Fermatas on bar rests in Finale


Last week I described how to create breath marks as expressions in Finale and position them intelligently in your score instead of using the default breath mark articulation.

The fermata is another symbol that I often see used in Finale both as an articulation and an expression. There are good reasons for using both, but in this post we’ll focus specifically on placing fermatas on bar rests, and why placing them as articulations yields more consistent results than using expressions.

Placing fermatas as articulations

I place fermatas on bar rests using Tools > Articulations using the method described in the Finale User Manual, where it says “To place a fermata on an empty measure (whole rest)”:

The reason you need to place a “real” whole rest in the bar is that, in Finale, an articulation can’t be placed on an empty bar — it must be placed on a note or rest.

Once the fermata is placed in this way, use the Edit > Paste Multiple feature to quickly propagate the fermatas to the remainder of the staves in the score:

  • Copy the bar containing the fermata
  • Edit > Copy (Command-C)
  • Choose Edit > Paste Multiple (Control-Command-V)
  • Select Paste Vertically and To the Bottom of the Score

You can then easily overwrite any bar with music, as needed.

The method works for me consistently, every time.

The pitfalls of placing fermatas as expressions in bar rests

Having extolled the virtues of expressions over articulations last week, you might wonder why I wouldn’t recommend creating an expression such as one with the following settings:

One reason is that time signatures affect the horizontal position of these expressions:

Another reason is that, in parts, the fermata expression only breaks the multimeasure rest at the bar to which it’s attached, and not the subsequent bar as well, leaving you with this undesirable situation:

Fermatas placed as articulations won’t have this problem:

Clearly, this is a process that could use some modernization. Sibelius is aware that a fermata placed on a bar rest in one staff should apply to all staves. Newer applications like Dorico and StaffPad are more sophisticated, taking into account fermatas placed on a note within the bar and extrapolating the correct position of the fermata in other staves.

But for now, placing fermatas on bar rests in Finale using articulations is a time-tested way to make your score and parts look correct.


  1. Bryan Higgins

    Good advice.

    The “Center Between Barlines” issue with a time signature (or key signature or clef, or indeed any measure at the beginning of a system) can be solved by instead using “Center Over/Under MKusic” and specifying an additional horizontal offset of (Spacing After Music – Spacing Before Music) / 2; Spacing After Music and Spacing Before Music are in Document Options / Notes and Rests. An articulation on a real rest is still the preferred solution for the measure-breaking reason you give, but for other expressions you want centered between barlines (such as repeated measure counts), the above works well.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Bryan, very interesting! Neat trick. But do you find that can have an unwanted affect of the spacing of your music?

      1. Bryn Higgins

        No, it doesn’t affect spacing (I don’t think any of Finale’s spacing algorithms consider expressions).

        What I’ve done in the past, by the way, using the articulation method, is to temporarily add a measure at the end of the piece that has a stack of real whole rests with fermatas with a time signature of something like 1/8. This can then be copied and pasted anywhere in the document with the filter set to Notes and Rests and Articulations. The short time signature seems to be necessary because if you paste and longer measure into a shorter one, Finale will spill it over into the next measure.

        1. Philip Rothman

          Wow, that’s a great tip! Thanks.

  2. Robert Wildling

    Thank you for adding to this series of input methods in Finale!
    Excellent and very important pitfalls that you mention here! Thanks for those!!! Articulations is absolutely the way to go!
    If there is still need for a Fermata defined as an expression, the “center over/under music” instead of “center between music” option would improve the centering problem (still needs tuning in the offset…). And fermatas as expressions are still very handy, when they are needed over barlines (Justification: center, Horizontal alignment: Right barline).

    1. Robert Wildling

      Ah… too late… :-)

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