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Thread: Techniques for transposing music from your mind to a piece of paper

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    Senior Member humanbean's Avatar
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    Default Techniques for transposing music from your mind to a piece of paper

    I've been a long-time lurker of these forums and am trying to get into composing music. I have a question that many of you may have an answer for: what techniques/methods do you use to compose music created in your head? I have these great orchestral and choral compositions playing in my head all day, however I have trouble when it comes to writing them down. Typically the compositions come so fast that they go away before I can get to the keyboard and transpose them to paper. I do not have the ability of absolute pitch, at least when it comes to hearing a note and knowing exactly what the name of it is, but I am good at interpreting a specific note/melody to a keyboard from listening to a piece of music.

    What methods do you recommend to harness the ability of writing down music I hear in my head?

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    IF you dont have perfect pitch (I dont blame you), then figuring out the notes on an instrument is the best thing. If you forget the music before you get to an instrument, then buy a simple recording device and sing into it. Then when you get to an instrument, figure it out from your recording and onto paper.
    Also maybe take notes on other aspects of the sounds you hear. For example, instrumentation, the mood, dynamics and phrasing. Things you may not be able to reproduce accurately with your voice.
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    Senior Member MJTTOMB's Avatar
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    Your voice is by far the best and most reliable tool you have. Get a nice pocket tape recorder, and when an idea comes to you, rush to the bathroom or some private place where you can quickly record yourself singing the most fundamental parts. From then you can transcribe the recorded parts and fill in the other parts when you have the time available to you.

    Of course, music theory helps immensely, as does ear-training. Developing reliable relative pitch takes a long time and a lot of diligent work but it is completely possible.

    Best wishes!

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    A couple of times I had no recording device available so I called my answering machine and sang into that! Good thing I live alone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by humanbean View Post
    I've been a long-time lurker of these forums and am trying to get into composing music. I have a question that many of you may have an answer for: what techniques/methods do you use to compose music created in your head? I have these great orchestral and choral compositions playing in my head all day, however I have trouble when it comes to writing them down. Typically the compositions come so fast that they go away before I can get to the keyboard and transpose them to paper. I do not have the ability of absolute pitch, at least when it comes to hearing a note and knowing exactly what the name of it is, but I am good at interpreting a specific note/melody to a keyboard from listening to a piece of music.

    What methods do you recommend to harness the ability of writing down music I hear in my head?

    It may be worth your while to keep in mind and prepare yourself for the possibility that the "music created in your head," when played either electronically or by live players, will not necessarily sound the way you imagine it. It might or it might not. I read that many composers are taken by surprise when they hear their music performed differently from their conception of it.

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    Senior Member humanbean's Avatar
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    Thank you for the suggestions everyone. Recording my ideas by humming into a device definitely makes this a much easier process.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    A couple of times I had no recording device available so I called my answering machine and sang into that! Good thing I live alone.
    Remember that most cell phones have a "record voice" feature. It extremely useful for something like this. The only time that wouldn't help should be while you're in the shower.

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