An interview with Nor Eddine Bahha, musician and font designer


Nor Eddine Bahha’s music and text fonts are available at Notation Central, our online marketplace for music notation technology.

Nor Eddine Bahha’s LeadSheet Font, for Finale and Sibelius

Nor also has a couple dozen handwritten text fonts that will surely give your scores a distinctive feel, like NorB Pen Cased.

NorB Pen Cased, from Nor Eddine Bahha

We are very pleased to ask Nor about his background, his passion for type design, and more.

Q: Tell us about your background as a musician.

I was born into a family of musician brothers. I’m a self-taught professional jazz pianist, educator, author, and researcher in musicology. And I’m passionate about typography so I’m a type designer, too! I like hand-lettering, comic-lettering, architect lettering and Arabic calligraphy. Like jazz, each one has something to tell you.

I wrote Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for all Musicians (with Robert Rawlins in 2005). I am especially interested in jazz, traditional music of the Maghreb, African, and Oriental music, which all influence my compositions. With the bassist Hamza Souissi I created The B’LDi Jazz Trio through which we develop a creative, intense and expressive Moroccan jazz music, which leaves a lot of room for improvisation.

In addition to having played with several Moroccan and foreign jazz musicians in different styles, I participated in such other musical projects as the “Palimpsests” project held in 2012 by Moroccan jazz saxophonist Karim Soussan with whom we made many arrangements for Africa United band. As a member of The Souissi Brothers Jazz Quartet, I composed several themes with a unique fusion of North African music heritage and jazz. I’m currently performing every Sunday at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, and traveling outside Morocco for other gigs.

Nor Eddine Bahha (Photo: Tatyana Trifonova)

Q: What are your favorite types of music and what has most influenced you?

Having performed so many Moroccan and Oriental music styles since the age of 15, I got annoyed with monotony and modal music. So I used to comp jazzily behind local singers — they never liked that, ha!

Then, at the age of 15 I discovered jazz through our local FM radio. Of course, since my childhood, I used to listen to ABBA, Bee Gees, Barry White, Ottis Reading, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, and all the rock music of the 70s and 80s. Every kind of music has something to tell you and to teach — even bad music, does that sound crazy?

From my modest experience, though, I learned lot about music when you open your mind. Maybe there are just two kinds of music: “Good music, and the other kind,” as Duke Ellington once said.

So yes, I was very influenced first by American pop music. Then came the Turkish and Balkan music due to their flexible melodies, odd rhythms, and very soulful feeling.

Jazz came later. My favorite jazz style is beguine music, especially the music of the great jazz pianist Alain Jean-Marie who still inspires me. The music of Barry Harris and Bill Evans was healing to me. All I wanted to know about jazz piano was there, and I still learn from both pianists by transcribing and imitating. I’m also a big fan of Latin music. To me, Brazilian rhythms sound close to Moroccan rhythms. With salsa, we share the same rhythmic feel as well.

Q: How do you go about the process of creating a font? What tools and software do you use?

Good question! Well, originally it wasn’t easy to deal with creating fonts in 2002 when I was only running FontCreator 3 on Windows XP, because in meantime I was editing Jazzology. So it was difficult to find some time for creating fonts. I used to use MusicTime Deluxe / Encore 4 by Gvox.

I found jazz charts online done with Finale using Sigler’s Jazz Font, which I’m a big fan of even though c’est démodé!

This pushed me to think that I could make my own jazz font and run it inside MusicTime Deluxe / Encore4. I then took the Anastasia font, and redrew all the glyphs there with FontCreator 3 using a scanner. After a few weeks of work, Encore could printout handwritten jazz charts! I licensed the fonts to Gvox from 2005 to 2011. Since 2012, Band-in-a-Box by PG Music has used my RealScore Chord and BigBand Chords fonts.

Today, I mostly use FontLab. I also use Glyphs and FontForge to do some other tweaks. I use a Wacom Intuos Tablet with Adobe Illustrator for rapid design. There is also the “hi-tech way”: a blank piece of paper, a pen marker, and my phone! Yes, my phone to screenshot what I draw with a pen marker instead of using a scanner.

And my ultimate tool… my imagination. We need a good brain, you know!

The treble clef from the RealScore music font, by Nor Eddine Bahha

Q: What styles of music would you say the fonts are best suited to expressing?

Generally, I don’t think an engraved style font like Opus or Maestro are specific to classical performances, and I don’t think that the handwritten fonts like Jazz, InkPen2, Reprise, RealScore, or BopMusic are specific to pop and jazz. Everyone has their own taste. You can mix and match fonts to make a unique house style.

For me, there is no distinction between music styles and related fonts. I must say that the Express Music fonts such as LeeMusic, AshMusic, RussMusic are the best jazz fonts, although they are no longer available. They still inspire me. I use them a lot and sometimes mix them with my own fonts. AshAlpha and AshMusic mixed with RussMusic are the best for any kind of music.

However, I can’t tell you which fonts are best suited to any particular music style. I keep the choice to the customer. Music printing is an art, like Arabic calligraphy. There should be some freedom and space.

Q: Tell us about the text fonts. What was your idea for them? How can they be used in music, architecture, and other disciplines?

I like comics very much, and I still read comic books. Any time I get a chance to travel to Belgium, I purchase some. The lettering in comics may sound stupid to purist type designers, but for me, it expresses the personality of the designer. So, my text fonts are the fruit of learning comic lettering and architect lettering 20 years ago.

The Jazz Copyist text font

For an example of how to use them besides just regular text such as titles and expressions, Finale allows you to set the chord symbols easily using any other font beside the ones bundled with Finale. In Sibelius, though, you have to remake a chord font for each text font, which is very time-consuming, so you can’t use the text fonts as they are to make chord symbols in Sibelius, although you can use them anywhere else you have regular text.

I also designed a font called NorB TypeWriter as an emulation of the IBM Selectric Italic ball.

NorB TypeWriter

Q: What other projects do you have going on right now?

I’m trying to release a second jazz text book about jazz improvisation in the style of bebop called “Essential Elements in Jazz Improvisation: Technical Studies For The Developing Musicians” and a third book about jazz piano harmonic motions called “Jazz Piano: Advanced Harmonic Movement”. I have various exercises written in Sibelius to help any pianist acquire a more advanced jazz piano harmonic language.

Q: Any future plans for the fonts?

I’m primarily a Sibelius user, although I use Finale from time to time. I’m planing to switch to Dorico but I need to “SMuFL” my NorFonts. My main plan for the moment is to make my NorMusic fonts SMuFL-compliant, which is a heavy task (I’d be grateful if somebody reading this could help me!) I get many requests from Dorico and Overture 5 users who really like my fonts and they just can’t buy them because they aren’t yet compatible with SMuFL.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us?

No!! Ha ha. I really want to thank you, Philip, for giving me the opportunity to release all my fonts through Notation Central, which is a very good place for music transcribers, arrangers, composers and musicians to pick the fonts and plug-ins you need.


  1. Nor Eddine Bahha

    My BopMusic fonts for DORICO™ are now SMuFL compliant and featuring more than 1300 music symbols. BopMusic fonts work with Dorico™ SE, Dorico™ Elements, and Dorico™ Pro versions [Mac & Windows]


  2. Hobelia

    i have been following this guy from the beginning and he is such an amazing talented musician and font designer too
    kudos to you sir

    1. Nor Eddine Bahha

      Mr. Hobelia, thanks for the compliment, you too, you’re an amazing musician and copyist, I love your works.

  3. Nor Eddine Bahha

    Hi, I come to release my “NorFont Clefs” and here is an example of what you can do with “NorFont Clefs”:

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