Free Music Font for Jazz


I was just wondering if there was an alternative free font that I can use for Jazz writing that looks handwritten or traditional for Jazz. I’ve seen a few but they’re all paid.

Thanks in Advance,

Ian Hook

The new Finale SMuFL fonts are free to download, and they include Finale Jazz, Finale Broadway and Finale Ash.

Bear in mind that the installers will also install all the ‘legacy’ Finale fonts, and they will also include JSON files for Text fonts, which aren’t necessary, and will clutter up your Music Fonts selection dialog in Dorico.

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Okay, Thanks so much!

Maybe I’m a clod, but while I got the November font I never use it, the built in are perfectly good. The differences are subtle and I can barely tell honestly. Just curious, why people use different fonts?

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Leaving aside the existential motivation for the ‘handwritten effect’ in ‘jazz’ scores, you’re right that the differences are subtle.

As with text typography, designers will spend hours contemplating which font to use, only to have the client/reader say “It’s Times, isn’t it?” :roll_eyes: Much of the effect may be subliminal.

Weight: Bravura is noticeably heavier and thicker than other similar fonts, like Finale Maestro, giving the page a darker outlook. (Ink would spread slightly in ‘proper’ engraving.)

Shape: the most noticeable element in a font tends to be the clefs, and these are often the ‘giveaway’. Some G clefs are fatter, taller, slanted, squished, etc – and it’s a matter of personal taste.

There may even be only one symbol that we want ‘just so’. Personally, I like quaver flags (particularly down-stems) that are nicely curved, with a very slight gap to the note, rather than Bravura’s rather straighter stroke. Breves are often terrible in many music fonts.

Style: What kind of music is it? Palestrina or Penderecki? Debussy or Dufay? Does the font convey modernity or steadfast tradition?

Text: As with type, numerals and letters, such as tuplets, dynamics and time sigs can all affect the overall look of the page.

Metrics: some fonts are bigger than others, requiring more space to layout.

There’s also the desire to give an individual ‘house’ feel to the page – “You’ll know when it’s one of ours”. Text fonts play a part in this, and some text faces ‘match’ some music faces better than others.


Great response benwiggy! Yeah paradoxically I’m a novice font designer on the art side (embedding fonts is ridiculously expensive so we develop our own), and so while I’m very sensitive to differences in text fonts I haven’t seen it in music, which have to be more geared towards clarity over visual appeal.

Having said that I do like the handwritten look on my big band scores, and my musicians appreciate it.

There is one aspect of Finale’s Jazz font that I find particularly evocative.


they look like frog eyes to me

Personally I can’t stand Jazz font. The numbers aren’t very legible at measure # sizes, and the all-caps style has screwed up many rehearsals/performances when wrong chords are played. The two chords below are C major 7 and C minor 7, but often get mixed up when trying to read Jazz font. The Broadway Copyist font is at least legible.


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To me, the Finale Ash font looks the most like true pen and ink copying. That’s probably because it was designed by a copyist, Ashley Wells, some 20 years ago, based on Ash’s hand and in turn another copyist in the educational field, Joe Vavruska. It is a good representation of Ash’s hand with minimal digital tinkering, except to clean up outlines and control points in the actual font outlines. Some symbols are a bit odd, like the treble clef. The alphabetic letters are nice stout block capitals, ala Roemer Art of Music Copying. No lower case, but if you use Roemer’s spelling of chords (MA and MI) there is no need for them.

I agree. Although I know it’s probably unconventional, I’ve always used m7 and maj7.
This goes back to the days when I was creating chord charts in Excel and only had the text characters to play with.
I’ve played sessions where the singer brought a handwritten score which relied on the m/M distinction and confused the whole band!

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That’s my preferred nomenclature too! I think the descender on the j makes it instantly recognizable. The m/M distinction has definitely tripped me up quite a few times when I’ve had to read charts using that nomenclature with Jazz font.

Bear in mind that the installers will also install all the ‘legacy’ Finale fonts, and they will also include JSON files for Text fonts, which aren’t necessary, and will clutter up your Music Fonts selection dialog in Dorico.

Under Windows at least, you can extract individual files/folders from an MSI file if you open it with a file manager like SpeedCommander or an archiver like 7-zip. So you can only extract the OTF files (and the SmuFL JSON files) that you need, and you should be good to go.

@benwiggy so it seems Finale’s Jazz Font doesn’t have half or whole note X-heads. Any suggestions?

Finale’s Jazz Font should have a small diamond for half note duration and a large diamond for whole. Those are what jazz copyists generally use. If you’re talking about those shadow X noteheads, they are a more recent phenomenon developed for digital software. And like most music engraving and copying innovations of the digital age, they look ridiculous to professionals.

Don’t have a dog in this race, but your example is mind blowing. Like, who came up with that?.. When I last wrote it was always “C-7” and “Cmaj7”. Impossible to mix up.

Always by hand though… but still

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Here, have a look for yourself:

Pigstep_Jazz_Arrangement.dorico (2.6 MB)

In Dorico 4, you can now add Substitutes to Font Styles, for other fonts to ‘fall back’ on for missing characters. There are several different Jazz-style fonts in the Finale bundle - Ash, Broadway, Jazz. And you could always use Petaluma for anything else.

[makes note to self to check diamonds and X-noteheads in Golden Age…]

Would someone be able to add these substitutes for me? I can’t afford Dorico 4 right now and the demo isnt available yet…

If you add X-heads and diamonds for Golden Age I may use it (if it’s allowed) for this project… :wink: