Steel Trappings

Software for Creating Steel Guitar Arrangements

Software for Creating Steel Guitar Arrangements — Part 2: Getting Started

September 25, 2016 • Mark PruchaEducation

In Part 1, we discussed the benefits of using Finale Notation Software to create steel guitar arrangements. Now we will get started with our first arrangement.

Note: For the below examples, we will be using Finale 2014.5.

Creating a Steel Guitar Template

Finale comes with 34 pre-made template documents. These include templates for band, choir, church, and orchestral arrangements. While these templates can be of use to many musicians, they do not help the steel guitarist. Luckily, Finale allows us to create our own steel guitar templates.

Set up your document

When you start Finale, a dialog box should appear on your screen. Click "Default Document". This will bring up a document containing 31 blank measures (See picture below).

Finale Default Document

Add a Tablature Staff

Now we want to add a tablature staff beneath the treble staff. To do this, go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and click on "Window". Then click "Score Manager". This will bring up the Score Manager Dialog Box pictured below.

Finale Score Manager

On the Score Manager Dialog Box, choose "Add Instrument" => "Blank Staff". We have now added another treble staff to our document. In order to change it to a tablature staff, where it says "Notation Style" on the Score Manager Dialog Box, change "Standard" to "Tablature". This will bring up the Tablature Staff Attributes Dialog Box pictured below.

Finale Staff Attributes

On the Tablature Staff Attributes Box, click "Edit Instruments…" => "New", and in the "Name" box, type in Steel Guitar — C6.

Now we need to change the pitch of each string in the tablature to match the tuning of our steel guitar. Assuming we are using a six-string C6 tuning, we want the tablature pitches to be (from highest to lowest):


To accomplish this, we must change the numbers in the string to pitch correspondence (See picture below).

Finale Tablature Pitches

By default, the pitches are set to standard guitar tuning (EBGDAE high to low). Currently, they read 64, 59, 55, 50, 45, 40 on strings 1 to 6 respectively. Incrementing a pitch number by one raises the pitch a semitone, and decrementing a pitch number by one lowers the pitch a semitone.

Simply change these pitches to read: 64, 60, 57, 55, 52, 48, on strings 1 to 6 respectively. Now the strings correspond to the C6 tuning. Click OK. Now, we are back to the Tablature Staff Attribute dialog box. Make sure the little box next to "On 'Ok', Reset Staff's Attributes to Tablature Default" is checked. Click OK again.

Finale Tablature Pitches

You have now successfully added a tablature staff representing the C6 tuning.

Finale can be purchased via disc format or downloaded at

In Part 3, we'll improve our document's aesthetics.

Ed. note: The Mac OSX version of Finale was used for this article. A Windows version of Finale is also available for the PC with identical functionality. Finale files are completely compatible and transferrable between versions, and the current version of Finale is backwards-compatible with previous versions.



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Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikiki Steel Guitar Week
July 9-14, 2018
Monday-Thursday - Nightly Evening Performances
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Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
Hawai'i Island Steel Guitar Festival
September 7-9, 2018 - Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawai'i
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali'i
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Kaua'i Steel Guitar Festival
March 1-2, 2019 - Courtyard Kaua'i at Coconut Beach, Kapa'a, Kaua'i
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June 8, 2019 (tentative) - Windward Mall, Kaneohe

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