Tom Bergeron

Saxophonist | Band Leader | Recording Artist | Record Producer | Professor of Music Emeritus

Bergeron Chord Symbols for Finale

ABOUT THIS CHORD LIBRARY

I have long been dissatisfied with Finale’s built-in chord symbol libraries, and began building my own chord symbols soon after I switched over to Finale in the mid-1990s. After some 20 years of building and refining my library, I determined that the fonts I had built the chords with appeared dated — and, in any case, many inconsistencies in placement of elements had crept in over the years.

In 2018, I began to build a whole new library from scratch, keeping in mind the lessons I had learned from my original effort. Now, two years later, I have what I believe is a far better-looking, more consistent library of symbols for 92 chords. Bergeron Chord Symbols (BCS) are now available as a free download, subject to the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International License.

BCS are built on the fonts Source Code Pro for the letters and numbers, and Petrucci for the musical symbols. Source Code Pro is an open source Adobe font designed by Paul D. Hunt and available as a free download. A monotype font, it was created for coding applications, where a clean, readable look is imperative. As such, it is well-suited to use for chord symbols, which likewise require precise conveyance of detail.

The 92 chords that comprise this initial release of BCS include all that I’ve found in common North American fake books, many that are more typically found in Brazilian fake books — principally the Tom Jobim Cancioneiro — and several additional ones that I’ve found useful in my own writing.

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PRINCIPLES OF CHORD SYMBOLOGY

I’m from the generation that originally learned to write chord symbols by hand. As I composed, arranged and transposed lead sheets from various fake books, I developed my own standards in the pursuit of clarity and consistency. In that process, I developed a set of principles which underlie my formatting decisions:

  • Clarity: The font must be easily read, with sufficient size to be visible in dimly-lit situations.
  • Conciseness: The information should be displayed in as few characters as possible, to enable the eye to scan the symbol quickly and efficiently.
  • Placement of Elements: The various components of the chord symbol should be placed in consistent positions relative to the root indicator.

Some practices that are common in modern published scores and fake books run counter to one or more of these principles, and so I’ve made a few decisions that challenge such practices. Following are my reasons for some choices:

  • On the Use of Parentheses

I have avoided using parentheses except when I believe their lack could cause confusion. In most cases, parentheses are superfluous to accurate parsing of a chord symbol. Their indiscriminate use creates visual clutter. They make it more difficult for the eye to scan the symbol quickly and they cause the chord symbol to take up more horizontal space than it needs to. Instead of using parentheses, I indicate subservience of elements through consistent use of variations in size, weight, and placement.

  • On the Use of Delta () to Indicate Major

This is probably the most controversial choice. I learned early on that the upper-case “M,” by itself, was not going to do the job, as I ran into colleagues who interpreted this as minor — the fact that M-for-major was common at the time in my theory textbooks notwithstanding. It is, incidentally, ubiquitous in older Brazilian fake books as well — albeit usually after the 7 to which it applies.

My objection to what has become the most common indicator MA — which seems to have been invented by Chuck Sher — is that it uses two characters when one will do. To make matters worse, the MA convention calls for using MI for minor — again requiring two characters when one will do. The older variant Maj — which calls for its companion min — is no better. 

Why is it important to avoid using two characters when one will do? Two reasons:

A performer — especially when sight-reading — needs to see a chord symbol as a “chunk” of information, rather than a series of independent components. The more concise the symbol, the more easily that chunking is accomplished.

A good lead sheet or part is one whose format on the page is in accord with the form of the music: ends of phrases at the ends of systems, for example. Music that is harmonically dense — and even some music that is not dense overall — may have measures with as many as four or more chord changes. If chord symbols are unnecessarily long, they will force the composer/arranger away from an elegant placement of phrases.

The singular solution to this issue is “” — which is not so common these days, but never confused for anything other than “major.”  It is easily accessed in Mac OS by typing Option+J, and apparently accessible in Windows OS with either Alt+X or an alt code.

Some have argued that the delta by itself implies major-7th, but I find that to be inconsistent with the use of “7” in a chord symbols generally. It also precludes the use of 9 in a consistent fashion. Nevertheless, nobody who interprets delta as implying major-7th should be confused by what, under that assumption, would be a redundant addition of the numeral 7 for the sake of clarity and consistency.

In my view, is the most elegant way to represent major, and with its adoption the use of the single character m for minor completes a matched pair.

  • Half Diminished vs b5

I still believe that Ø7 is a more elegant representation of that sonority than is m7b5, but let’s face it: Finale has issues. In recent releases, any use of alt characters in lyrics or chord symbols causes an immediate crash. In Mac OS, “Ø” is accessed by typing Option+O. So I’ve given in to the modern popular preference for m7b5.

