The Keaton Music Typewriter

These days, technology has come through in a big way for classical music composers when it comes to actually writing out their works. Where once a pen and paper were all they had to hand, now people can make use of all sorts of wonderful tools like music notation software to help them write, listen to, scan and print out their compositions.

Of course, technology does need time to develop and between the traditional pen and paper and platforms like Sibelius and MuseScore lies the music typewriter, developed in the 19th century, that used musical symbols instead of letters on the keys.


While some didn’t look vastly different to regular typewriters, the Keaton Music Typewriter – originally patented in 1936 with 14 keys and again in 1953 with 33 – is by far one of the most beautiful to have been developed, designed to make it easier for publishers, musicians and teachers to produce copies.

Despite its pleasing aesthetic, the music typewriter never really took off, with composers preferring to write their works out by hand, and as technology developed further they became obsolete – but as a collector’s item they certainly do have their place. They’re exceedingly rare, however (only 12 are thought to be in existence), and have been known to sell for thousands so it might be better to go and track one down at a museum if you’d like to see it in person.


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