I recently stumbled across a new category of pencil: the music writing pencil. I have been brushing up on jazz music theory and needed some blank music manuscript paper to write out chords and scales. After a bit of shopping around, I came across the Judy Green Music Paper Company. Located in Hollywood California since 1980, this company is still offering music paper supplies including the 'Judy Green Music Writer' pencil. I had read rumors about these pencils used by various arrangers and composers, so I was thrilled to get a chance to order a pad of music paper and a dozen Music Writers.
The Music Writer is one of the only current production American made pencils that I would want to use every day. It has great lead, a distinctive appearance, cool history, and stands out in a world filled with yellow pencils.
Judy Green's pencils run $0.83 each, making them more expensive than stationery store bulk pencils but cheaper than many competing 'premium' pencils. My first impression of the Music Writers was that I liked the brown paint / gold stamped design. Further inspection revealed mixed pickles in the fit and finish department. The paint is glossy, thin, and overruns the front end of the pencil. The leads are centered in the wood (which is definitely not cedar). All in all, the quality is perfectly functional but in a lesser league compared to premium imported pencils. The sharp corners of the pencil's profile help it stay in place on the music stand, but it is not as comfortable as more rounded pencils.
The current owners of Judy Green Music Papers confirmed that the Music Writer is made in the USA, and is the same make and model of pencil that was sold back in the day. Judy Green's customer list includes a great selection of Hollywood music biz notables ranging from The Lawrence Welk Show to Frank Zappa. While it's impossible to say if these customers bought and used the pencils, it's clear that the Music Writers have a cool history and some pedigree.
Given the USA origin and the sharp corners, I immediately though of my Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil. Sure enough, the pencils are an exact match for outside dimensions and materials. It surprised me when the two pencils did not write at all like each other; the Test Scoring 100 is WAY softer than the Music Writer. This is a major bonus in my book because the Test Scorer's lead wears down ridiculous fast. Digging deeper into my pencil box, I found a Musgrave Harvest #1 that writes very closely to the Music Writer. If I had to bet, I would guess that the Music Writer is a re-branded Musgrave Ceres #1.
I don't have a Ceres to test it against, but I have to say that I really like using Music Writer. The lead has a smooth and dry feel with just a hint of noise and texture (scratchiness). Even though the build quality is nowhere near import premium pencils, the Music Writer lead is smooth, dark, and holds a point right up there with the high-dollar Japanese and Euro pencils. I even like the eraser on the Music Writer; it's an average quality pink eraser, but it works well and seems to last. I don't think I would be able to tell a Musgrave #1 apart from the Music Writer in a blind test, but the Harvest #1 has a very disappointing eraser and the Ceres #1 is just another boring looking yellow pencil.
The Magic Writer is a really fun pencil to write and draw with, but is it worth paying twice as much for one compared to the Musgrave Ceres or Test Scoring 100? Definitely, compared to the Test Scoring-- the Test Scoring has soft fragile lead that is hard to erase and Music Writer fixes all of these faults. If you have any music nerd tendencies, the Hollywood music studio history adds a cool factor to the Judy Green. The Music Writer is one of the only current production American made pencils that I would want to use every day. It has great lead, a distinctive appearance, cool history, and stands out in a world filled with yellow pencils.
P.S. The Judy Green music paper is excellent! Smooth and thick, I've been sketching and writing on the back side as much as actually using it for music.