  • On the Use of m Rather than a Dash

I have no objection to the dash for minor, but I find it no more concise or clear than the singular letter m. My eye prefers the letter in this case.

HOW TO IMPORT BERGERON CHORD SYMBOLS LIBRARY INTO A FINALE DOCUMENT

  • Download the Bergeron Chord Symbols Finale Library
  • Open a new document
  • Select the Chord tool
  • Double click above any staff
  • When the Chord Definition dialog comes up, be sure that you’re seeing the Advanced options. If not, Click Show Advanced.
  • At the very bottom, under Suffix, click on Select… to enter the Chord Suffix Selection dialog box.
  • Click on the very first chord symbol. Scroll down to the bottom and shift-click on the very last. Click on Delete to delete all of the chord symbols in this document. Note: This does not affect available chord symbols in any other document, nor the default libraries that will remain available when opening a new document.
  • Select Cancel. Select Cancel.
  • Go File>Load Library…
  • Choose the Bergeron Chord Symbols file you just downloaded. By default, Finale will take you to the Finale Libraries folder, so unless you saved it there, you’ll have to navigate to wherever it is.
  • Your document now contains the Bergeron Chord Symbols and no others. You’re ready to begin entering music.
  • Once you have done this, you may use this document as a template — or you can simply repeat the process with whatever Finale file you wish.
  • If you have a file that already has chord symbols and you’d like to substitute BCS, you can either first delete all the chords in the score, then follow the above procedure and re-enter the chords, or you can do the following:
  • Load the BCS library
  • Delete chords one at a time in the Chord Suffix Selection dialog box. As each chord that you’re using comes up, you will be able to substitute the BCS equivalent to replace all instances of that chord in your score.

HOW TO EXTRACT BERGERON CHORD SYMBOLS FROM THE FINALE TEMPLATE

  • Download the Bergeron Chord Symbols Finale file
  • Open the file
  • If you wish, you can begin entering music. However be advised that by doing so you will also be beginning with all of the Document Options built into this template.
  • If instead, you wish to extract the chords, then…
  • Go File>Save Library…
  • Click on Chords & Fretboards
  • OK
  • Give the library a title and choose where you want it saved to. By default, Finale will opt to save it to the Finale Libraries folder. That’s fine, but you can choose anyplace you wish.
  • Open a new document
  • Select the Chord tool
  • Double click above any staff
  • When the Chord Definition dialog comes up, be sure that you’re seeing the Advanced options. If not, Click Show Advanced.
  • At the very bottom, under Suffix, click on Select… to enter the Chord Suffix Selection dialog box.
  • Click on the very first chord symbol. Scroll down to the bottom and shift-click on the very last. Click on Delete to delete all of the chord symbols in this document. Note: This does not affect that available chord symbols in any other document, nor the default libraries that will remain available when opening a new document.
  • Select Cancel. Select Cancel.
  • Go File>Load Library…
  • Again, by default, Finale will take you to the Finale Libraries folder, so if you did not save the extracted library there, you’ll have to navigate to where it is.
  • Your document now contains the Bergeron Chord Symbols and no others. You’re ready to begin entering music.
  • Once you have done this, you may use this document as a template — or you can simply repeat the process with whatever Finale file you wish.
  • If you have a file that already has chord symbols and you’d like to substitute BCS, you can either first delete all the chords in the score, then follow the above procedure and re-enter the chords, or you can do the following:
  • Load the BCS library
  • Delete chords one at a time in the Chord Suffix Selection dialog box. As each chord that you’re using comes up, you will be able to substitute the BCS equivalent to replace all instances of that chord in your score.

HOW TO ENTER CHORDS USING BERGERON CHORD SYMBOLS

  • Download the Bergeron Chord Symbols Template or PDF of Template
  • The chords in the template are laid out in the same way that the chords are found in the Chord Suffix Selection table.
  • If you enter a chord and Finale asks you if you’d like to add that chord, then either the chord you wish to enter is not in the library or you have typed it incorrectly.
  • Check the template to find the chord you wish to enter.
  • If it’s nowhere to be found, then let me know so that I may consider adding it to the library.
  • If you do find a representation of that chord, then there are four options for entering it in your score:
    • 1. Note how it is displayed and try again to guess the order in which the elements should be typed.
    • 2. Double-click above the staff. When the Chord Definition dialog box comes up, make sure you’re seeing the advanced options. If not, click Show Advanced. Type in the Suffix ID corresponding to the measure in which the chord is found in the template.
    • 3. Follow option 2, but instead of entering the Suffix ID, click on Select to enter the Chord Suffix Selection dialog. Select the chord from the table.
    • 4. Follow option 3, but instead of selecting the chord from the table, click on Edit. Advance through the characters one by one, noting in the upper right corner what characters are being used and in what order. Now you know how to type it in directly.