Problems with music manuscript paper.

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M.J.E.
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Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby M.J.E. » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:33 am

     Hallo. I'm not sure if it's too far off-topic here, but I thought I might seek opinions here about something that has long bothered me.
     Are many people here composers? Do they compose on a computer, or do some use music manuscript paper and write their music by hand in the old-fashioned way? I have considered using a computer, but I have never found a music notation program I felt I could be happy with in the long term (I did investigate this some years ago), and just don't trust computers not to crash and destroy years of work along the way.
     For most of my life I wanted to be a composer and have tried writing music on and off over many years - but I find the apparent lack of even nearly suitable music manuscript paper to be a real problem, and it has unexpectedly proved a real hurdle to my own composing efforts. Perhaps I am fussier than most, because I suppose many composers manage to find paper that is reasonably acceptable to them, if not ideal. I am here talking mainly about the common sort of paper with 10 or 12 staves which you would normally use to compose piano music, which has been my main area of activity.
     The main problem is that there is almost never enough space between the staves, which means that, in even slightly complicated music (and my music does tend towards the dense and complex), markings belonging to one staff are very likely to bump against those belonging to the next one up or down. This is made worse if you tend to put in full pedal markings (as I do), and have a preference for using leger lines rather than frequent 8va signs, which I don't like because they destroy the visual shape of a horizontal line or arpeggio. I suppose the solution is to just leave an unused staff between every system, and I have done that, but it often means you don't get much music on a page, and page-turning can then become even more of a problem than it might already be.
     But my problem is worse than that. I like to use loose-leaf paper punched with holes to put in a folder or binder, so that I can organize the pages in any order, and I might want to rearrange pages while I am still doing rough copies and maybe inserting passages or changing the order of things; and it also makes the music convenient for playing at the piano. And using this style of paper limits things hugely further, because not many types of manuscript paper are made like this. You do occasionally see them at newsagents', but there are multiple problems with this: they are usually printed in faint blue, so you can hardly see the lines at all in any but the very brightest light - and the staves are ridiculously big, and the space between them ridiculously small (often not much wider than the width of a staff itself). They are probably just designed for primary school kids to do their theory exercises, and they may suffice for that, but are not good for much more than that. Nonetheless, I have used them for rough copies, because the ability to shuffle pages around seems to be something I just can't do without. (I don't have any manuscripts yet that I regard as more than rough copies, and perhaps never will have until I have decent paper to write them on.)
     Other types of paper may come in pads of single pages that you tear off, but there is no way of putting them into book form to play at the piano; yet other types come in double pages that fold in the middle, but using those would seem to require a near-perfect ability to predict from the very earliest stages of composition the final page each passage will appear on - and I find it impossible to predict that in advance.
     I am considering getting thousands of pages printed specially to my specification, with holes punched in for folders, and plastic reinforcement down the edge to prevent the holes from tearing with use - but this could be a rather expensive way of getting suitable paper, so I haven't quite decided to jump yet and go ahead. But I am feeling it may be the only way I will ever have acceptable paper to compose with.
     So, if there are other composers here, I was just wondering what type of paper they used (would it be acceptable to mention brands here?), and just generally how they organize their manuscripts. Any opinions or thoughts or personal experience would be appreciated.
     Does anyone feel so dissatisfied with available brands of paper that they have had their own printed? Are there really good brands around and I have just never known the right places to look for them?
     Thanks.

Regards, Michael.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Sun Jul 28, 2013 5:56 am

Here is how to make your own music paper with LaTeX:
\documentclass[12pt]{article}
\usepackage{a4}
\setlength{\voffset}{-1in}\setlength{\hoffset}{-1in}
\setlength{\textwidth}{20cm}\setlength{\textheight}{29cm}
\setlength{\topmargin}{0cm}\setlength{\headheight}{0cm}
\setlength{\headsep}{0cm}\setlength{\oddsidemargin}{0cm}\setlength{\evensidemargin}{0cm}\pagestyle{empty}

\begin{document}

\setlength{\unitlength}{1cm}
\begin{picture}(20,28)
\linethickness{.1mm}
\multiput(0,0)(0,1.7){16}{ \multiput(0,0)(0,.15){5}
{\line(1,0){20} } }

\end{picture}

\end{document}

You can adjust the spacing beetwen lines or staves.

I don't think imslp administrators will let me create an empty-music-paper composer-page :lol:

If you need braces or brackets at the beginning of each system I have the answer with MusiXTeX but I'm sure most music typesetting packages allow this.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Sun Jul 28, 2013 6:04 am

M.J.E. wrote:and just don't trust computers not to crash and destroy years of work along the way.

