This rare 1950s typewriter hammers out musical notations, not letters and numbers

Originally published at:


If you’ve got a spare $12K,

I like it, but not a $12K like…


It’s a really neat concept but definitely seems very fiddly to use. Would be interesting if someone were to think up a way to make a more efficient mechanical one, granted it’d be faster to use a computer


I’d settle for one of these.


My first thought was that it would be interesting to hook it up to play music somehow, but then I realized I’d just reinvented the piano, only worse.

1 Like

Here’s another place where computers have spoiled us. I’ve played around a bit with Frescobaldi (a front-end for GNU LilyPond), and got superb-looking results.

Lol. That would be potentially doable though, if one could play a piano and have it record on a roll of paper the notes you’re playing. I did a quick search and there’s apps that do that, but i can’t find an analogue version of this.

Well they did, presumably have a way of recording piano rolls for player pianos, but they didn’t use musical notation.

That’s what i meant :slight_smile: using regular musical notation. Granted i know zero about musical notation so i’m sure there’s some complexities or subtleties that might make it unfeasible to do with an analogue machine on the fly. I don’t know.

“Before I hire you, I need to know how many BPM you can type.”
“Um, don’t you mean WPM?”

Universal wisdom.

For one, music has this thing called chording, which musicians adopted from the chording keyboard.

Recall how the QWERTY layout was designed to prevent jamming when typists used too many adjacent keys at once?

1 Like

I’m trying to grasp this…is it music-to-notation like speech-to-text? Because that would be awesome.

LilyPond is more of a music typesetting language reminiscent of LaTeX.

Frescobaldi’s job is to make editing and preview easier. It can also take input from a MIDI keyboard and turn it into (rough) LilyPond code, though I don’t know how well that works. I don’t have a MIDI keyboard and don’t play keyboard instruments.

1 Like

“A typewriter for music. It didn’t work as well, typing music is more laborious than typing words and it never really caught on.”

Not to mention having to handle all the inevitable edits, transpositions, side notes, and unique directions for interpretation. Much easier to do all that by hand.

If by ‘fiddly’ you mean in terms of user interface, I have zero ideas; but this (like many others) seems like a situation where the swappable ‘type element’ on the Selectric would be a good fit.

I think that some of the later versions also had greater amounts of electromechanical control, which would make rendering composite characters with multiple strikes of the type wheel, in response to a single keypress, easier and more flexible.

In our strange days of sub $100 laser printers, I suspect that the true answer lies elsewhere; but if I had to do it in typewriter form, I’d look to the golf ball style designs.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.