Interview by Jari Williamsson, January 2005

Gal is an music engraver, specializing in contemporary music. His engraving of Gaspare Spontini's opera "Agnes von Hohenstaufen" (at G. Henle Verlag, München) was awarded the German Association of Music Publishers' annual award in 2001. Here he shares some of his experiences in engraving with Finale. His web site can be found at

What's your background?

I studied classical violin at Music Academy in Ljubljana and after diploma (1982) I also studied composition at the same Academy for some time. I played the violin in the Slovenian Symphony Orchestra for almost 20 years.

How long have you used Finale?

I bought Finale for the first time in May 1990. It was Finale Windows (PC then) 1.0 and I'm proud owner of all versions since then.

How would you describe the evolution of Finale during this period of time?

In short, Finale still has the same "interface philosophy" as in the very beginnig when Phil Farrand created it. Every new update had something that would save you time and nerves, like articulation automatics, less bugs, but I’m sure introducing Staff styles, plug-ins and smart line styles were the greatest steps forward.

Since you started, what skills have you achieved from your work that you didn't know before?

I learned a lot about engraving rules, instrumentation, music terminology etc.

I have also developed a "sharp eye" now to see immediately if published material is made by professional standards.

How would you define "professional standards"? What are the most common errors?

In the first place all music elements on the page must be arranged so that looking from the distance you got "gray" image - no extreme white or black areas.
Spacing between staves and bars must have a good visual rhythm.
There should be no collision between expressions at all.
You really have to enjoy playing from an easy to read engraved page.

How did you start with music engraving?

While playing in the orchestra we were sometimes forced to play from really lousy and hard-to-read hand-written material. Because I was already using computers I decided that I could copy it and make things better.

For what publishers have you worked?

I'm a freelancer so here we go: Boosey and Hawkes, Ricordi, Bärenreiter, G. Henle, Doblinger, Pizzicato, TreMedia Musikverlag, Thomi-Berg, Gravis, Schorer publishing, Slovenian Composers Associations and Publishers....

Is there a big difference in how these publishers work with freelance engravers? If so, could you give some examples?

I don't know much for others, but publishers call me and ask if I'm interested in a project. So if I have the time and we can agree about the fee, we're in business. In the future I'm sure publishers won't employ full-time engravers; they are too expensive.

On the other side it is quite sad how standard music engraving (by hand) developed during centuries disappeared in last few years.

What do you feel are the biggest differences between hand engraving  and computer engraving?

Hand engraving is an art like calligraphy while computer engraving is more aimed towards mass production, and of course cheaper and faster.

In what format do you send your material to the publishers?

Mostly on paper or PDF and PS-EPS files by e-mail.

When you do work for a publisher, could you describe how the process works between you and the publisher?

First they send me the composer's manuscript, then I copy it and create the layout and print the first proofs and send them back. After some time I will receive the same material with corrections (corrected by the composer or editor), marked in red. I replace the wrong notes, expressions, accidentals, etc, print and send it back to publisher again for next round. This whole process is called "proof reading" and lasts until the score is completely "black and white" (no more red marks).

At the end I create the final print. This can be done on my printer or on a typesetting machine somewhere else.

When you recieve material from composers, in what "state" do you get the material? Hand-written? As Finale files? MIDI files? Or from other sources?

I prefer hand-written material because I have to understand the composer's musical personality. Repairing Finale files from others is too much time-consuming. I get better results if I print that file and copy it from paper. Composers often make too many mistakes in Finale.
Composing and engraving are two totally different things. Engravers listen to the music by the eyes...

I have opened some MIDI files but engraving from that was also a waste of time.

Could you give some example of mistakes composers do?

In many cases they don't understand the difference between measure and note expression assignment, the purpose of the text tool...
Page layout tool - staff system optimization is always problematic!

What help do you get from established publishers to adapt a specific house style? Do you get style sheets, fonts, Finale templates or anything like that?

They send me some printed examples so I have to imitate their outlook - fonts, expressions, line thickness, margins etc. Of course, the more information they give me the better. I never get Finale templates. In many cases I have to imitate the look of music published before the computer era...

What kind of engraving work do you do today?

At the moment I'm finishing the full score of the new Slovenian opera "Brata" (Two brothers) by Alojz Ajdic. It will get its first performance in the Ljubljana Opera house in May 2005.

When engraving contemporary music, do you get more "stylistic freedom" compared to when doing traditional engravings?

Depends on the composers, some don't care and are pleased with any look, others for example want special thick arrows for quarter-tone accidentals etc.

The hardest thing is to imitate "house-styles" of established publishers.

How do you do to imitate a house style? Do you create your own fonts for this purpose? Do you use any other tools in this process?

I'm using many different music fonts available on the net, so I mix them a lot.

I use other software only if a special symbol/character could not be created in the Shape designer.

Do the editors of the publishing houses comment on problems with the house style look?

Sure, during proof readings there were many comments like "this ALLEGRO is not Palatino medium italic 14. Please change font and size" or "move this expression 0.3 mm to the left", "this slur is too weak", etc...

The rule is: Give the editors as little work as possible.

Which additional tools do you use when working in Finale?

For years I've been using Recorder (Macro Recorder), which came along with Win 2.0 (as far as I recall).

Here I have to say that (in my work) JW Push staves was the best ever plug-in created for Finale. It saved months of work!

What would be your best advices to anyone who would start learning Finale "from scratch" today?

Finale is actually like playing a musical instrument. If anyone wants to learn any instrument he must practise a lot. It is the same with Finale. Knowing manuals and tutorials is only beginning.

In what direction would you like Finale to move in the future?

I would say exactly what happened with Finale evolution during the last 15 years. It must remain focused on notation/graphics and not be too “playback-oriented” software in the future!