Friday, September 19, 2014

Two Tines, Three Tines: A Symphony of Music Nibs

What with the whisperings of the anticipated Noodler's Neponset music nib fountain pen, you may be thinking "umm...what the heck is a music nib?" and that's totally valid. I'm not a nibamagician, so I will refer to Mr. Binder's explanations for help here, so I don't muss it up. Here's a huge thank you to Mr. Binder for being an excellent resource. Hopefully you'll find this post helpful (and maybe a little bit enabling...)!
Music Pens
Top to bottom, all with music nibs:
Platinum #3776.
Sailor 1911 Standard.
Franklin-Christoph Model 02 Intrinsic.
Noodler's Neponset.
Waterman 94.
What Is A Music Nib?

Traditional music nibs have a broad stub tip with smooth edges. It's a nib that was made for just that: writing music. (Not composing it, mind you, just writing it down.) You'll notice that music has fat, filled in notes, and thin horizontal bars. The nibs are usually wet writers because this generous flow allows musicians to fill in those notes more easily and more quickly. Vintage music nibs were produced with two slits and three tines, and were flexible.

Two Tines, Three Tines?

Typically, we expect music nibs to have two slits and three tines because this offers a wetter flow and more line variation (wider stub), both needed for actually writing music, but this isn't a requirement, and it's possible to achieve such wetness and variation without three tines. The feeds for these nibs are often made specifically for these nibs as well, as in the case of the upcoming Noodler's Neponset, which has two slits to feed the nib with ink.

What's The Difference: Stub, Italic, Music?
Music Nib Comparisons - Large
Top to bottom, all music nibs:
Noodler's Neponset.
Waterman 94.
Platinum #3776.
Sailor 1911.
Franklin-Christoph "Christoph".
A stub nib has a wider tip than a round tip, giving a wide vertical line on the down stroke and a thinner horizontal line on the side stroke. A stub is a smooth nib to use because the edges are polished, so it can be used easily by most.
An italic nib is wider than a stub nib and, unlike the stub whose edges are smooth and polished, the italic's edges are sharper. As a result, the broad vertical and thinner horizontal lines are more marked. Due to the sharp edges, one must write with some care and with the proper angle to make sure the nib is held straight on the paper, otherwise you'll experience skipping. With italic nibs, you get clean and precise thin and thick lines, but it's not as easy to use as a stub.
Image from RichardsPens
A cursive italic nib is the safe zone of an italic, if the sharp edges aren't for you. The tip of the cursive italic nib is wide like that of an italic, which will give the pronounced line variation you'll get with italics over stubs, with the slightly smoother edges of a stub nib. A safe compromise!
Image from RichardsPens

Music Nib Tips
Different music nib tips!
Noodler's - round.
Waterman - elongated.
Platinum - elongated and stubby.
Sailor - stubby.
Franklin-Christoph - elongated.
How Is A Music Nib Used For Music?

Music nibs are often used at very high angles relative to the paper, where down strokes would be thin, and side strokes would be the width of the nib. This is probably the opposite of what you expect from a stub/italic nib, whose down strokes are thick and side strokes are thin.

In addition, stubs/italics frequently have sharp corners and edges where the rounded bottom of the tines meet the flat top of the tip. If one tries to write music with an italic, rotating/holding the pen as musicians often do when scribbling notes and bars would dig into the paper.

True music nibs should have smoothed edges so the nib glides across the page, even if the pen is rotated, and at both high and low angles of writing.
Holding A Music Nib
What surprised me was I had been holding my music nib all wrong for proper music composition (of course, I'm not using it for that, but still). The nib must be held at a high angle to the paper, and the nib is rotated so wide stroke is the horizontal/left-right stroke, as opposed to the vertical/up-down stroke, and the narrow stroke is the vertical/up-down stroke, as opposed to the horizontal/left-right stroke.

Music Nibs - Proper Grip
Music nibs line widths, with proper music nib grip. First + with no pressure, second + with pressure. Note the Noodler's and Waterman have flex, and the Platinum, Sailor, and Franklin-Christoph do not. 
Flex Or Not?

If you've ever tried to write music, or even just draw notes, you'll notice it's a heck of a lot more difficult (and irritating) to try and draw them with a hard, unyielding nib. Music nibs with flexibility is a modification that allows the nib to flex on the pull stroke to widen/wetten/thicken notes and lines - such as notes and note bars. It may not be a requirement, but a nib without flexibility will hamper the ability to quickly and easily write music.

A nib without flexibility isn't less enjoyable though. They can still offer some great line variation and a wonderful writing experience, especially if you aren't using it for actually writing music.

Want A Music Nib?
StandardNib Widths Comparisons
Standard nibs lines with normal grip.
Music Nibs Nib Width Comparison - Normal Writing Angle
Music nibs line widths, used normally (not at "music nib angle"), except for bottom row of Waterman music nib, where I use the nib with proper music nib grip, to show the difference. 

