What's your favorite pencil for marking your scores?

July 18, 2017, 11:40 PM · I'm wondering what your favorite pencils for marking scores are. What lead hardness do you recommend? Any brand recommendations? Thanks.

Replies (45)

July 18, 2017, 11:53 PM · I like 4B Graphite pencils. Pentalic makes some really nice woodless ones that I enjoy using.

Also it's important to have a non-attached eraser (the ones on the end of pencils are junk) to erase incorrect markings, changes, etc, and more important to sanitize borrowed scores.

July 18, 2017, 11:58 PM · As soft (B) as possible, easily erasible, because last week's mark may be unnecessary next week, and you want as clean a page as possible.
July 19, 2017, 12:20 AM · Faber-Castell 9000 B, of course.
And with a magnet ring to attach it to the music stand.
July 19, 2017, 2:55 AM · Whatever is the graphite that comes in those Bic mechanical pencils in bags of 10. ;)
If it writes, it works for me. I never gave it any thought.
Edited: July 19, 2017, 4:29 AM · There is indeed a type of pencil that I like a lot: the brand is called STAEDTLER and I found them at a STAPLES. They are black with a very light grey eraser. (The colors don't matter. It's just to help you identify them if you are looking for them.) Though marked HB #2 like so many others, they are softer and work like #1's. Even the erasers work well and continue to after a good amount of use. They come in a plastic box of 36. They are more expensive than other pencils but worth it!
Edited: July 19, 2017, 6:01 AM · Steadtler Mars 4B with Faber Castell white erasers that you insert on the pencil.I put them in magnetic pencil holders from LeeValley tools.It's a good set up but I'm open to any better ideas.
July 19, 2017, 6:25 AM · Recently bought a box of Ticonderoga #1 pencils. They leave a dark mark that erases cleanly (which I do a lot!) and doesn't leave a physical indentation on the page. Agree with the point about having a separate large eraser rather than relying one the ones on pencils -- I've got a soft, pink parallelogram one that works like a charm. There are times when I find I want to throw out everything I've written in on a piece and start fresh, and a big eraser is definitely called for!
Edited: July 19, 2017, 3:29 PM · I've always used an automatic pencil, because I've always had one with me - at least since I went to college.

My current and final choice is 0.9 mm, 2B Pentel lead, because it is dark enough, thin enough, but not so thin that it will either break or perforate the paper - even when marking music on a stand. My current choice of lead holder (i.e., "pencil") is one with a the twist erase feature because those erasers can go on for years without being replaced. Other pencil features are not important to me, however I've been using the "side-click" lead-advance types for the past decade - mainly because they fit my hand and my pocket well

A little but darker/softer lead might be better, but I have not found any yet. Even 2B was hard to find after the Great Recession closed our local stationery stores and it is not a Staples item - had to depend on Amazon.

July 19, 2017, 7:39 AM · My favorite eraser is the Staedtler white mars plastic eraser. I typically use a cheapo Bic mechanical pencil - it never needs sharpening!

My favorite wood/lead pencils for drawing are Tombow, and I like Staedtler's drawing leads that fit into the "clutch" pencil a lot as well. Never would have thought to use these for anything other than drawing...

July 19, 2017, 7:48 AM · I use ink because I am never wrong.
July 19, 2017, 7:57 AM · Ticonderoga No. 1, or my more recent favorite--Palomino Blackwings. Big, replaceable eraser. Dark, and sooo smooth.
July 19, 2017, 8:56 AM · If I'm marking on a photocopy, I use colored pens. If I'm on an original, whatever pencil I have available is good.l
Edited: July 19, 2017, 9:35 AM · My First Ticonderoga. Useful hardness (I.e., soft enough at #2), good eraser, and the large diameter makes it easy to pick up and hold.
July 19, 2017, 9:12 AM · The reason I asked this question is because my experience with too hard pencils is that they can make permanent impressions in the page, and they're often hard to erase. Sheet music's expensive and need to be treated with care.
July 19, 2017, 9:47 AM · Damn. Can I borrow someone's White Out?
July 19, 2017, 10:06 AM · Scott - I have plenty of that whiteout tape, I'll send you some ;)
July 19, 2017, 11:05 AM · Librarians like softer pencils too.
July 19, 2017, 12:21 PM · The best I've found are the Lee Valley 4B. Made of Cedar and with an excellent eraser.
Edited: July 19, 2017, 1:29 PM · Scott don't use white-out. Just write over the top of your other markings even darker and heavier, for example, with a Sharpie.

I like Ticonderoga pencils but honestly of late I tend to prefer Bic mechanicals, ideally with soft 0.7 mm leads. I see Andrew uses 0.9, wow if I could find those in the store I'd buy them. Maybe I should look online.

The books that I have with the most "personal" markings are Kreutzer and solo Bach. Yeah I know, that's a weird combination. Anyway I decided I cannot share those books with my daughter, so I bought separate copies for her. Anyway a girl should have her own Bach, for heaven's sake!

Whenever I am playing my baroque violin, however, I use pencils with lead metal in them. In HIP tradition, I do this even though pencils were never actually made with lead metal. (People thought, in the late 16th century, that graphite was a form of lead -- that is the origin of the term "pencil lead.")

