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 Post subject: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:38 am 
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This topic is definitely music tech: low tech. :-)

These questions are for you if 1. Your manual music writing skills are (or can be) near-publication or distribution quality, not casual scrawls for your eyes only; and 2. You sometimes use a pencil to write or copy out music on staff paper. Not software. Not a pen (though pens may be a future topic).

Sooo ...

1. What kind of pencil do you prefer/recommend? What hardness (HB, 2B, etc.)?

2. What kind of point do you use: sharp, chisel, other? How do you hold/orient the pencil?

3. How do you point your pencil: sharpener, sandpaper, knife, other?

4. Are you familiar with the "Magic Writer" music pencil from Pacific Papers? If so, what do you think of it?

TIA!

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:43 am 
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Here's the backstory ...

My music notation skills are at a fairly high level. But my music penmanship has always been a secret shame, because it's crap. :oops: I'm like a good writer with bad handwriting.

We were never taught music penmanship in school. Teachers just expected us to start writing music, so that's what we did. In my case, the result has always ranged from amateurish to chicken scratch. Serviceable for my own use and occasional parts writing, but not really for presentation.

Sure, I use notation software now. But that avoids the problem, not corrects it.

Recently I've had luck working with my old Osmiroid calligraphy pen and special music nib (angled italic cut). The results so far have been quite good, very presentable. Using the right tool definitely makes a big difference.

But I notice that many people also use or prefer pencils. And I can't imagine how a pencil can produce output comparable to a music nib unless there are pencils and/or tricks I'm not aware of. Hence the questions. :-)

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Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:40 am 
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hmm, have you attempted advanced sharpening techniques on a carpenter's pencil yet?

There might be techniques to be borrowed from artist's chalk camp also.


ya know we's rather proud of ourselves for using tools. :really:
(avoids, not corrects)

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:20 pm 
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What exactly makes a pencil a "Music Pencil"?

I had a look online and many of the Music Notation Pencils advertised were ordinary HB pencils with fancy treble clef designs on the side.

What can you do with a Music Pencil that you cannot do with a very sharp ordinary HB?

Although I do not write music, I am a fan of pencil use generally. As everyone else has gone high tech, I wilfully go lower and lower tech just to annoy them ;)

You can achieve almost microscopically fine points by sharpening with a very sharp pocket knife. To get a knife sufficiently sharp for this you need to sharpen it yourself usually. I use a ceramic composite sharpening stone (Fallkniven DC4) on my Swiss army knife with excellent results. When you can shave the hairs off the back of your hand it is sharp enough.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:26 pm 
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Denny wrote:
hmm, have you attempted advanced sharpening techniques on a carpenter's pencil yet?

Not yet, Denny. I can see that square or rectangular lead might work. But it would have to be small, and I don't have one handy anyway. I've tried sanding a chisel point on HB, 2B and 7B pencils, but I'm not happy yet with the result. The few online discussions I've read about music pencils say nothing about the points, but the preferred pencils (Blackwing, Magic Writer, etc.) have regular round leads.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:36 pm 
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2B. I like a 2B for pencilmanship, as softer pencils get smudgey and need sharpened too often. A 2B is a nice balance between blackness of line and softness of lead, and duration of point. I'll use a softer pencil for drawing (depending on what I'm drawing) but for music notation, 2B.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:52 pm 
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AbrasiveScotsman wrote:
I had a look online and many of the Music Notation Pencils advertised were ordinary HB pencils with fancy treble clef designs on the side.

Well, Google isn't very helpful. There's too much interference from pencils with cheesy music decorations as "music pencils".

AbrasiveScotsman wrote:
What exactly makes a pencil a "Music Pencil"? ... What can you do with a Music Pencil that you cannot do with a very sharp ordinary HB?

A good music pencil presumably

o Is soft enough to produce both very dark/heavy and very light lines - black, not grey - in response to pressure. I've yet to try an HB (#2) pencil that is up to that task.

o Holds a point so you don't have to sharpen it every few notes.

o Flows very smoothly without a waxy feel.

The preferred pencils seem to fall in the 2B - 4B range. I have a Stadtler 2mm lead holder with a Koh-I-Noor 2B lead that seems somewhat promising.

AbrasiveScotsman wrote:
You can achieve almost microscopically fine points by sharpening with a very sharp pocket knife. To get a knife sufficiently sharp for this you need to sharpen it yourself usually. I use a ceramic composite sharpening stone (Fallkniven DC4) on my Swiss army knife with excellent results.

