Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pianoteq
Latest Pianoteq add-on instrument: U4 upright piano
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
PianoSupplies.com (150)
Piano Accessories Music Related Gifts Piano Tuning Equipment Piano Moving Equipment
We now offer Gift Certificates in our online store!
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Piano
Quick Links to Useful Stuff
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano Accessories
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
Topic Options
#2072128 - 04/27/13 01:39 PM Composing at the piano
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Hi,

I have a question that might seem rather strange to those of you who have never improvised, or thought about 'writing' their own music at (or away from) the piano. But I know that there are many of you here who have improvisation and/or composition through playing the piano as an explicit goal, so ...

I have all of this music in my head that I can't play. I have to write it down first, and then hopefully learn to play it the same way I'd learn to play a piece written by any other composer (well, except that I have sort of a head start with mine, because I know what it's supposed to sound like without having to 'decipher' the score). But even so, much of the music in my head is way too complex for a n00b like me to play well.

Does anybody else have this problem? How do you (or did you) get around it? It's frustrating!
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmüller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
Chopin 72/1
Clementi 36/1
Grieg 12/1, 7
Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
Burgmüller 109
Bartok Sz 56
Mozart K331

Top
(ads P/S)

Petrof Pianos

#2072216 - 04/27/13 03:43 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 1975
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I take it for granted that you don't even know how to write it down?

You need to learn piano, well. I found a teacher who is a retired band director from the school district. She has always taught piano. Also string instruments such as violin. Theory is a major part of my lessons. A problem such as your's does not exist with me. I'm doing something about it.
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

Top
#2072235 - 04/27/13 04:03 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
For the most part, I do know how to write it down. I use MuseScore to check that what I'm writing down matches the sound of what's in my head. I can also mostly play the different themes and voices I hear, as long as I don't try to do two melody lines, or two hands, at once.

What's frustrating to me is mostly the fact that my improvisations and 'compositions' at the piano are so much more basic than what I'd like to actually play. But then again, I suppose we all have that problem to some extent, in that few people here can actually play anything of the complexity they strive to be able to play.
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmüller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
Chopin 72/1
Clementi 36/1
Grieg 12/1, 7
Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
Burgmüller 109
Bartok Sz 56
Mozart K331

Top
#2072247 - 04/27/13 04:10 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7467
Loc: New York City
Improvising improves gradually over time with experience. Piano technique is required, yes, but experience is absolutely vital.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

Top
#2072286 - 04/27/13 05:02 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 621
Loc: Leicester, UK
Saronoya,

What you describe - hearing music you can't quite write down easily or music that requires practice before you can play it - those aren't problems. Rather, it's an indication other skills you might want to develop.

For example, counterpoint is a helpful discipline for composers - it's about writing & hearing two or more independent lines at the same time. Sight singing is another way to develop your ear, as in the phrase "if you can't sing it you can't hear it." That mantra may be overstated. Regardless, IF you CAN sing it, you DO hear it! The study of 4-part harmony is helpful too.

This is all standard stuff - counterpoint, sight singing, harmony - in the first few years of undergraduate classical music studies. That these studies are spread out over a few years is itself a comment on how long it takes to absorb this stuff.

HOWEVER, I'm not saying you need classes (or intensive studies) in counterpoint, harmony, or sight singing or that these are the only ways to develop your ears. There are advantages to self-study, to private study w/a teacher, or to taking these things in classes. It just depends on you and your interests.

So, again, what you're describing isn't a problem. It's instead a description of the skills that might help you if you were to work towards acquiring them.

Hope this helps!

Top
#2072305 - 04/27/13 05:29 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4217
Loc: Arizona.
saranova, Polyphonist ir right. Experience IS vital.

Let me tell you how I go about doing it.

First off, I must say that your description of having all these musical thoughts in your mind seems to be the same as what goes through my mind.

I am constantly, ('constantly' means all day long, sometimes all night too) playing new unique melodies and tunes in my head. I can't turn it off actually and sometimes I wish I could.

Anyway, we share the same problem in that there is a whole symphony going on in our head but nobody capable of expressing these sounds on the piano or anything else for that matter. This used to frustrate to heck out of me. But I think I've found a solution.

