Professor Bukvich's Writing Utensils

Notes on the tools composers commonly use to write music

Contents: Writing Utensils | Straight Edge | Pencil | Fountain Pen | Felt-tip Pen

Writing Utensils

In the modern age, composition often solely resides within a music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius. However, engrained within the auditory craft of composition is a visual component and a necessity for fluency in abstract symbols. This craft is often easier to develop and evolve on a physical piece of paper as opposed to a notation software that confines the composer to predictive spacing, beaming, and general formatting. Professor Daniel Bukvich continues to sketch, arrange, orchestrate, and copy music by hand. His tools for composition have changed over time and they offer a perspective on the array of utensils that are used in handwriting music. Learn more about them below.

drawing of a straight edge utensil
Straight Edge

A 30˚ 60˚ 90˚ triangle that is held in the copyist's non dominant hand to cleanly produce stems, beams, bar lines, stave lines, and to write capital letters against for clear penmanship.

drawing of a pencil

Mechanical pencils are usually preferred over the classic wooden ones so that there is no difference in line thickness as the pencil dulls. When choosing a mechanical pencil for sketching or copying, it’s important that the sleeve around the tip doesn’t inhibit the lead of the pencil from going directly against the straight edge. Thicker lines are created by angling the pencil out from the straight edge and filling in the space between.

drawing of a fountain pen
Fountain Pen

Learning under William Billingsley and Glenn Johnston, Bukvich learned standard fountain pen technique. The copyist angles the pen and uses varying pressures to create beams and note heads. When using a straight edge, the copyist would have to glue “BB” plastic balls to the underside so that the triangle could be elevated and not smear fresh ink.

drawing of a felt-tip pen
Felt-tip Pen

A felt tip fine point pen allows for precision and consistent line thickness. Felt tip pens have an advantage over fountain pens because they will not smear when a straight edge slides across the page, thus eliminating the need for the straight edge to be elevated.