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#1948918 - 08/25/12 11:04 AM How to get out of a rut!
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3113
Loc: Northern England.
This is a question, guys! Because everytime I sit at the piano and play, the same stuff comes out. I heard some very nice stuff at a pilates class; soooo simple. Yet I couldn`t remember it or emulate the fashion in which it was played! Anybody else have this problem?
Seems like I`m doomed to play other people`s stuff for life! Which isn`t so bad. I can always hack it about a bit . . . . .
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#1948971 - 08/25/12 12:51 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 549
Loc: Southern Oregon
My guess you need to think more while you're playing. It sounds like your playing (improvising?) is like a reflex and too automatic. If you really need ideas, listen to something totally different than what you are used to. Try Scriabin, Sorabji, Satie (if you don't know any of these guys) and try it long enough to start appreciating it. Some of it might rub off. In your case, I think Satie might appeal.

Otherwise listen to what you're creating and do the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do for a while. You should find it a little frustrating at first, but it should open some doors for you.
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#1949054 - 08/25/12 04:50 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Sand Tiger Online   content
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Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 907
Loc: Southern California
Is the original poster a beginner? If so, some knowledge of basic music theory will help. Writing music in different keys will often lead to different kinds of pieces. Writing music to lyrics, will often lead to new places as well. Listening has some value too.

Inspiration is everywhere, if a person is open to it. Perspiration (effort and time) is what usually leads to results.
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#1949070 - 08/25/12 05:23 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: ScottM]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3113
Loc: Northern England.
Interesting what you say. I like Satie, used to play the Gymnopidies at funerals. But I`m talking about just - sitting down and letting my mood take me ha ha . . . maybe I need to get angry or something! Seriously, I do need to listen more and tackle this in a structured way. How on earth did Lennon/McCartney come up with such variety? Maybe they studied and listened.
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"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#1949146 - 08/25/12 10:11 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Sand Tiger Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 907
Loc: Southern California
I don't know how accurate this is but
http://www.brianhartzog.com/beatles/beatles-songwriting.htm

has interesting bits about Lennon and McCartney.

A good songwriter can write away from his/her own moods. Try writing to a title. Could be a news event (Olympics, hurricane), a person (mom, dad), something you saw today (hummingbird) any title. Some of the songwriting forums such as 50/90 and MusesMuse will have a plethora of ideas as to titles, or themes. Ideas are not hard to come by. Taking them and bringing them to music and then connecting to listeners is where the songwriter or composer comes in.

For the vast majority, time and effort have a strong correlation to results. Yes, some geniuses such as Lennon and McCartney will do more in a short time, than an average person can hope to do with a lifetime of dedication. However, the average person can do quite a bit, if they are willing to spend time on the task.

A beginner pianist that waits for inspiration to practice will tend to lag far behind the person that commits to practice time every day. It isn't all that different with composition or songwriting. The beginner that works at it every day will tend to make much more progress than the one that waits for the magic to come to them. Some books on the subject will lead a beginner through a series of music writing exercises, so the beginner gets used to writing and creating. At some point, there may be burn out, but most beginners are not any where near that point.
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#1949311 - 08/26/12 10:56 AM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2625
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: peterws
But I`m talking about just - sitting down and letting my mood take me ha ha . . .

Maybe your problem is your process. Instead of playing, why not dictate? Write down what you hear and then try to make that happen at the piano.

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#1949407 - 08/26/12 03:08 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Nikolas Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 4982
Loc: Europe
When I teach my students I try to let them know a couple of things that I proceed to call them 'facts' (not so much because they are actually facts, but because it helps the process of learning with me... heh...)

1. When you improvise and you have been used at playing music of others, your hands are quicker than your mind, or your ears, or anything, so they move without you being able to control them. Yes, several people can claim otherwise, but in all honesty it IS difficult to do, especially if you're not used.

2. Any source of inspiration (including playing on the piano, and improvising) is not nearly enough to do much more than create a couple of '8 bars'. After that it's all hard work, dedication, experience, luck, etc... While there are references to claim otherwise, I simply don't buy into the idea that someone (unless your first name is Wolfgang) can sit and come up with a symphony in a matter of minutes!
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#1949673 - 08/27/12 06:57 AM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
peterws Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3113
Loc: Northern England.
"time and effort have a strong correlation to results."

I was afraid someone was going to say that . . . .Going with the flow of yer mind or your fingers isn`t too productive if you want to break out of a mindset. I guess that`s my trouble; I `ll try writing some simple phrases and playing round `em!

