Sean Malone is a customer of mine who was enthusiastic about finding that I carried the Clairefontaine Music Pads. He is a music professor, so of course I jumped at the chance to get his feedback about the music pads! Be sure to check out Sean’s blog as well!~Brian Goulet

   It’s not unusual for paper and pad manufacturers to offer music manuscript paper in their catalog. It makes sense: just by adding some staves to the paper, you’ll be tapping into a large consumer base of musicians and music students. Unfortunately, most of the manuscript paper made by stationery-based companies (i.e. those that do not specialize in music products) suffers from one or both of the following problems: the sheets are designed from a graphic perspective without music in mind, and musicians are unlikely to be aware of the product(s) since they aren’t usually advertised in the places musicians are likely to shop for them. An exception to the former problem is the Clairefontaine A4 music pad.

Design and Layout

    It should be stated at the start that like anything else, preference in manuscript paper is a matter of taste. But, there are some aspects of design with which every musician has some concern—in particular, the spacing of the staves. The Clairefontaine pad has 12 evenly-spaced staves. I prefer 12 staves rather than 10 because it takes full advantage of the A4 format. Also, unless I’m writing parts for a single instrument, I like for the staves to be close enough for a grand staff.

   The page layout also features left and right margins (which, unfortunately can’t be said of their A5 spiral music book). Music isn’t written to the very edge of the page. Boundaries such as bar lines have a tremendous impact on the readability of the score (imagine reading a book printed to the very edge of a page). Yet, some manufacturers still insist on having the staff lines bleed off the page—I think this is might be a symptom of not having a musician on the design team, or, at least as a consultant.

   A nice detail about the staff lines on this pad is that they are printed as a screen tint rather than as a rich black. This helps to bring attention to the notes, but the lines are still present enough to provide appropriate support and legibility.

The Paper

    What sets this pad apart—indeed, what sets all Clairefontaine products apart—is the quality of the paper. The 90g/m2 papier velouté is extraordinarily smooth, which makes for effortless writing—something that composers appreciate while in the throws of composition. The pencil that takes advantage of this paper to a very high degree is the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. Its motto, “Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed”, is perhaps most evident when writing on Clairefontaine paper. Another great match is the California Republic Palomino, however, any pencil with a higher wax content (typically the darker, soft leads) will produce similar results. But just as it takes to lead very well, it’s also willing to give it up without a fight: it erases exceptionally clean. Soft erasers such as the Pilot Foam leave the paper clean and undamaged.


    Clairefontaine products are notoriously difficult to find in the U.S., making this music pad even more challenging to buy since it isn’t carried by all of the vendors who carry Clairefontaine. I don’t know how popular this pad might be in Europe, but I think it would be very well-received in the U.S., were it more widely available.
    Those of you reading this already know how the quality of pens and paper enrich the writing experience. As I tell my students, when you write with higher quality pencils—those that perhaps cost a little more and are a little harder to find—then you tend care that much more about what it is you’re writing. The same is true—if not moreso—with music manuscript paper, which renders Clairefontaine’s offering among the best out there.

Sean Malone

Clairefontaine Music Pad (tablet) C6157 is available for $12.50 and (wirebound) C8104 for $7.00 at The Goulet Pen Company.