Steel Trappings

Software for Creating Steel Guitar Arrangements

Software for Creating Steel Guitar Arrangements - Part 1: An Introduction to Finale

June 19, 2016 • Mark PruchaEducation

Are you interested in arranging music for the steel guitar? Perhaps, you want to transcribe some of your favorite artist's solos and licks. Or maybe you just want to generate a chord chart for your backup band. With computers, all these things have gotten a whole lot easier.

What is Music Notation Software?

Chances are you've seen sheet music in the store, be it in tablature or standard note form. It's possible the piece is handwritten, which may or may not make it difficult to read. More likely, however, it was written with the help of a computer program. Music notation software consists of any computer program that aids in the visual representation of music.

What I Use

When it comes to arranging music for steel guitar, I use Finale. Finale is a software created by MakeMusic Inc. It was first developed in 1988, and has since become an industry-standard in music notation software. It retails for $600 or can be bought for $350 if you're a high school or college student.

Below are some of the benefits that Finale offers me as a steel guitarist:

1) Flexibility

Some of the earliest steel guitar arrangements were written in standard notation format. This required steel guitarists to be able to read musical notes if they wanted to play the piece. More recently, arrangements for steel and other fretted instruments have become prevalent in tablature form. Tablature does not require one to read notes and has a much faster learning curve.

Finale offers me the flexibility to use both tablature and standard notation forms. Typically, when writing a steel guitar arrangement, I write a tablature staff with a standard notation staff above. This makes the arrangement accessible to both tab-readers and note-readers alike. Furthermore, Finale can translate music between tab and notes. For example, if I click on the tab staff and drag it to the standard notation staff, Finale will automatically understand what I've written in tab form and translate it into notes on the standard staff. This makes the process of arranging much quicker.

2) Musical Playback

Have you ever come across a musical idea that sounds good in your head but just doesn't fit the song? To combat this issue, Finale offers a feature called "Musical Playback". This allows you to hear your arrangement based on the notes and chords you've entered. Finale also offers a wide range of MIDI instrument sounds, so if you're arranging a song with many instrument parts, you can assign MIDI sounds to the corresponding instrument.

3) Clean Style/Formatting

Below is a sample of a recent arrangement I've been working on. You'll notice how clean and professional Finale's formatting looks.

Finale Arrangement

Finale can be downloaded or purchased via disc format at There is also a free 30-day trial version available.

In Part 2, we'll walk through creating a steel guitar arrangement from scratch using Finale.



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