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Music   Fonts

This article discusses the differences between Music fonts designed for music typesetting programmes such as Finale and fonts designed for use in word processing programmes such as MS Word.


Most users of Personal Computers are familiar with fonts and typefaces. A typeface is a family of fonts in a certain style. Helvetica and Ariel are examples of san serif fonts (plain fonts with no serifs or "tails" on the ends of the letters) and Times New Roman is the most famous example of a serif font.

Font is the name given to a specific manifestation of a typeface. Ariel 10pt italic is therefore a different font from Ariel 12pt italic, and different again from Ariel 10pt normal. These three examples are all the same typeface however - Ariel.

In order to view a typeface on a personal computer (PC, Mac or other) that font must be "installed" on the computer. When you install MS Windows a set of typefaces are automatically loaded. It is possible to install further fonts by purchasing them from companies such as Adobe, or by installing "shareware" fonts from the internet. The fonts on your computer can be viewed by either looking in the fonts directory, or by going to the pull down fonts menu in applications such as MS Word.

Care must be exercised though. If you install a particularly nice and fancy font on your computer, and then use it in a MS Word document that you Email to a friend or colleague, if they do not have that font installed on on their computer they won't see what you want them to see. Instead they will see a substitute font (e.g. Times New Roman or Helvetica or Ariel). A similar problem occurs with webs sites. Have a look at the examples below. Do these fonts look like their description? If yes, then they are installed on your computer (or the substitutes are convincingly similar) - if not the substitutes are just that - substitutes!

Ariel - 24pt


Times New Roman - 24pt

Times New Roman

Maestro - 24pt (Crotchet, minim, semibreve, breve) q h w
Bach -24pt (Crotchet, minim, semibreve, breve)


It is likely that one of both of the first two fonts appear correctly on your screen, but you may well see gibberish for Maestro and Bach looking something like this p h w or this .

If this is the case it means these fonts are not installed on your computer.

Music Fonts

It is not always realised that Typefaces contain characters other than the standard English alphabet. Of course, uppercase and lower case characters are needed, and are all the numbers and punctuation symbols. Indeed any character on the keyboard is available, and if your explore further, perhaps by using the Insert Symbol feature in MS Word, you'll see characters beyond these including those used in alphabets for languages other than English. Scroll to the bottom of your font list and you will probably find fonts with names like Wingdings or Zapf Dingbats which are not alphabetical at all, but are just pictures and symbols.

Anyone with a music typesetting programme on their PC, e.g. Finale, will know that a typeface can contain musical characters. When you use Finale to set musical scores, all the notes and many of the other other characters and symbols on the page are created using a special musical font. For older versions of Finale for instance, this is called Pettruci, and for current versions it is called Maestro.

So can these fonts be used in MS Word or MS Excel or any other non-typesetting PC applications? Wouldn't it be useful to be able to use a musical typeface in an essay or a database in order to provide musical illustrations? 

The answer is of course yes, but the fonts provided for typesetting programmes are not usually suitable for use in word processing or database applications. Their dimensions and spacing attributes are designed to be used in a musical score. If you use Maestro in the middle of a paragraph of text you find that the line spacing is upset because of the spacing of the musical font. 

Here is an example of a paragraph of text in ariel point size 3 (=12 pt) where Maestro is
used to illustrate various musical note vales. First, a crotchet;  q  then a
minim;  h ,  next a semibreve;  w and finally an old style breve;  .

If you do not have Maestro installed on your computer (which you will not unless you have Finale 2000 installed) you will see the gibberish rather than musical notes. The paragraph would have appeared something like the graphic below.

You can see that the line spacing (or leading) has been upset by the use of the Maestro font.

Here is an example of a similar paragraph of text in ariel point size 3 (=12 pt) where Bach is used to illustrate the same musical note vales.

First, a crotchet;
then a minim;
next a semibreve;
and finally an old style breve

Of course, if you do not have Bach installed on your computer you will again see the gibberish rather than the musical notes. Since Bach is a shareware font designed and made available by Dr Tomita of Queen's University Belfast you can download it from the web site and install it on your computer. You will need to unZIP the file and save the Bach font to your fonts directory, which for most Windows users will be at c:/windows/fonts. Once this is done you should be able to see the music characters in MS Word's Insert Symbol command (make sure Bach is displayed in the Font window). Finally check to see whether the paragraph above is now showing the correct musical symbols.


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