As a composer and an arts administrator, I work by hand on both musical scores and countless documents at the office.  Over the years, I have come to rely on certain pens.

1.) Reliable black pen:

uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens, Micro Point (0.5mm)

This pen is one of my favorites to use.  It offers a smooth run across the paper, even distribution of ink, a reliable clasp, and a comfortable and natural grip.  Both the Micro Point and Bold Point offer smooth ink release and make writing a breeze.  These pens are great quality, so the perennial issue of pens drying up too soon shouldn’t happen to you until you actually run out of ink.

2.) My go-to red pen:

Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens, Fine Point, 4-Pack, Red Ink (31191)

I use this pen all the time at the office.  At one point I used this red pen exclusively, and everyone knew right away whose documents they were reading because they were marked up in red ink (and sloppy handwriting).  I also commandeered red pens when we had them, which somehow didn’t cause friction with my coworkers.  Perhaps they knew of my love for them.  (I eventually had to use colors other than red–unfortunately.)

This pen is great for marking up documents, proofs, scores, drafts–anything that needs correction or editing.  The ink makes them stand out, but unlike other red pens I have used, the ink is consistent and rich/full.  The pen’s shape and grip make it really easy to use and comfortable to write with.  The retractable point and clasp are also really useful and effective when traveling to different departments and rehearsals.  I cannot recommend this trusted pen enough.

3.) A must-have for all basic needs

BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ball Pen, Medium Point (1.0 mm)

Every office needs a pack or two of these; they are reliable and inexpensive tools that, while having a shorter life than other pens, are great when they have ink left in them.  If pens are chess pieces, these are the pawns: ubiquitous, useful, and can really make your grinding work succeed.

I actually carry a packet of these in my car’s glove box, for all of the times when I need to quickly write in a parking lot (eg. celebration cards from the store, notes for work, ideas for composing, directions for others, car information, etc.).

4.) The all-in-one multipurpose pen:

BIC 4-Color Ball Pen, Medium Point (1.0mm), Assorted Ink

This pen is used in many industries for its design that allows you to choose which color ink you wish to use: black, blue, red, or green.  With the click of a lever you can change from marking up a document or score in red to making notes in your planner in black.  And when you need to sign the finished document, your blue ink is right there.

These are more expensive than their counterparts, but they are packed with features.  They include a hole for lanyards that makes it easy to let the pen hang from your neck so you can use your hands for other tasks.

5.) The closer:

Sharpie Twin Tip Permanent Markers, Fine and Ultra Fine, Black

I title this pen “the closer” because I use it to close projects.  For example, I use the fine point to write on CDs, and the ultra fine point to write on the applications for which I am sending the CDs.  I also use these to write labels; the fine point for large labels and the ultra fine point for smaller labels.

When I’m not closing a project, I use the ultra fine point for writing music on paper, and the fine point for marking the storage details on filing boxes before they are put in storage or get sent to staff for scanning/digitizing.

The value from this pen is in its dual nature, and the fact that both of these tips are top Sharpie components.  These tips are staples to work environments by themselves, but together they are a must-have.

Extra content:

Sharpie Color Burst Permanent Markers, Ultra Fine Point, Assorted Colors, 24-Count

These pens are great for coloring.  I know that is unrelated to composing or arts administration, but with so many coloring books being produced, it is nice to know that there are tools that will help you enjoy coloring and won’t break the bank.  Like the other sharpie markers here, the quality on these is amazing, and they are incredibly reliable.

I may follow up with more pens in a later post, but for now these are my top picks.

Happy writing, proofing, signing, and coloring,