As a generation producing music notation on computer software and laser printers, we are fortunate not to have to consider as many factors when picking out a paper for music reproduction. For instance, there are no concerns about how the ink from a fountain pen spreads on a specific paper; or whether or not fibers from the paper get caught in the pen when copying.
These days, most good quality papers designed for laser printers or photo copying produce great results for typeset scores and parts. With white paper, we want to pick a paper stock with a good brightness rating (the higher the number, the brighter the paper). And, importantly, we want a paper that is heavy enough that it won’t curl up on the music stands, but that isn’t too heavy to go through our printer.
If you have the manual for your printer handy, it’s worth checking to see what the heaviest recommended paper is possible to feed through the trays.
A number of symphony orchestras and commercial copying houses in the US use laser quality paper of 70lb to 80lb text weight for parts and 60lb to 70lb text weight for scores. If you’ve been buying 20lb bond paper from your local stationary store or office supply, you might think that 60lb text is a very heavy card stock. But, in fact, 60lb text is the same thickness and density as 24lb bond paper – only a little heavier than the 20lb bond paper you might currently be using.
Sometimes in the US, heavier stock such as 50lb Cover or 100lb Text weight paper are used for parts.
All paper you buy at Stationary or Office supply stores are cut from larger parent sheets. Regardless of whether you work with US or International paper sizes, when you buy a ream of paper of a specific “weight”, it is actually referring to the weight of 500 sheets of that paper type’s parent sheet size. Each different type of paper has a unique parent sheet size, which affects that paper’s “Basis weight”.
Heavier paper is by nature less translucent, which makes paper in the range of “24lb Bond / 60lb Text” – “28lb Bond / 70lb Text” suitable for double sided score pages.
Each different paper type comes in several common “basis weights“, which are generally availabe. For instance, “bond” type paper comes in a number of common thicknesses (weights). In the US, the most common weights of bond paper are 20lb, 24lb, and 28lb, but bond paper is also available in other weights.
The parent sheet size for Bond type paper in the US is 17″x22″. If 500 sheets of these 17″x22″ parent sheets weigh 20lbs, regardless of the final cut size, a ream of paper, whether cut to A3, A4, Tabloid or Letter will be labeled “20lb Bond”. If that same paper is slightly heavier, 500 sheets cut to the parent sheet size weights 24lbs, that paper at any cut size will be labeled “24lb Bond”.
500 parent sheets of different paper types can have a very different “basis weight”, due not only to the density of the paper, but also the dimensions of the cut parent sheet.
Here is a list of some common paper types and the size of the parent sheets used for determining their basis weight (US):
|PAPER TYPE||PARENT SHEET SIZE|
|BOOK / TEXT / OFFSET||25"x38"|
|BOND / LEDGER / MIMEO / DUPLICATOR||17"x22"|
In the chart below, the basis weights for each paper type is listed in boldface type. Grammage (gsm) is included for international comparison:
In the chart above, the most common weights for a particular class of paper are marked with an asterisk*.
Page size plays a big part in the density / durability / weight of paper you will need. For instance, if you are printing parts on A4 or Letter paper, a good paper (if your printer supports it) which will print nicely double sided if needed and won’t curl up on the stands is 24lb bond / 60lb text.
Particularly for parts, as the paper dimensions increase, you’ll want to increase the weight slightly as well. So, for 9″x12″ pages, you’ll want something along the lines of a 70lb text / 28lb bond weight paper, and if you are preparing 10″x13″ parts pages, you should consider 80lb text / 32lb bond.
In terms of brands of paper, there are a number to choose from, and depending on where you live, you’ll have different choices. Three brands my company uses for music reproduction are:
- International Paper – Accent Opaque
- Neenah – Took over Wassau Astropaque and Exact papers
- Domtar – Cougar opaque
Do you have a favorite brand of paper you would recommend to the music notation community at large for music scores and parts? Do you have more information about European basis weights or paper types? Please share in the comments!