2018 holiday shopping guide from Scoring Notes


Bells are ringing, we’re seeing white, and hearing voices… no, we’re not losing our minds. It’s the holiday season, of course!

There are plenty of holiday shopping guides out there already. But none, I assure you, with this unique list of recommendations. This year, I’ve assembled a list of some of my favorite products that I think you, as a reader of the Scoring Notes blog, will enjoy as well. They’re all products that I personally use and they — more or less — relate to the task of creating music notation.

So have fun, happy holidays, and happy shopping!

Note: I purchase a lot of products from Amazon, and apps from Apple’s App Store, so I’ve linked to those products directly. Those are affiliated links, which constitute advertising; if you’d like to learn more about what that means, please see our privacy policy, section 4. Prices were accurate at the time this article was written, but are, of course, subject to fluctuation. All prices in USD.

Music fonts and apps from NYC Music Services

Here’s a recommendation that even Scrooge will like: Music fonts and apps available from our NYC Music Services site — all free! In case you missed last week’s news, we’ve just released seven new chord symbol fonts for Sibelius.

Four of the fonts are part of the Norfolk family of fonts, and the other three fonts released today are the inaugural members of a new font family called Pori. Norfolk and Pori, respectively, are Sibelius-compatible derivatives of Bravura and Petaluma, the default fonts in Dorico.

While you’re there, check out all of the PDF utilities we’ve got: PDF-BatchScale, PDF-BatchBooklet, PDF-BatchStitch, and the tour de force, PDF-MusicBinder, all developed by Abraham Lee.

If you ever work with PDFs for printing music or otherwise need to manipulate PDFs in the specific ways that we often need to do as musicians, you’ll want these apps, which come in both Mac and Windows versions. I’ve saved countless hours using them — just watch this video to see how easy it is to make a consolidated binder for printing booklets or accordion-style folded music.


All the resources at NYC Music Services are free to download and use. If you’re in a generous holiday spirit and want to support future development of these resources, there’s an opportunity for you to donate at the site.

Norfolk and Pori fonts and PDF apps: $0

Behind Bars, the music notation reference

Every year I recommend Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation. First published in 2011 to great acclaim, the 704-page master reference has quickly become indispensible for professional engravers, copyists and publishers. Whether you already have the imposing hardcover format or opt for its nimble e-book versions from Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iBooks, this resource is worth the purchase price.


About a year ago, we published a couple of interviews with Elaine Gould herself, conducted by Justin Tokke. Think of the videos, which come in part 1 and part 2, as bonus features!

Now that Dorico 2.2 includes a “Gould” preset in its Engraving Options for repeat markers, you know that the book is a must-have.

Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation:
$68 in hardcover format from Amazon
$36 in Kindle format from Amazon
$41 in iBooks format from Apple

LG 32″ 4K display

This was last year’s holiday gift to myself, and I enjoy it every day I’m at my desk. The LG 32UD59-B UHD LED-Lit Monitor is a 32″ 4K display that boasts 3840 x 2160 pixels, and at a price that is well worth it. If you’re still working on a small display, and/or on a non-4K display, the difference is incredible. Text is sharper, graphics are crisper, and all of your music appears much more similar to how it will look on a printed page.

I can easily display two pages of 9.5″ x 13″ parts side-by-side at 100% with room to spare:

That means less time scrolling around and more time making the music look just right.

If you have the desk space and the funds, why not get two and run multiple displays?

LG 32UD59-B 32-Inch 4K UHD LED-Lit Monitor with FreeSync: $419 at Amazon

Duet Display

Of course, when I’m traveling, I can’t exactly fit a 32″ display in my carry-on. That’s where Duet Display comes in. It’s an iOS app that turns your iPad or iPhone into a second display for your desktop or laptop computer.

Designed by engineers that used to work at Apple, Duet works easily. It’s an indispensable tool for my road setup, especially when I’m at a rehearsal.


I first reviewed Duet in 2015, and it’s only gotten better (and less expensive) since then, with support for the Apple Pencil and the ability to add a Touch Bar on the Duet-enabled device.

Duet Display for iOS: $10 at Apple’s App Store

Logitech MX ERGO trackball

I’ve been a fan of Logitech’s trackballs for years. I started using the M570 trackball after I developed hand and wrist pain in 2014 from heavy use of a mouse, and after a week of getting adjusted to it, I’ve never looked back.

About a year ago I upgraded from the M570 to Logitech’s MX ERGO, and you can read my full review to learn all about it. Suffice it to say I literally have it under my thumb all day long.

Logitech’s MX ERGO and M570, side by side

It feels substantial, the trackball is smooth, and it’s extensively customizable, including with music notation software. If the price tag is a bit steep for you, the M570 is still available at a third of the price — I still have one that I take with me when I travel.

