It’s Called a Music Nib for a Reason

Several fountain pen manufacturers offer a music nib as one of their nib options. It’s a variant of stub nib that was originally designed for writing musical notation: if you hold it properly, you can lay down thick lines for the beams and note heads and thin lines for the stems. But I expect most people who own pens with music nibs use them like a stub or calligraphy nib. “Friends who write music tell me that a pencil is actually the preferred writing implement for composing music, not a fountain pen,” says Tom Oddo of Goldspot; Richard Binder believes that modern music nibs are too stiff and otherwise “totally unsuited for writing music.”

Vintage music nibs were another matter: Jeff Peterson explores how vintage music nibs, which have more flex than modern nibs, were used in musical composition, both by looking at historical manuscript examples and by using them himself. He also explains why the stems on manuscript scores are on the wrong side of the notehead. “This is on purpose for speed and ease of writing. We write words from left to right, and because a music pen is held 90-degrees to the direction of writing, having stems on the left-hand side would require a pushing motion of the pen which would dig into the paper.”

Fountain Pen Nib Size Charts

Fountain pen nibs come in fine, medium and other sizes, but there’s no standard definition for those terms. A Japanese nib is usually a size finer than its European equivalent, for example, but there are exceptions all over the place. There are guides to a nib’s tipping size—the actual writing surface, measured in tenths of a millimetre—from Pen Chalet and, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. According to Pen Chalet, a TWSBI medium nib has the same tipping size as a Pilot medium, but my TWSBI Eco writes much thicker than my Pilot Metropolitan. The TWSBI nib might be wetter, and the ink might be too. And at the moment my Eco is loaded with a quick-drying ink that feathers a little on good paper. So it seems that there are other factors at play. I’ll figure them out as I go.