Computers have made the process of creating printed music incredibly easy and accessible. But how did publishers create nice-looking printed music before the advent of computers? It's hard for me to imagine how the methods for printing text I'm familiar with (letter-by-letter or Linotype machines) could be adapted to something as complicated as a musical score.

I'm mainly interested in the era before Notaset and phototypesetting (i.e., photocopiers), though if anyone knows whether publishers used these or similar processes after they came along in the '50s and '60s, please feel free to add that in to your answer.

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    I’m voting to close this question because this is not really a music-related question May 26 '20 at 13:38
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    I’d like to see an answer about pre-computer typesetting of music. Sheet music is for many musicians a fundamental part of their music-making, so it seems on-topic to me. It’s also likely that the ways in which printed music used to be created has a direct relationship to musical performance, composition, music theory etc. Admittedly, this is a bit of a long-winded and vague question, though. A really short, clear question might attract more interest. May 26 '20 at 14:39
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    Edited to focus on the time frame before photocopiers. May 26 '20 at 15:24
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    Have you tried starting here? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_engraving
    – user50691
    May 26 '20 at 19:16
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    I disagree that this is not music-related. Notational practices, including printing, are very important to the history of music, and we welcome historical questions on this site. By analogy, consider the impact of the Gutenberg's printing press on the Reformation. Fully grasping the printing press's importance to the spread of Protestantism requires some knowledge of the technology itself.
    – Max
    May 27 '20 at 0:32

There have been many ways sheet music has been printed over the years. Many of the techniques used for printing music all the way back to the Middle Ages are the same or similar to the techniques used to print other types of written works and art but with tools specialized for music. I discovered a fascinating website that shows the history of printed music over the years. Many of the processes are very involved and time consuming. I’m sure you will enjoy this as much as I did. https://www.musicprintinghistory.org/

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    While this site is indeed interesting, I had hoped for more detail. For example, there is no timeframe year of invention given for "printing blocks". - just in case you haven't noticed OP's edit: he is asking specifically for the the 1950s & 1960s - could you please edit your answer and highlight this timeframe?
    – Arsak
    May 26 '20 at 18:55
  • @Arsak: Actually, I'm more interested in the pre-photocopier days. Edited the original question to clarify this. May 26 '20 at 19:03
  • @Arsak Despite all the negative comments and votes to close I answered what started out as a simple question with some useful information in good faith. This is not the first time on this site when a question has been heavily edited after the fact and makes my answer seem irrelevant. This is not my area of expertise. If I draw negative votes I will be glad to delete my answer. May 26 '20 at 20:03
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    I like both, the question and your answer. 'and I don't think your answer is invalid now. just thought of a way to further improve it. Sorry, if my first comment sounded blunt or so.
    – Arsak
    May 26 '20 at 20:42
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    @Arsak I appreciate your response and no need to apologize, I just wanted to point out the timeline of my answer and the edited question which I agree is a very interesting one. I wish I knew more about it. May 26 '20 at 21:04

While there were a few attempts with moving types in baroque times, the standard for centuries has been to engrave the notes into a metal plate. Staff lines were drawn with a rake, note heads, letters, stems and accents were hammered in with a stencil, slurs were cut free-hand with a sharp tool though there were a few stencils for shorter ones and ties. Look here for an example video from publishing house Henle.

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    Movable type was prominent both in the late renaissance and the early baroque. It was the standard method of printing music for over a century. Characterizing this as "a few attempts" is not particularly accurate.
    – phoog
    May 27 '20 at 2:50

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