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#1180329 - 04/14/09 04:12 PM Pens and Pencils
steinwaymaster Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 52
Loc: New York City
This may seem like a stupid post, but... What do composers compose with? I mean what writing implement do composers use for their sketches, drafts, and final scores? Hundreds of years ago, pencils weren't invented, and many people used quills. A basic list to start with: Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Mahler, and in more modern times, Bernstein, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Copland, Glass, etc.
“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
- Leonard Bernstein

-Middle School music teacher
-Private Piano Teacher
-Amateur composer (hobby)

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#1190105 - 04/29/09 07:42 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: steinwaymaster]
survivordan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/09
Posts: 844
Loc: Ohio
PENCIL!!!!!!!! I never use pen in music or in math.
Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor

#1190110 - 04/29/09 07:51 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: survivordan]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4726
Loc: San Jose, CA
No. 2 pencil, nice and sharp. But I neither write nor erase on the music desk, I have a table by the piano for that (and coffee cups).

#1190182 - 04/29/09 09:54 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: steinwaymaster]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6157
Loc: Down Under
Pencil - various types, depending on whim, for sketches and drafts. As for preparing my scores, I've used Finale now for about 15 years, but before that I used pen and ink, and had a pretty good hand, if I do say so myself smile - my older scores look pretty nice! I used to use a fountain-pen-type indian ink (Pelikan was the brand, I think) and a cheap fountain pen with a sawn-off nib (to make it straight). Vertical lines (stems, barlines) were very fine, and horizontals (like for beams)thick. I also worked as a copyist (that's another story) when I was a poor student. I can't believe now how little I was paid.
Du holde Kunst...

#1190202 - 04/29/09 10:23 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: currawong]
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
So far pencils are popular, I assume you all meant "normal" #2/HB pencils.

Have you used/thought about using softer leads? Something closer to a drawing lead than an office pencil, perhaps? I was just thinking about trying this the other day (2B-3B? 2-3mm leads, plus a nice lead holder).

I don't know, I just started thinking about this. I've never really liked pencils, and remember the feel of a couple drawing pencils I used for a brief drawing course (looooong before I got into music). I remember those softer leads as something that might work better for me, but could be completely delusional.

Do you think this could work? Would you try this?

I don't compose, or write much, but would like something better than normal pencils for the short exercises I write and correct.

And it would look geeky :P

#1190239 - 04/29/09 11:12 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Erus]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6157
Loc: Down Under
I use 2B pencils, or retractable pencils with 2B lead (instead of the HB they usually come with). Depending on what size manuscript paper I'm using, I might use HB lead sometimes.
For markings on piano music, for instance, I often use a softer pencil - 4B (however, they tend to sharpen away to nothing pretty quickly, and the lead breaks easily).
"And it would look geeky :P "
Well you're right there, and this is obviously very important smile
Du holde Kunst...

#1190309 - 04/30/09 02:40 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: survivordan]
Tar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 296
Loc: Munich, Germany
Originally Posted By: survivordan
PENCIL!!!!!!!! I never use pen in music or in math.

Now I know I'm not alone laugh
Tar Viturawong
Amateur composer and pianist
Known on YouTube as pianoinspiration
verbis defectis musica incipit

#1190319 - 04/30/09 03:34 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Tar]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 441
For sketches and drafts, I use whatever pen or pencil available at the time. The final scores I create in Sibelius.

Don't do much math anymore, but I ocassionaly do some sudoku's, for those I always use a pen. wink

#1190333 - 04/30/09 04:40 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: RogerW]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6157
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: RogerW
I occasionaly do some sudoku's, for those I always use a pen. wink

How clever! I start them in pen, but have to resort to pencil halfway through for all but the easiest ones.
Du holde Kunst...

#1190379 - 04/30/09 07:34 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: currawong]
Kreisler Offline

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13837
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I always use a pen. I just scribble things out when I don't like them. I like the higher contrast and sharper line than pencil.
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


#1190499 - 04/30/09 11:00 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Kreisler]
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2052
For sketches and quick ideas, I'll use whatever is at hand. For the work roughing it out and coming up with something somewhat respectable, I use a 7mm retractable pencil. After that, it's on to Finale to come up with a polished score.

#1190791 - 04/30/09 06:26 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: 8ude]
Gary D. Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 5420
Loc: South Florida
I do my "scribbling" in Finale. I would no more write music by hand than I would write this message by hand before typing it in this box. smile
Piano Teacher

#1190882 - 04/30/09 09:47 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Gary D.]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6157
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I do my "scribbling" in Finale. I would no more write music by hand than I would write this message by hand before typing it in this box. smile

Well I'm with you on the typing vs writing by hand bit! But although I occasionally "scribble" in Finale, and I feel pretty at home with it, I can still write music quicker with pencil. (I generally write my beginner piano pieces straight into Finale, however.)
Du holde Kunst...

#1197713 - 05/12/09 12:13 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: currawong]
steve bARTa Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/21/09
Posts: 12
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
I use a mechanical pencil with a drafting table next to the piano. When the score is finished, I have a copiest put my score into Sibelius and print out the seperate orchestral parts and conductors score from there.

#1197904 - 05/12/09 11:42 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: steve bARTa]
Swingin' Barb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 889
Loc: North Carolina
My #2 pencil is right at the piano -- along with my nice pink eraser which is used often.

I don't erase at the piano -- nasty eraser bits landing on my pretty keyboard is rather ugly. So, I erase by placing my manuscript paper on a high stool set up right next to the piano. I have mastered the art of holding my pencil between my fingers as I am playing a few measures to test out the changes that I have made.
A Sudnow Method Fanatic
"Color tones, can't live without them"

To hear how I have progressed since 2006, check out: http://b.kane.home.mindspring.com

#1198326 - 05/13/09 04:13 AM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Swingin' Barb]
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1569
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Black felt tip - not too thick, not too fine - thick enough to make nice beams and notes if pressed but thin enough to make clear stems, sharps and flats if used lightly. I use white-out on the occasional error. As I never write anything out until it has become a finished piano piece, that is to say I play it the same way each time, writing is just a rather uninteresting and mechanical task unconnected to the creative process. In fact I loathe it and have been known to go months carrying around several large pieces in my head rather than face writing them out.

One good thing these days is that music paper can be easily proportioned to order and printed from a computer as required. The stuff I used to buy from shops never seemed to have enough space for me to get everything in neatly.

Edited by Ted (05/13/09 04:26 AM)
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

#1198759 - 05/13/09 09:18 PM Re: Pens and Pencils [Re: Ted]
j l z Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/10/09
Posts: 4
PENCIL for my sketches and sketch-scores: Black Warrior HB .

The calligraphers use a variety of notation programs for the final scores/parts. My preference is Sibelius - it has a truly oval ( and pretty) notehead.

~ when I began writing, as a child, my mom made me use a dip-it-in-the-ink music writing pen, and proper vellum. Lots of scratch-outs (!).


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