Ideal Paper Dimensions and Weight

• Aug 3, 2014 - 01:42

I intend to join the ranks of those who actually commit their musical projects to paper and ink, rather than leave them imprisoned on a computer screen.

Therefore, what advice would you offer regarding paper dimension and weight? Does Hal Leonard have the right idea (9" x 12") or is it better to go for sturdier paper with larger dimensions?

What is the ideal setting for the page layout?

This is not orchestral music, but would be written for a small ensemble of five or six instruments.


I have always suspected 9x12" (I assume you are referring to the USA) was chosen by many publishers because it makes it harder to photocopy than 8.5x11".

Realistically, most parts for instrument ensemble music in the US are printed either at 8.5x11" or else 9x12". So music standards are designed to accommodate those sizes easily. There is no benefit in going much larger because it won't fit on a stand. I actually prefer 8.5x11" over 9x12" in some cases because I can sometimes fit one more page on a music standard than I otherwise would - three pages instead of two, four instead of three depending on size of stand. And a lot of the types of folders I might like to keep music in are designed to work with 8.5x11". I have seen any number of charts printed on 9x12" that have worn out edges because they were crammed into folders not designed for them. To me, these logistic concerns are more important than whatever readability gain you might get from being able to go with larger type on the 9x12" for a given number of pages, but it's a tradeoff.

The good thing about having yur music in electronic form is that you can re-print the parts with no loss of quality at any time, so weight of paper is not the concern it might once have been. Still, heavier is usually better.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Btw, there is also the practical aspect - printing a standard like size like 8.5x11" (US) or A4 (just about everywhere else) is easier than finding a print shop willing to deal with a non-standard size. Most do have 11x17" paper for orchestral scores etc, but 9x12" or any similar size might be next to impossible to actually deal with yourself in the US.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Music was published on 9x12 paper (in the US) long before photocopiers became common, so I doubt that those dimensions were chosen by the publishing companies to discourage copying. It certainly didn't hinder "fake book" proliferation.

Practically all the music I ever bought was on paper 9x12 or larger.

On some music forums, 9x12 is labeled "concert," so I assumed that is the accepted standard for printing music.

I don't know how difficult it would be to obtain the paper or facilities needed to print 9x12 because I haven't tried yet.

In reply to by RAMALAM

Don't forget that if you use PDF to create your "paper" versions it will then scale your score to whatever paper dimensions are set for the printer.

Unless you are only writing for US musicians, I would use an A4 page size and save as PDF.

That way everyone including yourself and any publishers concerned can print the music out and automatically have it scaled to the paper size.

In fact 9 X 12 inches is very close to A4 which is possibly why the US music publishers have decided to use this format. A4 is a bit narrower in portrait format but the length is almost identical.


PS Many publishers will now expect submissions in PDF format rather than on paper.

The ideal setting would be A4 which is the international standard paper size.

Not sure why you would want to commit to paper other than to allow other musicians to play it.

Using paper for archiving is not a good idea. Modern paper contains a lot of acid and degrades very quickly.

Probably the most permanent solution would be to store on SD card and make sure you don't lose it :)

Use A4. A musician (often a not-very-rich musician) likes to have all their music the same size. They can bulk-buy plastic document envelopes and folders to put everything in, they can leave their hole-punch at one setting and a couple of sheets of A4 is easy to clip to a music stand. Also, if you drop A4 sheets they aren't too hard to pick up and sort through.

Alternatively, make it triangular 6" x 7" x 13 7\8 " on embossed glossy paper, green notes on a red background. Or, if you really want to be awkward, do what some on-line publishers do and insist on Windows-only with a special Adobe plug-in and a proprietary printer program.

...from Mary Poppins, published by the Wonderland Music Company 1963 is a shade under 8 1/2" wide and a shade over 11" tall. Being as this is the standard for all music henceforth, I rest my case.

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