I regurlaly make copies of music I've typeset - and other interesting documents - on another computer. I also make sure I can open this copy correctly with this other computer, because copying has its small risk of altering a document.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:54 am

M.J.E. wrote:  The main problem is that there is almost never enough space between the staves and blablabla

Instead of ledger lines and 8va signs, are you aware of this notation for piano music? http://icking-music-archive.org/software/musixtex/musixdoc.pdf See paragraph 2.5.7

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby M.J.E. » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:24 am

coulonnus wrote:Here is how to make your own music paper with LaTeX:
[...]

     Thanks for your suggestions. But I'm not sure what this is about. Is LaTeX a computer programming language - or is what you posted instructions on using certain software?

coulonnus wrote:You can adjust the spacing beetwen lines or staves.

I don't think imslp administrators will let me create an empty-music-paper composer-page :lol:

     Lest any thoughtful person try to generate paper for me, I might save them the effort by pointing out that I would need to give any supplier a template to work from - it's unlikely that anything created by someone else without knowing my requirements in detail would happen to fit. A well-meaning friend once created a page for me after I raised the issue with him, and e-mailed it to me; but it wasn't right because it didn't meet my requirements, which he couldn't know because I had only talked in general terms about the issue with him - not given specifications in any detail.

coulonnus wrote:If you need braces or brackets at the beginning of each system I have the answer with MusiXTeX but I'm sure most music typesetting packages allow this.

     I strongly dislike printed manuscript paper that pre-prints braces, brackets, clefs, or anything at all in music paper. How do they know how I want to assign the staves? Just plain music staves is all I want.

Regards, Michael.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby M.J.E. » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:30 am

coulonnus wrote:Instead of ledger lines and 8va signs, are you aware of this notation for piano music? http://icking-music-archive.org/software/musixtex/musixdoc.pdf See paragraph 2.5.7

     I'm not quite sure I see what this is about, based on a quick look; I will read it in more detail a bit later - if I can understand it. It seems to be related to a programming language or specialized software than about notating music on manuscript paper. Since I'm not familiar with this, I might need a bit more detail on what it is in order to understand it. But thanks for the suggestion.

Regards, Michael.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby M.J.E. » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:37 am

coulonnus wrote:
M.J.E. wrote:and just don't trust computers not to crash and destroy years of work along the way.

I regurlaly make copies of music I've typeset - and other interesting documents - on another computer. I also make sure I can open this copy correctly with this other computer, because copying has its small risk of altering a document.

     That sounds rather complicated, especially if you have lots of files to deal with - and it seems that any complicated or laborious procedures are ones that, sooner or later, you will fail to keep up to date. Sadly, I think the day is yet to come when either truly reliable computers, or truly reliable file storage, are a reality.
     What I would like to see (if it exists - which it doesn't, to my knowledge) is a computer that contains two separate drives inside, and every time you save or alter a document, it copies each change twice, separately, to each drive. It would do this invisibly in the background, so you wouldn't have to explicitly go through cumbersome backing up operations. Or thrice even, if twice were not felt to be secure enough. If the chances of a hard drive crashing are 1 in x (where "x" is some largish number), then with two copies the changes of both crashing close together in time would be 1 in x squared - or even 1 in x cubed, if three separate copies were made. That would probably amount to the same risk of your manuscript paper (if you write music in the old-fashioned way) disappearing in a puff of smoke via spontaneous combustion - a risk most would probably regard as negligible.
     But frankly, I don't trust computers, the way they are today. That goes both for the hardware and for software too.

Regards, Michael.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:57 am

M.J.E. wrote:
coulonnus wrote:Here is how to make your own music paper with LaTeX:
[...]

     Thanks for your suggestions. But I'm not sure what this is about. Is LaTeX a computer programming language - or is what you posted instructions on using certain software?.

LaTeX is a typesetting software. The \line command draws a line with coordinates X,Y and the length you want. I can't go on too long. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaTeX

You can also Google-search "blank music paper" or "free staff paper" etc. and request a specific staff paper to the developers of these sites :-)
Last edited by coulonnus on Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:03 am

M.J.E. wrote:
coulonnus wrote:Instead of ledger lines and 8va signs, are you aware of this notation for piano music? http://icking-music-archive.org/software/musixtex/musixdoc.pdf See paragraph 2.5.7

     I'm not quite sure I see what this is about, based on a quick look

It means when there is a long succession of notes on a common beam, some very high, some very
low: instead of using 8vas, ledger lines and key changes: spread these notes on two staves.
I'll look for an example on imslp if necessary.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby M.J.E. » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:13 pm

coulonnus wrote:It means when there is a long succession of notes on a common beam, some very high, some very
low: instead of using 8vas, ledger lines and key changes: spread these notes on two staves.
I'll look for an example on imslp if necessary.

