Life Before Finale – Notaset

In the years just before Finale came on the scene, the Notaset (or Not-a-set) system of notation was a very popular method of producing “engraved” music for publication. Notaset was a series of transparent, dry transfer sheets, which contained various music notation elements. The user would position the sheet containing the desired symbol on a sheet of staff paper, and then would rub the symbol with a spatula, transferring the symbol to the staff. As you might imagine, this was a rather slow, tedious task. However, for the patient user, with proper planning, excellent results could be obtained. Highly-regarded publishers such as Bärenreiter utilized this form of engraving.

One of the real advantages to this system was that there were no special tools or expensive music typewriters required. Notaset sheets were easily available at most music stores and office supply stores. Music engraving for the masses!

Notaset sheets were issued in 7 staff sizes, with about 15 different sheets being issued for each staff size. These sheets contained note heads, notes, rests, articulations, beams, slurs and ties, etc. Each sheet contained hundreds of symbols, the sheet for accidentals, for example, contained 1848 characters.

Here is an example of Notaset’s sample transfer sheet:


The example above was graciously provided by the Music Printing History web site. For more information on Notaset printing, including a video about an engraver utilizing this process, I’d highly recommend a visit to:

Perhaps you’re waxing nostalgic and would like to obtain the Notaset look in your Finale documents, or perhaps you were struck by the familiarity of the characters in the Notaset sample. What few people realize is that Finale’s Maestro font is a digital version of Notaset. In the example below, I duplicated the Notaset document using Finale’s Maestro font:


I think it’s quite a striking similarity. Let us know what you think by clicking on “Comments” below.

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