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How was music typed out on paper back in the day?

How was music typed out on paper back in the day? featured image

Photo: Marcin Wichary 

December 4, 2019

Look at this thing! It’s a rare vintage music typewriter that facilitated typing out sheet music. Modern technology can be intimidating, and old machinery looks quaint by comparison, but this machine looks positively medieval. This is not for mass production, obviously – it’s for home use.

This contraption was invented sometime in 1950’s by the Robert H. Keaton, who was based in San Francisco. In his US patent papers, he described it as “a machine for typing music intended for use by composers, arrangers, teachers, and students.” Purchase price was around $255 US in the early ’60’. In today’s Canadian dollars, the machine would have retailed for about $3,000 but as a rare vintage find, it would fetch much more.

Nowadays, most composers use computer programs to notate their works. Occasionally as a page-turner, I’ve come across modern works copied from hand-written originals.

Got a question about classical music, concerts, instruments, etc? Email [email protected]


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