Sailor Music Nib
Modern: Sailor's 1911 music nib is a single slit, double tine music nib in 14K gold. This nib offers the wide stub needed for filling in notes, with the ability to draw thinner, horizontal lines for the note bars. It's also meant to be a wet writer. The tip of this nib is very stubby and even if you're not a musician, it offers a wonderful, expressing writing experience with bold lines. The edges are also fairly smooth so it doesn't catch on the page easily. It has no flex.

Check out my full Sailor 1911 Standard + Music nib review.

Platinum Music Nib
Modern: Platinum's #3776 music nib is designed in the traditional double slit, triple tine style, also in 14K gold. This is a nice, smooth nib that has good flow, but it isn't a gusher. It also doesn't have a very rounded, as stubby a tip like that of the Sailor so the writing experience is a little more crisp and precise, although it still offers a lot of line variation. The edges are slightly sharper than that on the Sailor, if you are looking for a nib with a little bit of a crisper feel. The nib has no flex whatsoever - it's a nail.

Check out my full Platinum #3776 + Music nib review.

Franklin-Christoph Music Nib
Modern: Franklin-Christoph's "Christoph" music nib is a magnificently wide nib, at 1.9 mm. It has two slits and three tines, and is a steel nib. This nib is the most affordable music nib option, in that you can purchase just the #6 nib and feed unit as one for $35USD and use it in a pen you have that accommodates #6 nibs. It's very smooth, very wet, but has no flex and is very hard.

Check out my full Franklin-Christoph "Christoph" Music nib review.
Check out Serious Nibbage Part 2 with SBREBrown, where we discuss this nib.

Noodler's Music Nib
Modern: The Noodler's Neponset music nib is very innovative: it's a double slit, triple tine nib, but it's a steel nib. While the Franklin-Christoph "Christoph" music nib is also steel, the Neponset's music nib sets itself apart with its ability to flex. In fact, it sets itself apart from the Sailor, Platinum, and the Christoph music nib because of this. It's a very wet writer and the ink flow keeps up well when flexed.

Check out my full Noodler's Neponset + Music nib review.
Check out Serious Nibbage Part I: a short discussion of the Neponset with SBRE Brown.

Waterman Music Nib
Vintage: From the vintage world, I have a single Waterman music nib that I absolutely adore. It's a 14K gold, double slit, triple tine nib. It's an insanely wet writer, and I imagine when this pen was actually made, it was made with the intent for its purchaser to actually create something musical with it (as opposed to what I actually do with it, which is basically just a shame). This is a true music nib in that it has all the qualities we want: soft, smooth edges, two slits, three tines, very wet writer, and even better, it's very flexible.

Check out my full Waterman 94 +  Music nib review.

Music Nibs Writing Samples Comparison - Large
Music Nibs with normal grip.
Lines with increasing pressure  | | | |
Testing responsiveness of nib   ------
Loop-the-loops - line variation in writing.
I hope this was a helpful bit of information on music nibs! Find yourself a nib that suits your tastes if you don't have one already, and enjoy it!

Ink responsibly!

Inks, Paper, Pens
Noodler's Apache Sunset

RichardsPens Nibs

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Jenkins said...

Who the hell fills in whole- or half-notes? Come on, gourmetpens.

CS said...


Thanks for the detailed write up about music nibs. Do you happen to know the differences between music and zoom nibs? Thanks.

Azizah Asgarali said...

Simple copy and paste error. Although one could fill them in to make them a filled in note.

Azizah Asgarali said...

Thanks! Yes, zoom nibs are quite nice themselves, capable of some interesting line variation although without the flex. If you use them at a high angle to the page, you'll get a thinner line (although not a hairline!) and the lower the angle to the page, the more and more broad and wet the line will get. I have one on a Sailor and it's really unique and very fun to use, though some people find them difficult to use for every day writing. If you have a consistent writing angle, you'd probably be okay with one.

Ecclectit bits said...

Waterman 94 - just don't forget me in your will :)

emraher said...

You should have put NSFW at the title. This is #niborgy.

anaximander70 said...

Fantastic post! Thanks for doing all this research. One day I'll have to pick up a pen with a music nib.

Azizah Asgarali said...

Thank you, and I'm glad it was useful. Yes - you should give them a try, at the very least to see if you like them :)

Azizah Asgarali said...

Bhahaha you may have to fight over it with a few others ;)

Find a Grave said...

The first owner of your Waterman 94!

Amanda said...

Oh, what is the orange ink you are using there? I didn't see it listed.

Evelyn Boon said...

sigh...i am now tempted to get the rest. I have the franklin christoph which i absolutely adore, and just got the neponset (which i am still trying to figure out the nib and feed so i can flex it properly and adjust the railroading issue). Super tempted to get the pilot and sailor...alas (or lucky that the waterman is out of reach!)

Azizah Asgarali said...

The orange? I used three - Noodler's Apache Sunset, Sailor Jentle Apricot, and the darker orange is actually a mix of orange and something else... o.o sorry!!

Azizah Asgarali said...

Best wishes with your Neponset - I assume you've given it a good scrub with a toothbrush/dishwashing detergent/warm water? Have you tried heat setting the feed?

Evelyn Boon said...

Oops not yet. Need to read up a little on heating setting. Thanks for the advice


Music or Architect? Which one is the best for writing partitions?

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