(Not to be confused with the Music Writer.)

The Musicwriter is a typewriter that was used to print music. It was invented by Cecil S. Effinger, a noted choral composer, music professor, and inventor. It eventually sold around the world. Working with various manufacturers, Mr. Effinger was able to produce over five thousand Musicwriters from 1956 to 1990.

Over the past years, there has been much interest in music typewriters. As a result, more information has become available about the Musicwriter. It seems that there were several versions of the Musicwriter including two that can be found in the US patent office - Patent - 1954Patent - 1959.

Cecil Effinger

Cecil EffingerCecil Effinger was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 22, 1914. He studied the violin and oboe as a child, and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Colorado College, but it was music that interested him.

In 1937, he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory, in Fontainebleau, France. During the 1930s and early 1940s he taught composition and theory at Colorado College and at the Colorado School for the Blind; and in 1945, he taught composition at the American University in Biarritz, France. He was also an oboist in the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra from 1932 to 1941 and was appointed first oboe in the Denver Symphony from 1938 to 1941. He joined the military during World War II and became the director of the 506th Army band.

After the war, he became music editor for the Denver Post from 1946 to 1948. He was appointed chairman of the composition and music theory department at the University of Colorado, in Boulder. In 1981, he retired from the position but continued as composer in residence for the university until 1984.

Cecil EffingerAmong other inventions, Mr. Effinger invented the Tempo Watch in 1969, which is a metronome in the form of a stopwatch. In 1974, he also invented a typewriter for use with architectural drawings and other large documents. He died in Boulder, Colorado, on December 22, 1990. It was while in France that he had the idea for a music typewriter. Mr. Effinger states:

One afternoon in October 1945, I was in Paris, France, purchasing some music supplies for the Biarritz American University [when] I happened to see in a store window a drawing instrument and something about this instrument triggered in my mind an idea relating to a means of doing music copy by machine. By that evening the basic principles of the Musicwriter...had been firmly established.

Upon his return to the United States, he began working on his idea of a music typewriter. By 1946 he had created a prototype but continued to refine his invention. In 1954, he completed his invention, and in 1955 he created the Music Print Corporation, which produced and sold the Musicwriter from 1956 to 1990. During this time, over five thousand Musicwriters were manufactured in several models.

Cecil Effinger

Cecil Effinger (right) with Lejaren Hiller

Cecil Effinger (right) with Lejaren Hiller

General Information

The following is taken from a page that came packaged with the Musicwriter.

Note: It can be very helpful to make a copy of this chart with your own MUSICWRITER. You will demonstrate to yourself the exact printing point of each character on your machine. Simply type a cross using the bar line and ledger line; then, without moving the platen or carriage, type the character.

Alignment Chart

Upper Case

Upper Case

Lower Case

Lower Case

The following is taken from the back side of the page that came packaged with the Musicwriter.


F-300 ribbon, available individually or in boxes of 12 from Music Print Corporation.

The effectiveness of carbon ribbons varies greatly due to temperature, humidity and type of paper used, to name the three most important variables. MUSICWRITER ribbons satisfy the demands of music typography: deep color and the ability to handle extremely fine lines as well as large solid areas.

It will be to your advantage to empty the ribbon take-up reel fairly frequently. This will allow more economical use of ribbon and provide uniform feed. To dispose of used ribbon:

  1. Remove white cover from machine by lifting the front corners of the cover upward about an inch to free the front two positioning pins, then pull forward and up on entire cover.
  2. Cut ribbon near take-up reel (left side of machine).
  3. Remove plastic reel with used ribbon by a firm upward pull, holding the spool by its outer edge.
  4. "Spill" ribbon from reel into waste basket.
  5. Replace reel and thread cut end of ribbon through guide near take-up reel. Fasten to reel with a piece of masking or scotch tape.

Do not discard either of the plastic ribbon reels!

Ribbon with instructions on how to replace it in the Musicwriter

Ribbon with instructions on how to replace it in the Musicwriter


The platen for the MUSICWRITER has been specially designed as to rubber and specifications. Stock platens are not likely to be satisfactory. With use platens gradually lose their resiliency and become glazed, causing a deterioration in the quality of print. For optimum performance platens should be replaced every 2-3 years, depending on how much the machine is used. For replacement contact Music Print Corporation.


Best results are obtained by using paper of at least 70# weight, with a close grain and smooth but not glossy surface. A 70#-80# offset paper will likely give good results, the final choice being dependent on general humidity conditions, volume of work being done, etc. A backing sheet should not be used, as this can cause both alignment and printing problems.

Special music papers are available for the MUSICWRITER from Music Print Corporation. These come in many forms, from march size to large orchestra and band layouts, and take into account the MUSICWRITER staff size (#3 engraver’s size), spacing of staves, etc. And you can create your own special forms of printing by your local printer on any appropriate stock.