     I think I get what you mean. In fact, I probably do a similar thing to what you are meaning when writing piano music where long passages that would require many leger lines occur: I typically add a third stave at the top, its entire contents marked "8va" or "15ma", and put part of the content there, with the middle staff possibly containing the lower treble notes - dividing the notes in a way that is visually clear and makes sense. I prefer this to a treble staff that swaps between "8va" and "loco" multiple times. It is the commonest reason I might add a 3rd staff to a system of piano music - something that I don't routinely do, and something I believe to be unnecessary probably more than 75 percent of the times composers do it.
     I noticed that, in one of Saint-Saens' Cello Concertos, he preferred to use two staves for his solo cello part rather than constantly change clefs. I agree with him: frequently changing clefs is another thing I don't like much, and try to avoid as much as possible.

Regards, Michael.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby coulonnus » Sun Aug 04, 2013 7:42 pm

M.J.E. wrote:I typically add a third stave at the top, its entire contents marked "8va" or "15ma", and put part of the content there, with the middle staff possibly containing the lower treble notes

Then why doesn't usual "manuscript paper" do the job? When you've begun a new 2-staff system and if when you've written this system till half page width you realize a 3rd staff was necessary the "manuscript paper" is not the culprit :lol:

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby KGill » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:51 pm

M.J.E. wrote:What I would like to see (if it exists - which it doesn't, to my knowledge) is a computer that contains two separate drives inside, and every time you save or alter a document, it copies each change twice, separately, to each drive. It would do this invisibly in the background, so you wouldn't have to explicitly go through cumbersome backing up operations.

Look into getting an external hard drive with RAID capabilities; what you describe has been around for years (something like it was patented in 1978). I think it's possible to get a dual internal HDD setup configurable for RAID as well, though it'll cost you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID
In RAID 1 (mirroring without parity or striping), data is written identically to two drives, thereby producing a "mirrored set" ...

This is how I currently have my 3TB external set up - probably the most common way to do it.

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Re: Problems with music manuscript paper.

Postby lekro » Sun Oct 12, 2014 12:59 am

KGill wrote:
M.J.E. wrote:What I would like to see (if it exists - which it doesn't, to my knowledge) is a computer that contains two separate drives inside, and every time you save or alter a document, it copies each change twice, separately, to each drive. It would do this invisibly in the background, so you wouldn't have to explicitly go through cumbersome backing up operations.

Look into getting an external hard drive with RAID capabilities; what you describe has been around for years (something like it was patented in 1978). I think it's possible to get a dual internal HDD setup configurable for RAID as well, though it'll cost you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID
In RAID 1 (mirroring without parity or striping), data is written identically to two drives, thereby producing a "mirrored set" ...

This is how I currently have my 3TB external set up - probably the most common way to do it.


I thought I might want to expand a bit on this, although perhaps it's getting a bit off topic.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (or Drives). Basically, since disks are becoming less and less expensive, we can put them together to form an array that provides data redundancy in many ways. There are many forms of RAID:
RAID 0: Joins disks together to form one logical disk.
RAID 1: Joins disks together, mirroring all the data from one of the disks to all the others.
RAID 3 and 4 are not used commonly.
RAID 5 requires at least three disks. One of these three disks can fail and all the data can be reconstructed from the other two. It's not recommended because during the drive-activity-intensive process of data reconstruction (resilvering)
RAID 6 is like RAID 5, but it requires at least four disks, and two of those can fail.

These RAID levels can be stacked together as well. Common versions of nested RAID include RAID 10, 50, and 60. These basically join RAID 1, 5, or 6 arrays using RAID 0 (or the other way around, I'm not exactly sure)

An external drive supporting RAID is probably a good place to start, but if you really like that and have a ton of large files to store somewhere reliable (and a sum of money to use), consider BUILDING (not buying) a NAS. (Building one can save you $300-500) It takes a few weeks to design and research parts and the construction process, but ultimately, it provides a device accessible from anywhere in the local network with a plethora of configuration options, incredibly large capacity, rather extreme speeds of ~100 MB/s with a 1Gb/s link, and perhaps some knowledge about computers.

Now that that rather large ramble is over, back on topic...

I use the blank 10-stave paper available here. It was the second result on Google for me when I searched "staff paper." However, since you (OP) said your music is dense and complex, the 8-stave paper, available on the same page, may be better. (Hopefully it's not too large) I print these with a not-so-fancy printer that tends to print black as gray, and hole-punch them with a rather old three-ring holepunch. Nothing fancy anywhere. The result is acceptable to me, though not ideal. I've never bought staff paper.

I sort my manuscripts in the pocket of my music binder, and when that gets too full, I put abandoned compositions in another folder that I don't carry around. Not really organized, I'd say.


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