How do YOU compose?

Posted by: JoelW

How do YOU compose? - 01/25/13 05:19 AM

I have two methods:

1) Get on MuseScore and try to get creative...

OR

2) Sit at the piano and try to get creative...

I find the latter works best but I've managed to do some neat stuff with former. I also always work from the start and continue onwards; I can't piece things together. Sometimes I get stuck on a phrase and can't think of a proceeding line for many days. (drives me nuts)

Posted by: Sandra M

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/25/13 09:48 AM

Thank you for your post. From the 60's they just come to me the new compositions. All at one time. It is similar to a recording. I write what comes to me on manuscript paper. My brother sold some of his music to TV and has much music theory background though. I asked him and he told me his compositions come to him all at once too. I find when I have a very emotional event the music flows to me easily. After I write what comes to me I then edit. Sandy M
Posted by: GregSTB

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/25/13 11:51 AM

Hey Joel.

Also be sure to spend time away from the piano after composing at the piano. This is when new ideas often come and it's very effective to discover how u want your piece to feel like. Creating a vision for it if u will. I hear this tip all the time from great composers in interviews or texts. Seems to be very important.
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/25/13 05:45 PM

1) Sit at the keyboard and explore. If and when I find something of interest to my ear I embellish that. When I get something worth keeping, I'll record. I'll work on it again the next day and the next. Sometimes I'll dump a project if it feels like it isn't going anywhere. Sometimes I will keep working on something for many weeks.

2) Work from lyrics. They might be own lyrics or someone else's. I will try and figure out a key that fits the mood then work from there.

3) Work from a title. Sometimes I have an idea for a title, sometimes something I see or hear brings a title or idea to me. This might involve lyrics, but might be an instrumental.

4) Sometimes music just comes to me, in the form of a melody line. In which case, I might sing it into a recording device and then try and work something out with the instrument in terms of recreating the melody and finding some harmony.

I don't work with sheet music or software when writing music. I might write stuff down in ABC notation, but usually that is a quick sketch of a phrase, or after I am done and I want to have something for the archives.
Posted by: currawong

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/25/13 08:11 PM

Generally speaking I compose in my head and write it down on paper. I may refine details at the piano, but I don't often compose at the piano. I also don't compose at the computer.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/26/13 01:23 PM

I'll come up with a melodic idea, then try to make it better, usually succeed, then try to figure out what comes next until I can't think of something to come next at which point the piece is over. Of course, that's a greatly simplified version of what actually happens, but it made me laugh.
Posted by: PianoSongDownload

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/28/13 09:03 AM

I sit at the digital keyboard and stare out the window. There's something about looking out the window which gets my brain out of analytical mode and into creative mode. When I come up with something that sounds promising I begin recording. If I don't record then chances are it will be lost forever. Once I have the main idea done I play around with it until it's mostly complete and then hand write it out and make changes as I go. When I'm happy with it I enter the notes into MusicTime Deluxe.
Posted by: Chris Goslow

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/28/13 11:58 AM

Good question, Joel:

As for me, I have always been an improviser, and the music just flows to my fingertips and is available when I play. The melodies are in my head and I just play them at the piano spontaneously. It's very nice to be able to do this, yet I don't necessarily consider this composition. It's improvisation. To me, composition means to take that raw material and capturing it, often refining it in someway, to create a set piece or "finished" work.

Although often ideas just come to me in this way, sometimes those ideas have been more of a strong inspiration, something that seemed to NEED to be captured. But I am learning not to wait for that. This month I made myself compose a 5 minute piece, and I didn't wait for inspiration, I simply turned on Finale and began notating. The result was enjoyable, and I plan to make myself write more in that way. It's a good way to convert my raw ideas into finished music.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/28/13 12:10 PM

Depends on why I'm composing and for whom:

1. Computer games. I'll usually plug in Cubase, and start improvising on my midi keyboard, or start with a few loops, load a template, etc... The final product is the recording, so...

2. Piano music. Either work on manuscript (most of the times), or if I'm in a great mood, I might improvise, on beat (click track) in Cubase and make the score then... The final product is the score, and the recording.

3. Orchestral, more complicated music. Here drafts get in the way, lots of them, self made computer software (in GWBasic... mentioned it once quite a few years ago, but I still use GWBasic, in DOS mode... :D), and manuscript + pencil all the way. Constantly. The recording is useless in most cases, and if not, Finale will do the job fine, so the score is of utmost importance, and as such I prefer to be copying from manuscript rather than composing on Finale straight away.

In fact I hate composing in Finale straight away and I've never done it before.

(Finale = Sibelius in my case. I treat both equally and use both equally)...
Posted by: LoPresti

How do YOU compose? - 01/28/13 11:38 PM

Well, there is WHERE one is composing, HOW s/he goes about it, and WHAT is composed. Folks seem to be answering all three so far.

When I was doing a lot of writing, the biggest single influence on WHAT got written, and HOW I went about it, was the target MEDIUM, or ENSEMBLE. I never just "wrote" -- I always wrote for a particular instrumentation, or in a couple of instances, a particular soloist.

In a very real way, the medium for which I was writing limited what could be composed, but it also served to inform the work, and give it scope and range. One works in a completely different way to make a sonata for soprano and piano interesting, beautiful, and compelling; as opposed to how one constructs an overture for wind ensemble, to get the contrasts, and colors, and that staggering wall of sound!

In short, I always pictured the group (specific or generic) for which I was writing, and I heard its sound, as full and as clear as I could. Like most composers, I started with a few themes or motives that seemed appropriate TO THE GROUP. As the music began to unfold, I continually asked myself where IT wanted to go, and what IT wanted to do next. The on-going challenge was capturing on paper ITs answers to these questions. Most of the time, I could not fully keep up. This is precisely why it is so very important to have a rich variety of paints on your palate, and a ton of skill in your wrist. It was always a welcome relief when a fairly simple compositional technique - maybe partial recapitulation, for instance - was what was needed at a certain point. I wrote until IT told me it was done.

For me, that was the way it worked.
Ed
Posted by: Chris Goslow

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/29/13 12:57 PM

Originally Posted By: JoelW
I have two methods:

1) Get on MuseScore and try to get creative...

OR

2) Sit at the piano and try to get creative...

I find the latter works best but I've managed to do some neat stuff with former. I also always work from the start and continue onwards; I can't piece things together. Sometimes I get stuck on a phrase and can't think of a proceeding line for many days. (drives me nuts)



Hey Joel:

To me, composing is not so much about how I do it as it is the act of organizing my music ideas in some sort of coherent and consistent way to create a finished result. I might use staff paper to write on, sit at the computer plugging in notes, or work them out at the piano or keyboard and record myself as I go. Regardless of how it's done, I think the key is that it get done. There's no one right way to do it, just as for a playwright there's no one way to write a play or a painter one right way to paint.

Great question that you posed, thanks again for posting.
Posted by: Ted

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/29/13 11:37 PM

The creative process always takes place at the piano. Writing out can take place anywhere. Sometimes I didn't write things out for months and these days I don't bother writing anything out at all.
Posted by: Sandra M

Re: How do YOU compose? - 01/31/13 09:52 PM

Hello and I missed reading your post the last few days I had a project to complete. Wondering if any of you have tried the visual story method to compose piano music? I read about this method once. The gentleman told us he sits alone quietly then imagines what he longs for. He hums after he becomes comfortable with the visuals he makes up and a melody comes to him. I tried this and only when I began to hum as he stated did a melody began to take shape. Enjoyed reading your new posts. Sandy M
Posted by: Derulux

Re: How do YOU compose? - 02/12/13 11:35 PM

Very poorly, and with many revisions. Often, with unfinished results.

I can't afford a computer program to score for me, so I typically use pen/pencil and paper when I write things down. Some thing I keep in my head until I forget them. I've lost more than one decent idea that way.

I remember writing a series of ten preludes. I got a trial version of Finale to write them in and have saved copies. Then, my computer crashed. I lost all but the original three I hand-wrote (#4, 6, and 8). My favorite was #5. Since then, if I think of something I really like, I make a hand-written copy.
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: How do YOU compose? - 02/13/13 12:05 AM

Originally Posted By: Derulux

I can't afford a computer program to score for me ...


I recently downloaded MuseScore. It is free, and will be more than enough for most folks.

Oh, and next time back up your data. Having a free composition program won't help if the computer crashes again. Email the data files or PDFs to yourself or upload them to free cloud storage. For handwritten paper copies, taking digital photos is cheap and quick, though not a perfect backup.

Posted by: Derulux

Re: How do YOU compose? - 02/13/13 01:05 AM

Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
Originally Posted By: Derulux

I can't afford a computer program to score for me ...


I recently downloaded MuseScore. It is free, and will be more than enough for most folks.

Oh, and next time back up your data. Having a free composition program won't help if the computer crashes again. Email the data files or PDFs to yourself or upload them to free cloud storage. For handwritten paper copies, taking digital photos is cheap and quick, though not a perfect backup.


I'll give it a shot.. at a first glance, it looks much more difficult to use than Finale, but at second glance, it is also much cheaper. wink

Regarding backup: yes, learned that one well. When the computer went, I lost in one shot over 500,000 words of written text, 20 compositions (including two piano concertos--they were horrible, but I still wrote them), and 50 recordings of me on piano (the solo stuff I can re-record if I ever feel like it, but for the Rach 2, I'm just a few players short of an orchestra).
Posted by: EO3

Re: How do YOU compose? - 02/16/13 10:18 AM

Basically I sit at the piano and play. That's how I do it. I agree that inspiration is a great source, that sort of thing can get you out of bed in the night just to compose something.
However, at the moment I'm at the point when I have composed many pieces and I understand that I have material for an album. So, I'm in an editing, "putting it all together", deciding between what's best to include and so in the past few months I haven't really composed anything new. Because, if I would, I think it would get to the point of overwhelming stuff to figure out.