Yes, I use an Oregon Abrasive composite stone with my knives. I can hand-carve a pencil point, but what is the best shape for music?

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Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:08 pm 
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Innocent Bystander wrote:
2B. I like a 2B for pencilmanship, as softer pencils get smudgey and need sharpened too often. A 2B is a nice balance between blackness of line and softness of lead, and duration of point. I'll use a softer pencil for drawing (depending on what I'm drawing) but for music notation, 2B.

Yes, 2B seems to be the strongest consensus.

American pencils are traditionally graded 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 4 (= B, HB, F, H, 2H). So the softer pencils <1 tend to be harder to find (e.g., I've never seen a "zero") except in art supply shops. But the European grading system seems to be catching on here now, especially with the demise of most American pencil manufacturing. :evil:

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Joel Barish: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:20 pm 
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I think that I took a drafting class back when they were still fighting the new mechanical pencils and long before CAD computers sat on desks...

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:27 pm 
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This is what I use:

http://www.uchida.com/p-67-calligraphy-pigmented.aspx

Typically, I sketch out a tune with pencil, or with an ABC program (like concertina.net), then print out 12 line staff paper with the treble clef inscribed, then hand write the piece using the calligraphy pen.
I do this for several reasons - mainly because my written scores are easier to see from a distance (when compared to computer generated notes), and also because hand writing allows me to arrange the phrasing a little closer to the way I want the music to sound. The musicians I play with have gotten used to seeing this type of score and now prefer it to the odd standard print out that I show up with to try out.

Some would say this technique looks crude - I think of it as 'stylized'........

I opted out of using pencil long ago - I couldn't ever find the right one - and often the pencil lead will shine off of lights and become hard to see. I also tried callig ink pens but found that I was impatient with the constant cleaning and messiness of the process.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 5:24 pm 
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I'm on the trail of both a "Magic Writer" pencil and a "Judy Green Music Writer" pencil, to try them out. I'll report back if I succeed.

Unfortunately, the Magic Writer folks, who seem nice, require a minimum order of 2 dozen. So getting hold of just one Magic Writer to test may be difficult. The Judy Green pencils are available to order by the single pencil.

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Joel Barish: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:23 pm 
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Back in the dark ages when I was taking classes in transcribing and editing music in early notations we were forbidden to use pencils of any sort except for working copy. Anything final was in pen. Music stylii were preferred, but some kinds of fine tipped felt markers were also accepted.

I think the Gardner Read book on notation is still the accepted manual of rules, though I don't recall what he had to say about hand manuscript. The only two things I do recall are 1) don't connect the stem to the notehead (!) and 2) make the stems one octave long (there are some situations, like "flat" beams, where longer is permitted)

Still, I like something softer than a 2B even for sketches...


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:27 pm 
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MTGuru wrote:
I'm on the trail of both a "Magic Writer" pencil and a "Judy Green Music Writer" pencil, to try them out. I'll report back if I succeed.

Unfortunately, the Magic Writer folks, who seem nice, require a minimum order of 2 dozen. So getting hold of just one Magic Writer to test may be difficult.


Check out

http://store.osmun.com/browse.cfm/magic ... ,1861.html

http://www.vallemusic.com/supplies.html

There may be others...


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:38 pm 
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Well, I'm waiting to find out if one of my SD Symphony friends has a Magic Writer that I can beg, steal or borrow. They're supposed to be awash in them.

Meanwhile, I've found a nice set of Stadtler drawing pencils ($7 at Staples). Comes in a nifty carrying tin with tray and contains a selection of 6 soft pencils: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, 7B, 8B. The last two seem too dark and "chalky" for notation, but the rest are very promising: 2B for basic entry, 4B for details, 6B for lettering and other markings, and HB for fine repair. All using a standard point, so no need for special sharpening.

If I manage to produce something presentable after some practice, I'll scan and post the results here.

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Joel Barish: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Pencils
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:46 pm 
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And here's a useful page of PDF worksheets with tips and rules for drawing some basic notation features - notes, clefs, etc. Courtesy of the nice folks at the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Symphony.

http://www.lancastersymphony.org/SoundD ... fault.aspx

Adding: Another, older page with detailed explanations of many notation engraving rules, summarized mainly from the Gardner Reed book (which cboody mentioned above.) Some of the graphic examples are now missing, but the text descriptions are mostly clear enough.

http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/Dept/MU ... aving.html

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Joel Barish: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Dr. Mierzwiak: Well, technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage.


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