Life Before Finale: More Hardware

Last summer I published a blog post titled “Life Before Finale,” in which I featured a device called the MusicWriter, which was essentially a typewriter capable of creating musical symbols.

Clearly this was just one of the many devices that people used to notate music prior to the introduction of music notation software. Another was called the NoteMaster. This was a ruler that contained stencils of characters used in music notation:

To use the NoteMaster you needed a pen or pencil with a 1 mm or .040” tip width, as a larger tip wouldn’t fit, and a smaller tip would produce uneven results. This and other helpful suggestions were found in a booklet that was included as a part of the NoteMaster Music Writing Kit.

My first reaction upon picking up this booklet was to look to see if the musical examples it contained were created with the NoteMaster. They clearly were not. Its creators, the Foster Music Corporation, were forthcoming about this and indicated that the musical examples in the book were made with the Foster-Keaton Music Printer.

What the heck is that? I wondered.

My friend and co-worker Mark Adler knew. He pointed me to one for sale on Ebay. While the price was out of reach for both Mark and myself, the seller kindly agreed to let us share their excellent photos here. Check out this glorious Keaton Music Typewriter:

Is that beautiful, or what? I have only a vague idea of what steampunk is, but I suspect this fits in with that aesthetic, where an alternate reality combines the Victorian with the industrial revolution – in full gadget-rich motion – without any need for electricity.

Like the Music Writer, this is a typewriter-like device. According to our kindly Ebay seller, a 14 key device was patented by Robert H. Keaton in 1936, while the 33 key model above was patented in 1953.

Equipped with its own suitcase, it offered the ultimate in portability (just the thing to take in your dirigible), if not affordability. Perhaps due to the prohibitive cost, it seems that few were sold and even fewer exist today.

Did you use any strange hardware before you owned Finale? If so I’d love to hear about it – please share by clicking on “Comments” below!

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