I first encountered this problem with Finale several years ago while working on my dissertation piece. At that time, I was writing music for folkloric instruments (the Puerto Rican cuatro and tiple), which were not included in the program. Determining how to create parts for these instruments and their notations also required contacting members of the ensemble that I was writing for so I could get their parts correct. That meant creating the parts in Finale from scratch and completely ignoring the audio playback in the program (because the cuatro and tiple used different sounding ranges).
That was back in 2015 and 2016. Flash forward to 2019, and I am faced the same compositional problems… albeit, with a different instrument. In February, I began composing a set of short sonatas for toy piano that apply Twelve-Tone Serialism (As some may have seen in my previous post, I just completed the third of what I hope will be five sonatas: at least, for now). The problem that I find with these pieces is not the compositional technique, however. The problem—or, problems—lie in the fact that Finale does not have a toy piano in their “Instrument List” in the “Setup Wizard” and “Window” sections. I had to briefly conduct some research on the toy piano and encountered the following:
- Toy pianos vary by the number of keys, which determine and affect their range: from 18 keys (small), to 36 keys (full).
- A full, 37-key toy piano has a range of F3 to F6.
- Toy pianos do not have foot pedals.
Taking these points into consideration, I chose to write for a full toy piano because of the larger range of keys. Composing for toy piano also means that the parts for both the right and left hands use a treble clef. Concerning Finale playback, I had to substitute a celesta for the sound of the toy piano because the other keyboards listed in the program did not even match. I say this to illustrate, once again, why composers should not rely heavily on Finale MIDI realizations of instrumental parts. I am writing these sonatas while also paying attention to the range of the toy piano. I also compose these pieces knowing full well that the substituted sound of the celesta will not do the sonatas justice because the celesta cannot truly replicate the sound of a toy piano. I understand that these pieces will have a different aural effect when performed by a human being.