The 'solution' is based on the same way you would build a house. I'll explain.

When you build a home, you need a basic foundation and structure. This would be the footings/foundation and the framing.

With music, you also need the basic foundation/structure of the tune. This would be the simple, most basic melody (usually in the right hand) along with a corresponding tempo keeper (usually the left hand).

To start, come up with a very basic right hand melody that represents the tune in your head. Learn and solidify that simple melody until you can repeat it without too many mistakes.

Next, (once you have the right hand basic melody down), simply add a left hand arpeggio that corresponds musically (and in theory) to the right hand melody. I'm talking just a basic tempo keeper.

Once you can play your basic right hand melody along with the basic corresponding left hand arpeggios, you have now completed the basic structure of your tune just like the basic structure of a house has been constructed.

After that, you literally just finish the house (or your tune) however you want to by making certain rooms (or musical sections) however you want them to look (or sound).

ADVICE: Keep playing this newly created piece over and over and over. Why?, because sooner than later you will start becoming bored with the basic version of this piece and your mind will literally find and try new little sections of improvising it here and there. It is also extremely important when improvising to do everything possible to always play the piece just a little bit differently every time you play it. This will allow you to discover new ways to play certain passages that you were unaware of before.

NOTE: I can honestly say that many of the cool sounding sections of music I have played were literally discovered by making a mistake that I just elaborated. How's that for dumb luck?

Anyway, that's it. No special secrets at all. Just start with a basic one finger melody and slowly build upon it over time. Even though it may take a few days to possibly a week or two (depending on your efforts), if you keep at it, you will eventually end up with a finished product that you can be proud of.

It is totally doable and you are totally capable of doing it. I look forward to hearing what you come up with.

Final thought: Always remember that it is not actually the tune you are playing that makes it sound so nice but rather how you are playing it.

I can give my wife a robotic-mechanical type of massage to relive her sore muscles, or I can give her a passionate, sensual massage with energy oozing out of my fingertips that will make her neck hairs stand on end.

It's all in how you 'perform' it. Not just play it.

Top
#2072334 - 04/27/13 06:20 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3437
Loc: Northern England.
Seems to me that if you have music in your head, you should hum/sing it and record. Then play back on the piano the single note. Expand slowly into the left hand . . take it from there.

I tend to just play a couple of chords and let things develop from there. Everybody`s different.

Have fun . . .
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes — but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

Top
#2072369 - 04/27/13 07:21 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 1975
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I apologize, Saranoya. Looking back. My answer appears rude to me. I didn't mean to be.

I do think from reading your second post. Your only problem is playing better. You're not making happen on the keyboard what is going through your mind.

Yet, it comes down to playing better.
A guy once said:
If you want to compose music.
You need to learn an instrument.
Learn it well.
Then...play the heck out of it.
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

Top
#2072433 - 04/27/13 09:15 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Sand Tiger Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 990
Loc: Southern California
I never had that kind of experience. Mostly I get simple melody lines in my head. Once in a while, songs with lyrics. Never stuff like counterpoint, or three part harmonies. Maybe that will change, now that I am learning more about those concepts.

It does seem strange given what the original poster has told us in other posts. That he/she can transcribe melody and harmony by listening to a recording. That he/she rates their sight reading as poor. It appears there is a missing link, to be able to play what a person hears, and that may be a good skill to learn.

For composers, there are a lot of different methods. If this round about way is working, go with it. Learning the ability to play what is heard may be a big time saver. Hum or sing into a recording device as much as possible and then recreate it. That's what many others do, skipping the transcription step. Some still want to transcribe so as to archive and share the music, but it isn't as time efficient when a person is brainstorming.

There are times when I am on the piano and I want to do something, and I don't have enough capability as a beginner pianist.
_________________________
my piano uploads

Top
#2072580 - 04/28/13 01:27 AM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: printer1
For example, counterpoint is a helpful discipline for composers - it's about writing & hearing two or more independent lines at the same time. [...] The study of four-part harmony is helpful too.