But honestly, you hear some wonderful simple tunes and you think "Why didn`t I think of that??" . . . .Guess that`s the beauty of music, everyone`s different.
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"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#1949793 - 08/27/12 12:46 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2625
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: peterws

But honestly, you hear some wonderful simple tunes and you think "Why didn`t I think of that??" . . . .Guess that`s the beauty of music, everyone`s different.

Beethoven filled sketchbooks with versions of his melodies trying to extract the greatest effectiveness from his simple melodies. Some people have a knack for composing great melodies from nothing, the rest of us have to craft them. It takes practice and experience.

I tend to write melodies with very even rhythm, then I have to consciously find the moment of highest tension and usually lengthen the rhythm there and add perhaps a few dotted rhythms to propel the motion. Some melodies work better with uneven rhythm or perhaps something else. The point is that the best composers are seldom satisfied with the first idea that pops into their head. You have to be your own worst critic. Melodic ideas are easy and cheap, but the best of them usually require a lot of work to make them the best.

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#1949825 - 08/27/12 01:15 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
Nikolas Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 4982
Loc: Europe
hmmm...

I don't work with melodies most of the time. And my rhythms tend to be very... uniform most of the times. But I put a lot of focus in harmony and structure!

Just sayin' here...
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#1950079 - 08/27/12 10:33 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: peterws
This is a question, guys! Because everytime I sit at the piano and play, the same stuff comes out. . .

To me, there is a BIG difference between just sitting at the piano and playing, and composing music.

The first implies a casual, almost leisurely approach, where things just sort of happen, and could easily fall into old familiar patterns, and probably do lead to the self-same places.

Composing, on the other hand, is mostly intentional, and much more sturctured if one is to produce anything of worth. The folks here are giving you advice on Composing.

Ed
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#1950398 - 08/28/12 01:11 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: Nikolas]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2625
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
hmmm...

I don't work with melodies most of the time. And my rhythms tend to be very... uniform most of the times. But I put a lot of focus in harmony and structure!

Just sayin' here...

Nikolas, no problem. The OP in his response mentioned great tunes and I wanted to make the point that great tunes (melodies) often require significant work to bring them to their best. While there are great melodies with regular rhythms (Ode to Joy is mostly regular, except where it's not) most rhythms benefit from rhythmic variation in strategic spots. My intention was to make the point that composers usually work their material to get it to do what they want.

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#1950576 - 08/28/12 08:17 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 549
Loc: Southern Oregon
Well, I wonder if Borodin worked at his melodies to make them better? I would bet he might have some, but not much, and certainly not like Beethoven! I'm curious, though.

Most of my best melodies had little or no work done to them and were more-or-less sudden inspirations. Unfortunately, the best ones are the hardest for me to bring into a piece of "worked music" because of the singing quality of them in my head and the vagueness of the accompanying harmonic background. That's why they are still mostly in my head even after 20 years in some cases. I'm sure if I were a Mozart they'd all be out by now (successfully).


Edited by ScottM (08/28/12 08:18 PM)
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#1950580 - 08/28/12 08:35 PM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: ScottM]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: ScottM
Well, I wonder if Borodin worked at his melodies to make them better? I would bet he might have some, but not much, and certainly not like Beethoven!

Melody just flowed out of everyone during the 1800s, but those Russians seemed to be blessed with it! Of course, their super-rich orchestrations did not hurt either.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1957765 - 09/12/12 09:01 AM Re: How to get out of a rut! [Re: peterws]
beeboss Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1171
Loc: uk south
To get out of a rut I always try approaching composition in a different way. Whatever it is you normally do just try something different. There are so many ways to compose that there is never any shortage of things to try.
Try writing the melody first and then harmonising it or try starting with the chords, or the rhythm or a textural idea, or a unusual collection of pitches or an unusual chord or a line of a poem or a picture or a feeling or an instrumentation. You can start with any idea at all, and they can all lead on to other ideas so even if the original idea isn't that good fairly soon there will be loads of other stuff to choose from.
If you compose by improvising you don't need to stop doing that but you could start improvising from a certain considered place rather than just randomly letting your hands and mind wander. You could try limiting your improvisation to just a few melodic pitches or a certain scale or range of notes etc. Maybe you are finding that you have too many choices but if you limit the possibilities (ie improvise within a set of rules) it can be easier to find something different to play.
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