Logitech MX ERGO Wireless Trackball Mouse: $76 at Amazon

Stream Deck control surface

If you’re looking for more ways to control your computer, here’s something that I’ve only recently gotten my hands on — literally. Stream Deck, made by Elgato, is a customizable control surface with 15 keys that connects to your computer. Although it’s targeted at gamers and content creators, it’s totally flexible and suitable for nearly every workflow. The keys display whatever you want them to display, and operate according to whatever key command you assign.

It’s perfect for triggering macros or multiple workflows in your notation software of choice. We have a review of Stream Deck along with some extra goodies that reviewer Dan Kreider has shared to help you get the most out of it.

Elgato Stream Deck – Live Content Creation Controller: $135 at Amazon

XKey MIDI controller

Now that you have a trackball and display controller, you’ll need a MIDI keyboard to enter in music. My keyboard of choice is the Xkey 37, made by CME. For note entry on a daily basis, it can’t be beat — it’s got the same slim profile as Apple’s Magic Keyboard or Logitech’s Wireless Solar Keyboard, and fits perfectly on a desk with either of those items plus a trackball or mouse.

The Xkey 37 alongside my Logitech wireless keyboard and trackball
The Xkey 37 alongside my Logitech wireless keyboard and trackball

It’s not cheap — you can surely pick up a MIDI controller for a lot less — and you won’t be able to play as satisfyingly on it as you would a full-size digital piano with weighted keys. But I’ve been banging away on it regularly in the three-plus years that I’ve had this model, and it’s just as solid as the first day I had it.

CME XKEY 37 LE Ultra Slim 37 Full Size Key Portable USB MIDI Controller Keyboard: $180 at Amazon

Cloud backup service

It’s inevitable that storage media will fail. It might not happen today, tomorrow, or in many years, but there may come a day where your reliable hard drive doesn’t play so nice anymore. And Murphy’s Law says that day will be the day before the deadline on your major commissioned orchestra piece, or the day of your recording session. a key element of any modern backup strategy is a good cloud backup service.

There are several out there, but the one I’ve used for several years and trusted my files to is Backblaze. For $5/month, it will back up all — yes, all — the files on your computer, including documents, photos, music and movies, without restrictions on the number of files, other than operating system, applications, or temporary files. It will also back up any external drives connected to your computer.

Encryption is built into Backblaze at every level when you select a private key to secure your data. If you want an additional level of privacy, you can select a passphrase that is known only to you. If you lose or forget the passphrase, no one, including Backblaze, can recover it for you.

Backblaze’s approach to cloud backup might not suit everyone out there, but its combination of simplicity, unlimited storage, and low cost have made me a satisfied user.

That low cost gets even lower if you sign up by clicking on this link, That’s because from now until January 6, 2019, if you’re a new Backblaze customer and you purchase a Personal backup license, you’ll get three months credit applied to your Backblaze account.

Read more about Backblaze in this blog post.

Backblaze: $5/month (free for 3 months by clicking on this link)


OK, this next item is not a musical item, app, or computer accessory. But it is extremely useful in our line of work.

When I announced the chord symbol fonts last week, my good friend Justin Tokke asked:

Ha! Well, I do sleep, but to ward off somnolence when striving to meet an imminent deadline, a good cup of joe helps. I’m not a coffee aficionado; I just want something that tastes good, is easy to make, and relatively economical.

For the cost of one cup at the local Starbucks, I can make a whole week’s of caffeine power with the Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker, Latte Maker and Cappuccino Maker.

Oh yes, you read that right! Lattes and cappuccinos in my own kitchen!

Yes, I know, it’s not a real cappuccino — this machine approximates espresso with a concentrated shot of coffee from the K-cup. But like I said, I’m no coffee snob — I’ll save those highfalutin tendencies for the stuff that really matters, like music fonts!

Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker, Latte Maker and Cappuccino Maker: $180 at Amazon

Jazz music

Finally, when you’re sipping that frothy brew by the fire (or by your computer), you’ll want to listen to some good music. We all have our own tastes, but if you enjoy jazz, may I suggest a newly released album by composer/arranger Peter Drew called And What’s More.

I produced this album and did all of the music preparation for it — 16 charts in all for big band. You’ll even see me in this video at around the 1:48 mark:


Recorded in New York and performed by some of the top cats anywhere, Peter Drew has two feet firmly planted in the American songbook — and his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, as evidenced in the adorable dixieland-style duet he wrote for Sachal Vasandani and Maria Maloney.

With other performances by Wendy Gilles, Sam Sadigursky, and a host of all-stars led by Ryan Keberle, this album makes a great stocking stuffer for anyone to whom you’d like to give the gift of jazz — including yourself.

Peter Drew And What’s More:
$9.49 at Amazon (download)
$9.99 at iTunes (download)
$15 at CD Baby (CD)


  1. Paolo

    Thank you very much for the hints and gifts!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Enjoy, Paolo!

  2. Paul Read

    Hi. I use Duet Display and I think that iPad stand in your photo looks interesting. Could you tell me the details on that?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Sure, it’s this item from Belkin but I don’t think they make it anymore.

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