Pencils should be of very soft lead, so that a minimum of pressure is needed to convey the marks to the paper, but the lead should be dense enough to be able to carry a sharp point, since clarity is essential. My favorite pencil is the Blackwing #602, by Eberhard Faber, but there may be many brands equal or superior to the Blackwing. Another important feature of a pencil is its eraser. It should be firm, though not dry, and since soft lead is quite easily blurred, it should be an eraser that makes a clean sweep. Some arrangers prefer a mechanical pencil with a refillable reservoir for lead, but I find that the lead in these pencils is quite often brittle, and the eraser wears out after a couple of packets of lead have been expended.Here’s a photograph of Nelson Riddle holding a pencil that shows the distinctive Blackwing ferrule. (Squint.)
Nelson Riddle, Arranged by Nelson Riddle (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music Publishing, 1985).
Blackwing 2: The Return
The new Blackwing pencil
Stephen Sondheim on pencils, paper
John Steinbeck on the Blackwing pencil