MUSICWRITERS are guaranteed by Music Print Corporation for 90 days after being received by the customer. For the guarantee to be in effect, Music Print Corporation must be notified before any adjustment or repair work is done on the machine.


If the MUSICWRITER should need mechanical attention, contact Music Print Corporation, enclosing a strike-up (a sheet of paper on which all the characters have been typed) and a description of the problem. Some work may be possible by a local repair person.

MUSICWRITERS can of course be sent to the Music Print Corporation shop for repair and adjustment.

Musicwriter Keyboard

Musicwriter Keyboard

Musicwriter Keyboard

Musicwriter Keyboards

"Tuneful Typewriters"

The following is taken from ETCetera Magazine:

An interesting tidbit arrived recently from the widow of a drum instructor. She sent us the brochure for the "Musicwriter" line of musical typewriters, by the Music Print Corporation of Boulder, Colorado in the 1960's.

The description of the machine from the brochure is as follows:

"Any music pattern can be accomplished on the Musicwriter. The machine is completely flexible as to placement of characters for best layout and legibility. Paper may be removed from the machine and reinserted for corrections or additions quickly and with no disadvantage. Curved line work is the single limitation.

"No special manuscript papers are required. Blank paper and reproduction masters may be used with all models of the Musicwriter since they are equipped with their own staff liners. Preprinted staff paper may be used and these staves need not be precisely the size of the machine staff. However, special supplies such as papers, both opaque and translucent, and ribbons have been developed for optimum results with the machine.

"Speed on the Musicwriter exceeds all existing methods for doing careful music copy from fine pen work to engraving. Certain patterns can be done faster than rapid "show business" manuscript, while other patterns require more time."

The brochure shows the following models (all but the portable appear to be adapted from R.C. Allen typewriters:

  • Model 10 ($325), a low-level machine used to make ditto stencils for teachers, bandleaders, etc.
  • Publisher Model ($425-575, depending on carriage width) - using a carbon tape ribbon, for publishing with typeface corresponding to engraver’s size
  • Musicians Model ($435-500) - more complete keyboard than Model 10, "open" typeface designed to cut ditto masters or mimeo stencils
  • Studio Portable ($295) adapted from a Smith Corona portable

Brochure for the Musicwriter line of musical typewriters, by the Music Print Corporation of Boulder, Colorado in the 1960's.

Brochure for the Musicwriter line of musical typewriters, by the Music Print Corporation of Boulder, Colorado in the 1960's.

Musicwriter/R.C. Allen - The patents from US, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland & Germany are clearly visible.

Musicwriter/R.C. Allen - The patents from US, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland & Germany are clearly visible.

Typing music on the Musicwriter

Typing music on the Musicwriter

 Musicwriter keyboard

Musicwriter keyboard

How It Works

Musicwriter Title

Produced by

Music Print Corporation • 2450 Central Avenue
Boulder, Colorado 80301 303-442-5500

Operating Instructions

Operating position:

Right hand selects and prints the characters. A convenient touch position is with the first finger on the quarter note head. Left hand controls left platen knob for vertical placement of characters by rotation of the platen. Care should be taken not to lean on the platen knob, which can cause misalignment.

Special Mechanical Features of the Musicwriter

Operating Instructions

  1. The pointer, located above the ribbon, indicates the vertical and horizontal printing point for all characters. The pointer is adjustable to accommodate individual needs and to reduce parallax to a minimum. Adjustment can be made through two screws (on the pointer bracket, behind ribbon). The pointer can be zeroed in by typing the barline and the ledger lines thus: Barline and Ledger Lines The pointer should be adjusted so the tip rests at the intersection of the two lines as viewed from the normal typing position. The pointer should be close to the paper without touching it. Make sure the paper fits snugly against the platen at all times.
  2. The vernier, located behind the left platen knob, enables the operator to make the very smallest horizontal positioning adjustments exactly and firmly. Note: It is extremely important not to force the limits of the vernier adjustment. To do so could loosen the mechanism, causing a general inconsistency in alignment. When the slightest increase in resistance is felt while turning the vernier, do not turn it any further. Rather, turn in the opposite direction, spacing forward or back with the space bar or back spacer until the desired printing point is reached.
  3. The line space ratchet measures the distance from space to line on the music staff.
  4. The line space platen release lever and
  5. The variable space plunger operate in the same manner as on an ordinary typewriter, allowing the "freewheeling" action of the roller. Most typing is done on the MUSICWRITER with placement characters by the pointer (#1). The platen is free-turning with the release lever (#4) in forward position. The ratchet, with the release lever (#4) in rearward position, is useful when typing on blank paper, in which case the notation will be in exact registration with the typed staff, and for extending arpeggiation indications (Arpeggio).