Strangely, I am usually quite capable of hearing, and singing, two or more independent lines, whether that be in music I heard somewhere in the outside world, or in a piece I'm learning to play, or in something that's only in my head. I'm not saying I can do this after one listen (although, with music that is harmonically and melodically very simple, I might). But when it's original music that I write down and then struggle to learn to play on the piano (or, lately, play back in MuseScore), it does seem to sound well, most of the time. I have no theoretical background in either counterpoint or four-part harmony, though, so I don't know whether I'm really following all the rules. Which means you're right: it may be a good idea to take up the study of those. Will definitely look into that!

Originally Posted By: printer1
Sight singing is another way to develop your ear, as in the phrase "if you can't sing it you can't hear it." That mantra may be overstated. Regardless, IF you CAN sing it, you DO hear it!


Yes, I do hear it. I do sight singing and melodic dictation on a regular basis in my music theory class, and I seem to find both of those easier, on the whole, than do most of the other students in my class. I also routinely have the pieces my teacher assigns me memorized (as in, I can sing the different parts in isolation of each other) *before* I can actually play them on the piano. Which does nothing good for my sight-reading abilities, because once the music is in my head, I don't really need the score anymore. And since I don't have perfect pitch, I tend to remember the melodies, but not the notes. Meaning: ask me to sing it and I will, and all of the pitches will come out right relative to each other. But I will have no idea what note I started on, or which key I'm singing in, and whether or not that's the 'right' key relative to the music I'm trying to replicate.

Originally Posted By: Mr. Super-Hunky
Just start with a basic one finger melody and slowly build upon it over time.


Thank you, Mr. S-H! That was a very helpful post. It seems you and I do have exactly the same problem smile. I'm happy to know that you found a way around it! That means I can, too wink.

Originally Posted By: peterws
I tend to just play a couple of chords and let things develop from there.


Yes, that's about what I do now, when improvising. But anything I can improvise this way doesn't come close to what I would actually like to play. It is so much more basic than what's going on in my head that it's actually a rather frustrating pursuit, to me.

Originally Posted By: rnaple
I apologize, Saranoya. Looking back. My answer appears rude to me. I didn't mean to be.


I didn't read it as rude at all, so no worries smile.

Originally Posted By: rnaple
I do think from reading your second post. Your only problem is playing better. You're not making happen on the keyboard what is going through your mind.


Well, yes! That's it exactly! So my question, I guess, actually boils down to this: how do I become good enough to be able to instantly play anything I can hear? I am now taking lessons with a classically-trained teacher who doesn't mind me playing from memory, but who also insists that I stay as true as possible to the score, both in terms of actual musical content (notes, rhythm, ...), and in terms of dynamics. I feel that while I might learn to play other people's music really well this way, it doesn't actually help me that much in terms of playing my own. Part of me wonders: how long will I have to copy others before I'm able to just sit down at the piano, and create something new of comparable complexity?

Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
It appears there is a missing link, to be able to play what a person hears, and that may be a good skill to learn.


Yes, that's it exactly! The missing link is that I need to learn to *play* what I hear, instead of just singing it. Now, can you also tell me how to do that? wink
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmüller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
Chopin 72/1
Clementi 36/1
Grieg 12/1, 7
Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
Burgmüller 109
Bartok Sz 56
Mozart K331

Top
#2072726 - 04/28/13 10:03 AM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Sand Tiger Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 990
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: Saranoya


Originally Posted By: rnaple
I do think from reading your second post. Your only problem is playing better. You're not making happen on the keyboard what is going through your mind.


Well, yes! That's it exactly! So my question, I guess, actually boils down to this: how do I become good enough to be able to instantly play anything I can hear? I am now taking lessons with a classically-trained teacher who doesn't mind me playing from memory, but who also insists that I stay as true as possible to the score, both in terms of actual musical content (notes, rhythm, ...), and in terms of dynamics. I feel that while I might learn to play other people's music really well this way, it doesn't actually help me that much in terms of playing my own. Part of me wonders: how long will I have to copy others before I'm able to just sit down at the piano, and create something new of comparable complexity?

Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
It appears there is a missing link, to be able to play what a person hears, and that may be a good skill to learn.


Yes, that's it exactly! The missing link is that I need to learn to *play* what I hear, instead of just singing it. Now, can you also tell me how to do that? wink


Instantly play what you hear? Typically it is savants that can do instant. The rest have to work it out, and training will help. You are already quite advanced for your level, in being able to transcribe what you hear. With all of that, practice will build the skill.

Instead of transcribing from a recording, try playing from a quick listen. Or next time you have a tune in your head, record your singing and work on the piano from the recording. Beginners start with simple melodies, you probably can do much more than that already. Another exercise, if nothing is in your head that day, is to sound out well known folk or pop tunes from memory, feeling them out on the piano, skipping the intermediate step of transcribing.

You can also train your ear as far as pitches and intervals. With enough experience, you will get very close to identifying notes if you can sing them. If a person's singing is spot on, a tuner (software or device) can help identify the pitch. Musescore or the piano can also be used, but that would be more trial and error as you try to match the note to the pitch you are singing. Once you have the first note, if you have a sense of relative pitch (higher or lower), you are on well on your way to playing what you can hear, or sing.

Again, it tends to be savants that can do instant. For a beginner to do at all, to even sound it out slowly, is an impressive achievement. Even with all the advanced intermediate players on the forum, the last survey had about 27% saying they play by ear. Some of them might be like me, at a basic beginner level for playing by ear. Like so many skills, spending a small amount of time each day will build it up.

None of this will help with your sight reading, might actually make it weaker, as you build more on ear training, so sight reading may be a separate skill to be spending time on.
_________________________
my piano uploads

Top
#2076825 - 05/03/13 07:50 PM Re: Composing at the piano [Re: Saranoya]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Hmmm, you could ask this guy how he does it (let me know if you get a satisfactory answer lol):



In my opinion, as someone whose quite possibly been spending more time learning music theory and studying pedagogy (out of curiosity and interest more than thinking I'll use it to just up-and-start teaching piano) than playing in the year-and-a-half that I've been learning, music theory is important, but really only necessary up to the point of being able to define the sounds you're hearing and/or desire to achieve - the reason being to make your goal less hazy and thus accelerate your progress towards it (plus, as adults, many of us are curious how and why things work and work best only when we know). Therefore, while learning theory is valuable to us wanting to improvise, it's not only not necessary, but still only amounts to maybe about a 10% reduction of the thousands of hours of practice required to make our physical instrument a secondary voice. If you don't want to take it from me, take it from the two very skilled educators/improvisers who told me this.


I don't believe that classical studies will directly aid you in this goal of being able to play what you hear in your head (making the piano a "second voice"), but learning classical will undoubtedly further your technique and, should you study what you play along the way (knowing theory helps here), your musical "vocabulary" will skyrocket. I'd suggest classical studies be balanced with a regimen of some playing by ear, some theory and ear-training, and a lot of improvisation (my teacher suggests as much as 30% of one's time be devoted to improvising at the piano whatever and wherever the music leads you). Unfortunately, few teachers are equipped for this.

Top

Moderator:  BB Player, casinitaly 
What's Hot!!
> Robin Spielberg Playing in Maine! <
-------------------
75,000 Members and Growing!
-------------------
HOW TO POST PICTURES on the Piano Forums
-------------------
Sharing is Caring!
About the Buttons
-------------------
Forums Rules & Help
-------------------
ADVERTISE
on Piano World

The world's most popular piano web site.
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Seiler Pianos
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
Sheet Music
(PW is an affiliate)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
Who's Online
146 registered (accordeur, A Guy, 36251, 35 invisible), 1729 Guests and 15 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
75483 Members
42 Forums
156067 Topics
2291853 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Kristian Bezuidenhout on Mozart and his piano music
by bennevis
Today at 05:05 PM
Hard Starting Intermediate
by frankeric
Today at 04:48 PM
And what about this one?
by leel
Today at 04:23 PM
No music rest for Roland stage pianos?
by Delphian2001
Today at 04:20 PM
Where is the new blood?
by Markarian
Today at 03:53 PM
(ads by Google)

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission