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Thread: How do you hand-write music?

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    tMP Senior Friend BrianT's Avatar
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    How do you hand-write music?

    When you're at school, learning to write, you get told how to form each character and how to hold the pen. Even though I studied music at school I've never had any explanation how to form musical symbols. For instance, how do you form minim note heads, quaver tails, rests, and so on? I've seen all those handwritten big band charts, and it leaves me wondering how on eath it was done - evidently done at great speed but it looks fab.
    I like my regular handwriting but my handwritten music takes ages and doesn't look very nice when I've finished. There must be a "best practice". (and don't reply suggesting I get Sibelius - I've got Sibelius, but sometimes there's no alternative to handwritten...)
    BrianT (fountain pen in hand)

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    tMP Posting Freak!!! DaveR's Avatar
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    I wish I knew! Actually, I was taught how to do it in school and university, and in music theory lessons, but my handwriting is so awful. I wouldn't say my scores are unreadable, but they can be ambiguous!!! I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to actually form the note heads etc as long as they are readable.


  3. #3
    I've moved this thread here so it will get more attention. For elliptical noteheads, I offset them at an angle towards the right. I also tend to use heavier lines to desigate joined quavers, semis etc. keeping the stems straight and being distinct from the stave lines. If possible try to regulate spacing for beat lengths ... makes it a lttle neater. Hope this helps!
    It's not how you play ... it's the way how you play it!

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    tMP Posting Freak!!! DaveR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brassneck
    I've moved this thread here so it will get more attention. For elliptical noteheads, I offset them at an angle towards the right. I also tend to use heavier lines to desigate joined quavers, semis etc. keeping the stems straight and being distinct from the stave lines. If possible try to regulate spacing for beat lengths ... makes it a lttle neater. Hope this helps!
    Some general rules that I was taught at Uni during composition lessons......

    The centre of the bar should always be obvious to the player. Therefore, in 4/4 time crotchet, crotchet tied to a quaver, dotted crotchet is preferable to crotchet, dotted crotchet, dotted crotchet.

    As brassneck has already suggested, spacing for beat lengths is important - a bar containing one semibreve should be approximately the same length (in terms of inches on the stave!) as one with 4 crotchets or 8 quavers etc. On a similar subject, 8 bars rest should take approximately twice as much space on the stave as 4 bars rest....

    Rulers are your best friend! Some people can draw straightlines without a ruler - I'm not one of them. So bar lines, note stems and beams can all be rulered.

    Don't try to squash too much onto a stave. Manuscript paper isn't expensive, and it is a false economy to try to squash a bar onto the end of a line rather than start a new line!

    If I think of more gems from my prof, I will post them here....


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    tMP Prime Friend trumpetmike's Avatar
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    We used a fantastic book at university that described exactly what you are wanting - wish I could remember the name of it
    I will put some serious memory work in and see what comes up.

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    tMP Friend for Life Liz Courts's Avatar
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    I remember the first lot of music theory homework I had (about 12 years ago)...I had to write a line of treble clefs! Practise makes perfect!

    As for advice - I think it's important to start by trying to get nice even spacing between beats and barlines - it makes it so much neater!

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    tMP Master Friend tam-tam2's Avatar
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    I teach children to handwrite but would pesonally leave musical scoring to Sibelius, it does it so much neater than I ever could!!

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    tMP Posting Freak!!! HBB's Avatar
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    Indeed! My band tried to decipher the 10-piece parts of Snell's arrangement of Puttin' on the Ritz! Nightmare!!!
    Benjamin Tubb - Royal Northern College of Music Composition Graduate
    Now living in New York City, teaching music from Pre-K through 8th grade.

  9. #9
    Administrator Roger Thorne's Avatar
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    I've seen all those handwritten big band charts, and it leaves me wondering how on eath it was done
    If you are looking to replicate this style of writing try using Calligraphy pens. The end of the nibs are flat and can produce both a thick and thin line from the same nib. These are ideal for creating shaped noteheads, thin tails and thick beams. They take a bit of getting used to, as everything is written/drawn free-hand, but with a bit of practice I'm sure you'll get the hang of it. If you have Sibelius, why not try the 'Inkpen' fonts?






  10. #10
    tMP Friend squirrel's Avatar
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    That's be no good for me, you can't rub out your mistakes

    I've actually used Sibelius for a few transcriptions recently, you can get pretty quick at note entry using the keyboard shortcuts. On top of that, it's a real boon for transposition as you can enter it as per the copy, then transpose it on the computer and have far fewer mistakes

    There's a pattern here isn't there, anyone would think I made lots of errors...
    Principal Cornet
    Stannington Brass Band

  11. #11
    tMP Prime Friend GJG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianT
    ... don't reply suggesting I get Sibelius
    OK, get Finale ...
    Gareth J. Green
    MD The Egham Band

    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." [Attr. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)]
    ... which, logically, must make conducting a form of insanity.

  12. #12
    tMP Senior Friend CubbRep's Avatar
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    I learnt how to write music in the forces.We used to call it dry knacking.For what reason I have no idea why it was called that,even to this day.Any way,I still do a bit for my wind band and found that over the years,practice makes perfect,like anything else.I have also found that if you take your time,whatever you are writing it will get better.
    CubbRep

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    tMP Friend for Life Anno Draconis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Thorne
    If you are looking to replicate this style of writing try using Calligraphy pens. The end of the nibs are flat and can produce both a thick and thin line from the same nib. These are ideal for creating shaped noteheads, thin tails and thick beams.
    Absolutely; before I became an evangelical Sibelius convert I used to use a kids calligraphy set with a pen barrel and four different nibs that I got from WHSmiths for about 6 (this was a while ago mind you). It's a slow process but very rewarding and the more you do, the faster you get. Once you get good, it looks the business. You definitely need a ruler, if only to do tidy barlines. I used to rule everything, stems, beams, even the boxes I put around rehearsal letters. I also got through quite a lot of Tippex , although in my defence that was sometimes because I wasn't used to using an ink pen and didn't have any blotting paper so I did a lot of smudges.

    However, these days I'm afraid life's too short!
    Andrew Baker

  14. #14
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    Up until four years ago, all my music was handwritten. Like CubbRep, I first did this when I was an army musicaian (dry knacking, no, I don't know where that term came from either). As CB said, it's a matter of practice makes perfect. When I was at music college, my composition teacher (Thomas Pitfield) told me about calligraphy, and I learnt this tecnique, and used it for neat scores and parts for a while (very time consuming). As for getting correct spacing, and using correct beaming etc, I used a combination of info in music theory/rudiments books, and looking at the way printed music was laid out. Before I went over to using music notation software (Finale), I had settled on using fine fibre tipped pens and tippex!

  15. #15
    One other thing I used to do was write the original in light pencil and then proofread. If everything was okay I would overwrite the pencilled notation in ink and rub out the pencil marks afterwards.
    It's not how you play ... it's the way how you play it!

    tMP Banding Boffin Award 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, tMP Saddo Award 2007, tMP Best Picture Award 2008

    My Public Domain Arrangements

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