The most frequently used characters are in upper case, so the MUSICWRITER is generally operated with the shift key in lock (depressed) position. Several keys have only one character; these print in the shift-lock position. All of the keys on the MUSCWRITER are "dead" keys; the striking of a key does not automatically advance the carriage to the next horizontal position. The space bar, the back spacer, the carriage release lever and tabulator all affect carriage movement in the usual manner as on the conventional typewriter. If you want to use the tabulator, be sure that the vernier is in a position to facilitate setting and clearing of the tabulator mechanism. The small lever at the extreme right of the keyboard is for adjusting the "touch" (key motion resistance). The lightest touch, with the lever all the way to the minus (-) setting, is usually the optimum for music typography. The touch on individual characters must be varied by the force of each strike as you type (see below).

Fundamental Techniques

Learn to use the touch technique for character selection. This will save time in the long run.

IMPORTANT! Type characters of different sizes with appropriate force: IMPORTANT!

light Light
average Average
heavy Heavy

Frequently the use of double impression of the heaviest characters (clefs) is more effective than a single heavy strike. This will depend on the paper, condition of the ribbon, adjustment of the machine, hardness of the platen, etc.

Extend vertical lines (stem lines and barlines) by light repeated impressions while simultaneously turning the platen slowly. Accurate and consistent touch control, practice and timing to overlap the impressions will result in smooth linework.

Vertical Lines

(examples of even and uneven vertical line work)

In typing staves or beams a more even print may be accomplished by typing on every space and half space. One half space is obtained by holding the space bar in depressed position.

Horizontal Lines

Examples of even and uneven horizontal line work

Practice scale passages, using rhythm in character selection and typing (fingers of right hand) and spacing with space bar (thumb of right hand), coordinating platen rotation (left hand) at the same time. Good speed and smoothness of action with minimum fatigue is thus possible. Be patient! It does take time to develop the precise touch control and finesse along with the eye for accurate placement of characters. Consciously strive for relaxed attention. With this and practice and time you will achieve the consistent accuracy and quality for which your MUSICWRITER was built.

The over-all layout of the music page is an art. It involves study, judgment, and practice. Every page of music presents a different layout problem. The study of excellent printed examples, plus experimentation and practice will result in pages of beauty and legibility.

The two most common methods of horizontal layout are the "blue pencil" method and the "numerical" method. In the "blue pencil" method the horizontal position of notes is indicated lightly in light blue pencil (which does not reproduce in duplicating or photograph), then follow these indications directly in the MUSICWRITER as you type. In the “numerical” method the staff length is divided into 1/12" spaces and the total number spaces are apportioned to the number of measures, note values, etc., as required by the music notation (and lyrics, if present). Numbers indicating the spacing between notes or groups are written in blue pencil above the staff and these numbers are then followed as you type.

The following general points should be kept in mind:

Use enough horizontal space. Crowding reduces legibility.

There should be a "flow" in the horizontal spacing so that the eye moves along smoothly, depending on tempo, variation of the rhythmic figures, nature of the melodic line, texture, etc.

In general the longer note values have more horizontal space than shorter note values. Studies show that this is not on a mathematical basis, however. As a point of departure, the following horizontal spacing for the MUSICWRITER is suggested, keeping in mind that it will vary according to the specific requirements at hand. (One space is 1/12 inch, the same as Elite type in the regular alphabet typewriter.)


Curved line work (slurs, ties, etc.) may be made with pen, using ellipse templates or French curves which are available at stores selling drafting supplies.

The accompanying patterns and examples contain many of the figures frequently encountered in music copy. If each of these is copied and improved several times, smoothness and usable technique may be readily attained. Speed should not be the aim at first; the excellence of the finished result is what counts.

Frequently Used Combinations


Stem extensions, flags, ledger lines, beams, chords, slanted beams, cue notes, etc. Horizontal spacing is not necessary on downstem notes since flags and stem line are offset to the left.


Horizontal spacing on upstem notes requires one space to the right for stem and flags.


Align slant of stem ends by eye or with light blue pencil line. Use back space or vernier to finish off beam ends.

To print trill Trill : Type Trill, space, type Trill, space, etc.
To print arpeggio Arpeggio : Use ratchet. Type Arpeggio, roatate platen clicks, type Arpeggio, etc. A smoother result may be achieved by rotating platen only 2 clicks between strikes.
To print 32nd Rest : Use ratchet. Type 8th Rest, then up 2 clicks and type 16th Rest.
To print Quarter Note : Type Quarter Note, half space, then up 4 clicks (or align by eye) and type Slash.
To print Quarter Note : Type Quarter Note, back space, half space, then down 4 clicks (or by eye) and type Slash.


Heavy barlines are constructed by successive imprints of the barline as the vernier is turned slowly or the backspace key gradually depressed.

Musicwriter Music

Musicwriter Music

Other examples and combinations

Unpacking & Set-Up Instructions

Unpacking the Musicwriter

  1. Having opened both cartons, set both parts - machine base and carriage - on a table or desk. It is important that the carriage not be lifted by the platen knobs. Lift by the release levers (F) or underneath the entire carriage.
  2. Remove white machine cover from machine base by lifting the front corners of the cover upward about an inch to free the front two positioning pins, then pull forward and up on the entire cover.
  3. Remove packing locks from machine base:
    1. Remove cardboard typebar packing lock (A).
    2. Remove masking tape (B) from pointer and ribbon guide.
    3. Remove plastic basket packing locks (C), one from each side of machine, by pulling outward.
  4. Install carriage onto machine base:
    1. Move the two orange levers (D) to rear position (forward position is shown in the drawing above).
    2. Position carriage on machine base. Gently lower into position, first guiding the large spool which extends beneath the carriage into the open area on the left side of the machine base, and finally fitting the two locating pins (about 1/4" diam. By 1/2" long, anodize gray) on the bottom of the carriage into holes in small plates near each side of the machine base. One screw on each of these small mounting plates is painted bright red.
    3. Return the two orange levers (D) to forward positions. Check installation by lifting (not by platen knobs) on each end of carriage – base and carriage should be firmly locked together.
  5. Remove packing locks from carriage:
    1. Remove small red screw (E) from each end of carriage guide rail.
    2. Depressing carriage release lever (F) at either end of the carriage, move the carriage an inch or so to the left and to the right. Two packing locks (G) & (H) will drop from each end.
  6. Replace white machine cover by inserting the two rear mounting pins into the white rubber grommets on the machine base. Gently press into place, then press down on the front of the machine cover to seat the front two pins.
  7. Your MUSICWRITER is now ready for use. Save all of the packing locks and, if possible, the shipping cartons for future moving or shipping of the machine.

Musicwriter Guarantee

The following is a letter of guarantee to the buyer of the Olympia Musicwriter.

Musicwriter Guarantee


Dear MUSICWRITER Customer:

Your MUSICWRITER has been carefully checked before it left our shop to be sure it is in proper operating condition and you should have no problems if you follow all instructions. This is not an ordinary typewriter and it will be necessary for you to read carefully the instructions and spend some time in becoming familiar with it and practicing with it in order to learn to operate it properly.

TEST STRIKE-UP by Test Strike-Up Initials MUSICWRITER NUMBERMusicwriter Number

Strike-Up Test

By all means, if ever you have questions, contact us first, sending a strike-up (similar to the above) as well as a description of what seems wrong.

If it appears that your machine has been damaged in shipment, you should contact your delivering carrier immediately and have him come out and examine the machine and packing cartons and fill out an inspection report, which you should then send to us so that we can file a claim. (This should be done before any repairs are made.) Then contact us for further instructions. For repair and service, the procedure is for us to work with the local Olympia typewriter repairman, furnishing him with information and suggestions.

Your MUSICWRITER is guaranteed by us for 90 days after you receive it, but for the guarantee to be in effect we must be contacted before any work is done on the machine.

Keep the shipping cartons and all packing material in case your MUSICWRITER ever needs to be re-shipped.

Please send use the serial number of your MUSICWRITER whenever you order parts or supplies.

828 Pearl St. Address Correction
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Musicwriter Ad

The following is taken from the ad for the Musicwriter:

"The Musicwriter is the only music typewriter used throughout the world in all phases of the music publishing industry as well as by individual musicians, composers, arrangers, and teachers. The speed with which any music pattern can be accomplished exceeds all other existing methods for doing exacting music copy. The precise, sharp print it produces assures excellent copy for publication or performance.

"The machine is completely flexible as to placement of characters for best layout and legibility. Paper may be removed from the machine and reinserted for corrections or additions, quickly and with no disadvantage. The optimum horizontal locations are readily obtained by the use of traditional space and half space functions, plus a fine adjustment vernier screw. Vertical location is accomplished by platen rotation with exact location of characters established by a precise pointer, a line-space ratchet, and the normal detent release and ratchet release knob. The type design is the same as the number three size of traditional engraving. Curved line work is the single limitation. This can be accomplished by the use of drafting templates or French curves.

"No special manuscript papers are required. Blank paper may be used with all models of the Musicwriter since they are equipped with their own staff liners. Pre-printed staff paper may be used and these staves need not be precisely the size of the machine staff. However, special supplies such as papers and ribbons have been developed for optimum results with the machine.

"The Musicwriter is a specially modified Olympia® Model SG3 typewriter, and is availalbe with a 15-inch carriage, paper capacity of 15-1/16 inches, writing line of 14-1/4 inches, or with an 18-inch carriage, paper capacity of 18-3/16 inches, writing line of 17-1/2 inches".

Musicwriter Ad

Musicwriter Ad

musicwriter ad 03