy Entry. I am going to show you the Simple Entry way to do this. 

You may also a MIDI keyboard if you have one, but I am not going to cover that here. Finale® has an extensive Help system, if you are interested in Speedy Entry or the use of a MIDI keyboard.

After clicking on the Finish button in the previous dialog, your score will come up. Select the Simple Entry Tool on the top tool bar, and select a 16th note from the Simple Entry pallet, which displays to the left.

I am going to enter two measures of 16th notes for this exercise. To do that, all I need to do is click the mouse enough times to fill the first measure, then click on the second measure to do the same. That’s all there is to it.

Notice it still looks a little sloppy, and we haven’t added any designation for R or L yet. A very important tool in Finale® is the Selection Tool:

This is how you select items to move or delete them. You can SHIFTCLICK to select multiple items. Let’s get rid of a few things we don’t need by using the Selection Tool.

There, that’s better. The last thing we need to do is at the R and L’s needed for sticking indications. For this we are going to use the Lyric tool.

Simply select the Lyric tool and place your cursor on the first sixteenth note and click. Type an R, then SPACE, then L, then SPACE, then R, etc. That is all there is too it.

Here is the final product:

At this point you can print it from there if you would like to. I usually export it as a .pdf file though and print it from there so I can use it as a handout later. To do this you go the file menu and select Export > PDF

After that you simply give it a file name and save it as a .pdf as you normally would.

Creating Simple Drum Set Parts

The procedure to set up a basic drum set part is very similar to what we did above for a single-line snare drum.

To do this, you will go through the Setup Wizard just as you did before. Still select New Ensemble from the first dialog box, but this time select DrumsDrum Set  Click the ADD button. Drum Set should be listed in the far-right column.

Proceed as you did before to establish your title, time signature, and tempo. After you click Finish, you should have a staff setup for your drum set. We are going to use Simple Entry just like we did before. 

Notice that when you hover over a staff line or space, Finale® displays the instrument that will be entered if you click on that line or space. This is also the instrument that will play back.                       

This is very handy to help you keep track of what part of the drum set you are working on. We are going to a basic kick, snare, and cymbal pattern. Make sure the quarter note tool is selected in the Simple Entry pallete.

Use your mouse to enter quarters for the bass drum on beat one and beat three, put the snare drum on beats two and four. Use your mouse to move up and down the staff to change drums and enter the notes. Do this for two measures.

This is what you will end up with. I also cleaned this up a bit by deleting the items I didn’t want using the Selection Tool just like I did before.

The only problem with this is I still need to enter the cymbals and my stems are going in different directions. To change this. CTRLClick on the Kick Drum notes and press the L key. This will reverse the stems so that they are all pointing downward.

OK. Now I need to enter the cymbal, but these are all going to be eight notes. How do I do that? Fortunately, Finale® has multiple layers that you can enter notation one. There are several ways to select a layer (Finale has four), but I am going to show you how to use the mouse to do this. Look at the lower left hand corner. There are small buttons for each layer.

Click on Layer 2 in the lower left hand corner.          

Now go back to the Simple Entry tool and select the eight note in the palette to enter your cymbal eighth notes. As with the Kick Drum notes previously, the stems will be in the wrong direction.

Finale® has multiple ways to do certain things. Since we have to change multiple eighth notes, we are going to use the Selection tool to select these two measures and then go to the Utilities Menu to change all of them by selecting Stem Direction Up.

You will note that Finale® displays these two layers in different colors.

Not to worry. Finale will print this all in black. Simply follow normal printing or export procedures as you typically would!

More Complex Drum Set Parts

For our last exercise, we are going to do something just a little more complex. We will be using a few tom toms, two bass drums, and a few cymbals. By using layers, it is relatively easy to do a complex setup.

Let’s get started, by going through the Setup Wizard and setting up a drum set, titles, and time signatures just like you normally would.

The procedure for this is exactly the same. It just takes a little planning. I looked at what I was planning to do, and I determined I needed to notate for a crash and ride cymbal, snare drum, two tom toms, and double-bass drum.

The procedure for everything is exactly the same as described previously. I do recommend checking for a good drum legend such as the Drum Magazine Notation Guide. This will help you plan your notation.

One HUGE Hint. You can use the ENTER key to enter notes of the same duration that occur at the same time. For example, for the very first beat of each measure, I used the ENTER key to put the crash cymbal and kick drum on the same eighth note; I didn’t even have to switch layers.

See if you can copy this example. I simply used the ENTER key for notes on the same eighth or sixteenth note. I used the SIMPLE ENTRY Palette to select eighth notes, sixteenth notes and 32nd notes as needed. I did not have to use other layers. If the beats were more mixed, I would have put the cymbals on their own layer, and possibly the tom toms.

There is a lot you can do with notation software. It just takes some planning and creativity. Have fun.

Recommended Articles On Drum Notation and Setting Up Exercises: