Looking for the best pencils for musicians?
Even in this digital age where there are various notation apps and online composition tools for musicians, nothing will ever replace a pencil for writing and marking music. The problem is that, with an almost infinite number of options in the market, how do you choose the best pencil as a musician, composer, or music teacher?
In fact, choosing a pencil as a musician shouldn’t be that complicated, as there are specific qualities a music writing pencil should have. After weeks of research and testing, we have identified the qualities of an ideal pencil for musicians, as well as the best brands and models in the market.
But first and foremost, you need to decide for what purpose you will use the pencil, as the features you should look for will differ based on different use scenarios.
Are you going to use it for music notation and long periods of writing? Or are you going to use it only to mark your sheet music? Maybe both?
To make things easier for you, we have divided this post into 2 sections.
- Best pencils for writing and composing music
- Best pencils for marking music
Ideally, a good pencil for music writing and composing should be comfortable to hold and have a harder lead (between HB-2B). An ideal marking pencil, on the other hand, should be easily erasable, darker, and have a softer lead (beyond 2B).
To save you time and help you choose the right pencil for your needs, we have compiled the best pencils for musicians on the market.
Whether you’re a performing musician, a composer, a music teacher, or a student, you will find something for you here!
At a glance:
- Best for Writing: Palomino Blackwing 602
- Best Mechanical Pencil: Uni Kuru Toga Pipe Slide
- Best Value for Money: Pentel P200 Series
- Best Comfort: PILOT Dr. Grip Center of Gravity
- Best Colored Pencil: Prismacolor Col-Erase Erasable Colored Pencils
- Best for Marking: Staedtler Mars Lumograph
Best Pencils for Writing and Composing Music
If we were to pick only one pencil best for musicians, it would be none other than the Blackwing 602. These iconic pencils were produced from 1930 to 1998, during which they were the go-to pencils of many famous musicians, authors, and artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Quincy Jones, to name a few. After a 12-year hiatus, the Palomino company has fortunately resumed the production of these iconic pencils.
To this day, they are used extensively by musicians and composers for music writing and rotating purposes.
Blackwing 602’s highlight features include its firm graphite and the leads covered in wax, making it easier to write fast with. It also means that it requires less frequent sharpening and pressure, leading to an incredibly smooth writing experience. This is especially useful if you’re hand-writing music for long hours.
Its lead is similar to that of an HB/No. 2 or a B/No .1 pencil, which are regarded as the ideal leads for writing. If you prefer a darker pencil for writing, you might consider Blackwing Pearl, which is similar to a 3B lead.
We don’t recommend Blackwing 602 if you want to use it for only marking music though, as its lead is not suitable for that and some musicians have reported smudginess. However, when it comes to writing music, I believe no other pencil can beat it.
Coupled with a replaceable eraser and an aesthetic design, Blackwing 602 tops our list as the ideal wooden pencil for musicians.
If you’re looking for a mechanical pencil to use while writing and composing music, Uni Kuru Toga Pipe Slide is our top pick. What makes this mechanical pencil unique is its innovative rotation mechanism that rotates the pencil lead every time you lift the tip off the page. This mechanism minimizes lead breakage and keeps it sharp all the time, making your writings more consistent, precise, and crisper.
Another benefit of this constant lead sharpness and consistency is that it provides a better writing experience while writing small and crowded letters and characters. This feature especially comes in handy for musicians and composers, who mostly deal with notations and musical marks that require dense and more detailed writing.
What makes the “Pipe Line” model unique among other Kuru Toga models is its retractable metal tip, which prevents the tip from breaking through your pockets and purses. It’s also quite comfortable to hold, which is another plus for musicians.
The only drawback of this pencil is its small, squishy, and somewhat weak eraser, which is the case with most mechanical pencils. Therefore, if you decide to buy this pencil, it is highly recommended to get a separate eraser such as this Sakura Color Foam Eraser, which is incredibly high-quality.
Other than that, it’s a functional, comfortable, and aesthetic-looking mechanical pencil, which will greatly enhance your music writing experience.
If your hands get tired from long writing hours or hurt because of a condition like arthritis, look no further than the Dr. Grip Center of Gravity. This ergonomic pencil features an innovative grip design with a weight balance that relieves the pain in the hands and offers a comfortable writing experience for people who write for long periods.
If you’re a music student or a composer who prioritizes handwriting, this mechanical pencil may be a great option for you. You’re likely spending an extended amount of hours writing music, which can cause fatigue and pain in your hands. I used to handwrite a lot before I switched to software, but I still remember the pain I would feel after a certain amount of hours writing, followed by an irresistible desire to throw off the pencil and relax my muscles.
Another notable feature is that it’s a shaker pencil, which means you only have to shake the pencil to advance the lead instead of constantly changing your grip to push the clicker on the top. While it’s especially useful for people with arthritis, it’s also great for any musician as the shaker mechanism helps you better keep your focus on your work as you write.
This unique ergonomic design of Dr. Grip has earned it an “Ease-of-Use” Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation, making it the best pencil for musicians who are looking for comfort and balance.
If you’re looking for an affordable yet quality wooden pencil for your music writing, then you should definitely consider Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior.
One of the best things about this pencil is its outstandingly quality wood construction. This durability makes it highly resistant to breakages which is often the case with the cheaper wooden pencils. If you’ll get a pencil for writing music, it’s an important point to consider as nothing is more annoying than pencils easily breaking and flexing as you write.
Its HB/#2 lead means it’s an ideal pencil to write with. I also like the fact that it erases very cleanly and doesn’t leave any smudge, which is perfect if you want to use it for marking music as well. Its lead also writes very smoothly.
This pencil has a fully round shape, which some musicians may find more comfortable compared to hexagonal or triangular-shaped pencils. It also has a very sophisticated look thanks to its matte black barrel.
Pentel P200 pencils are quite popular among musicians and composers, as they are affordable yet have great quality. The series includes 4 different lead sizes, so you can buy the pencil with your preferred lead size or all of them as a pack of 4 to see which lead size you like best when writing music. It’s worth noting that 0.7 and 0.9 mm are more resistant to lead breakage.
Having different lead sizes also may come in handy if you wish to use them to mark your music.
Overall, these pencils are incredibly lightweight and their easy-to-grip design is perfect for long writing sessions. If you’re looking for a budget mechanical pencil that feels nice to hold, offers great quality and durability, then the Pentel P200 series is a wonderful option.
If you’re willing to invest a little bit more in a Pentel mechanical pencil than the classic P200 series to get more advanced features, then you should definitely consider Pentel GraphGear 1000.
Pentel GraphGear’s grip is made of metal covered with latex-free soft pads for comfortable writing. It has a solid and heavy feeling of a traditional drafting pencil, which some musicians may enjoy more.
Overall, this pencil has a good weight balance, so it feels pretty light and comfortable to hold. However, some musicians have found it better suited for drafting purposes rather than long writing sessions, as the centered weight can cause fatigue over time.
Many users have also reported that it writes very smoothly. Another notable feature includes its dual-action retractor that easily advances and retracts the tip, protecting the lead from breaking.
This pencil also comes with a “lead hardness indicator”, helping you to see the type of lead you’ve put inside it. This is really useful if you’re using different types of leads throughout the day to mark or write your scores.
A professional pencil designed for technical writing, sketching, and drawing, rOtring 600 is a popular choice among musicians. One reason is that like Dr. Grip, rOtring 600 has an ergonomic design that allows you to write for extended periods without causing any pain or fatigue on your hands. Its full metal body with knurled metal grip also ensures it won’t slip even during the longest writing sessions. The grip is also pretty comfortable to hold.
It has a “lead hardness indicator” that is quite useful for musicians who are working with different leads. I also like its hexagonal shape that avoids sliding on flat surfaces.
While it’s the most expensive pencil on this list at over $25, it’s also the most durable and sturdy one designed for lifetime use. We also can’t ignore its incredibly stylish look.
We would call it the best mechanical pencil for musicians, only if it had a retractable pipe. Still, if you don’t carry your pencil around too much or random lead marks on your stuff don’t bother you much, then it’s still your best bet.
Like rOtring, Staedtler Graphite 925 is a professional pencil that is quite popular among architects and designers, though it’s also commonly used by musicians. In fact, it’s a great alternative to rOtring 600 as they both have very similar features and Staedtler Graphite 925 is much more affordable.
It has a full metal body with a good weight balance, making it perfect to write with for prolonged periods. Its knurled grip also feels well-balanced and comfortable in hand.
Similar to GraphGear 1000 and rOtring 600, this pencil also has a “lead hardness indicator”. The lead advance mechanism is pretty solid, and the pencil itself is very durable and sturdy.
Overall, it has an excellent mechanism and construction quality, combined with an ergonomic and aesthetic design. If you want to have a high-end mechanical pencil but rOtring 600 is out of your budget, Staedtler Graphite is a wonderful option.
Best Pencils for Marking Music
Marking musical scores with different colors is a great practice as colors help you organize and group the information on sheet music. Many famous musicians and conductors utilize colored pencils to mark the tempo, dynamics, beat patterns, and other specific information on their scores.
Colored pencils are also great support for music teachers as they help younger students better engage with the material. Black and white sheet music is often not that interesting for children, so using colors during lessons is a great way to make them more fun and motivating for children.
However, not all colored pencils are appropriate when it comes to score-marking. Ideally, the pencils should be erasable as you will likely want to make changes to your previous marks. Also, the sheet music is expensive and often rented, so it should be handed back clean.
With all these requirements in mind, we recommend Prismacolor Col-Erase Erasable Colored Pencils. These colored pencils are high-quality, easily erasable, and very pleasing to write with. While their lead is slightly harder than regular pencils, they are soft enough to require no significant pressure when writing.
Another useful feature is that these pencils come with an eraser that erases very smoothly and easily.
What we like most though is the quality of the colors. They are incredibly vivid and rich, which is important to make your marks better stand out on sheet music.
Overall, if you’re looking for quality and erasable colored pencils as a musician or a music teacher, we highly recommend that you give these pencils a try!
Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils are the favorites of many musicians for a reason! Similar to Prismacolors, Crayola’s erasable pencils are high-quality, durable, and very popular among musicians. As Crayola pencils are more affordable, they also stand as a budget alternative to Prismacolors.
The colors are very bright, though they erase very easily. Overall, the pencils are soft enough and write incredibly smoothly.
The attached erasers have also good quality and come in very handy while making quick edits on your sheet music.
This set of Mars Lumograph Graphite pencils is a perfect marking tool for any kind of musician. The set contains 12 pencils ranging from 4H to 6B, providing musicians with a wide variety of lead hardnesses to work with.
This versatility especially comes in handy when you want some of your markings to appear darker or lighter. Most times, not all marks on your sheet music have the same level of significance or purpose, so using different lead hardnesses throughout the page is very useful to organize them. The Staedtler Mars Lumograph Graphite Set provides a perfect solution for that.
Another highlight of these pencils is that they are very high-quality, durable and the leads are break-resistant. They are also easily erasable and sharpened, which is quite useful for music marking.
An ideal marking pencil for music should be soft, dark, and easily erasable. If you’re looking for a simple wooden pencil to mark your scores, the Ticonderoga #1 pencils are your best bet.
Their #1 lead is the equivalent of a 2B pencil, which is soft and dark enough to require no pressure while writing. They leave a dark mark that erases cleanly and doesn’t leave a physical impression on sheet music.
These pencils and their attached erasers are also very durable, making them great value for the money.