July 19, 2017, 5:12 PM · Paul, as long as you don't suck it thoughtfully when you're considering what to write!
Edited: July 19, 2017, 7:26 PM · 2B for my own wimpy tentative fingerings and bowings on pieces that I work with my my teacher. 4B for everything taken from lessons. 6B for last bit of marking prior to a performance. Also, the Faber-Castell Eraser Cap that Peter Carter is my latest favorite. They can be used to protect the pencil tip when carrying the pencil around, and as far as I know, they are the only long-lasting pencil cap eraser that won't break in the market.
July 20, 2017, 1:15 AM · I love the Blackwing (the softest one)...so nice!
July 20, 2017, 5:27 AM · Wooden 6B from Faber-Castell. I glue a small neodymium magnet to it so it will attach under a music stand.
July 20, 2017, 6:35 AM · Where do you get those magnets Bo?
July 20, 2017, 8:34 AM · I use one of those spring things to hold my pencils during rehearsal. The issue with those is that they do not connect well to Peak stands which have the thick plastic music desk. Peak needs to solve that for us ...
Edited: July 21, 2017, 5:49 AM · I switched from a Peak to one of these eazy-fold K&M stands ( http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/km-10040.000.55-ez-fold-music-stand ) just because it was easier to dismantle in chamber orchestra. With a black folder on the stand it looks as good as a Peak during performance - but Peak is very nice for the money and has a great case that also holds stand light and even a small seat cushion.

The K&M also holds my bow hanger for use during long viola rests or pizz-times or long-winded discussions.

July 21, 2017, 4:54 AM · I agree Paul.
July 21, 2017, 6:05 AM · I get the magnets from a local hardware store, but they are available on eBay for next to nothing.
Edited: July 21, 2017, 9:38 AM · Years ago, when I was young and was into reading The Paris Review ( a literary magazine). In almost every interview featured in that magazine with well known writers who still wrote in long hand, the question of what kind of pen was used for writing was asked.

I couldn't figure out how that was related to writing well : )

July 21, 2017, 12:39 PM · It's related because writing instruments that require excessive hand pressure/tension ruin the relaxed hand condition needed to write expertly. I'm old enough to remember being required to get a fountain pen in elementary school to learn cursive writing. The invention of the ballpoint pen is commonly considered to mark the end of beautiful handwriting.

Of course hand tension is problematic for violin playing too.

Edited: July 21, 2017, 3:41 PM · When your old Da passes on and leaves you the tools of a 50 year mechanical drafting / engineering career... you're set for the rest of eternity without having to look for a new pencil or lead....

The only problem these days is "which one for today".

July 22, 2017, 10:28 AM · 4B - and I try to take a supply along to orchestra rehearsals for sale at a discount pour encourager les autres! I feel obliged as librarian
July 23, 2017, 4:08 AM · Whatever happened to the Mirado Black Warrior #1? They seem to not exist any more.
Edited: July 23, 2017, 8:11 AM · Yeah David - my oldest granddaughter is a writer (published author, 3 books (4th on the way) and many magazine articles) and she writes everything first with a fountain pen. Has always "composed" with a writing instrument before keyboarding. She tells me the perfect one for her is the A.G. Spalding her fiancé gave her 6 years ago, before that she used whatever came to hand.

Is it like the perfect bow or violin? It's almost like her pen is now her muse. By the way, she also plays the violin.

Edited: July 25, 2017, 9:28 AM · "Pen is now her muse". Couldn't have said it better! Writing directly onto paper with pen or pencil is a direct connection between brain and paper. Similarly with composing music using manuscript paper; in either case, if you don't have the thoughts (words or notes) already in your head before applying pen to paper then progress will be inhibited. This, for me, is an important reason not to use a music editing program on a computer - it presents an unnecessary barrier. However, I can see the point of using a music editor to transfer a hand-written score and parts to a neat print-out - you may wish to do this yourself or get someone else to do it; this is no different in principle to an author handing his hand-written work to a secretary to type up. I did this thousands of times during my working life, and was my preference even though I could have used a word processor during the latter years.

To answer the OP's question, my choice is for a 6B, which is also useful for applying pencil lead lubrication to nut and bridge notches when changing strings.

July 23, 2017, 9:23 AM · Forgive the diversion but what about favourite pencil sharpeners to go along with these pencils.I'm looking for a small electric one to carry in my gig bag.Any ideas?
July 23, 2017, 1:06 PM · I keep one of these in my case:

Not too bulky, and it closes up to contain the scrap.
Edited: July 23, 2017, 1:18 PM · I keep KUM Automatic Long Point handy.
July 23, 2017, 3:44 PM · Thanks Bo and Yixi.
July 23, 2017, 10:18 PM · I love the Kum sharpener! The two-stage process gets a ridiculous point. :)
July 26, 2017, 10:40 AM · I find it practical too that with a 6B or 8B you can also use it for lubricating the bridge and saddle when changing strings.
July 27, 2017, 1:28 PM · Wow, I could get a Kum pencil sharpener to go with my Kun shoulder rest.
July 28, 2017, 3:56 AM · You could. Those who play restless have to sharpen a piece of charcoal against a rock....
July 28, 2017, 4:43 AM · But you get much more of the natural feel of the pencil kicking it old school against a rock - a better tone and posture, too! ;-)
Edited: July 30, 2017, 4:29 AM · "What's your favorite pencil for marking your scores?"

The one I lent to the neighbouring desk, and which found its way to the other side of the orchestra!

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