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Joined: Jun 2005
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I improvise on the piano. I'll just sit down and tinker until I like what I hear. If I really like something, I'll jot the general idea down. Then I go back to my room (because I don't have a piano there) and tinker with it (usually in a 'free' shareware version of Finale). Then I save screenshots of the sheet music (because the shareware version doesn't let you save Finale work). And then I re-size them and print them. wink

Sometimes I sit down and just start writing in Finale, but the program lets you hear what you're writing anyway, so it's not as bad as having to hear every note in your head. There are very few things I've written without hearing them at all, and only one of them resembled anything close to a decent melody.

I'm working on playing a Fantasy I wrote using Finale, but it's very difficult. Normally, I can improvise-play what I write, but lately I've been working with more and more difficult pieces, and this one is one of the front-runners. It's not musically challenging at all, but it is difficult to get your hands going at speed. wink


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
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Most of my compositions are emotions set to music. Some of the titles, "First Love", "After You Left", "Showers of Love", "Prelude to Sorrow".

Lacking either positive inspiration or a need to release negative feelings, I find myself unable to really compose anything. I still come up with various short themes that I keep in the back of my head and when the inspiration is there (one way or the other) I pick the theme that fits the emotions. Once started, things begin to really flow, probably because of the need to release the emotions.


Rickb

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personally I compose strictly away from any aid such as piano or computer program etc with a pencil and paper. This is the way all the masters (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) not only composed but also taught their students to compose. The reason I do it deliberately is to train my mind to think freely in musical thoughts without having to have any point of reference. I usually will write a page or two, or if the music is very difficult and contrapuntal sometimes only a few bars and then will check them out on the piano or plug them into a notation software just to make sure the voice leading is right and all. If you do this often and practice you really won't need a piano or software anymore because your relative pitch and solfegge skills will be pretty good like mine are finally starting to become after a few years of doing this, and so even though I don't have perfect pitch, I don't need it because when I hear something in my head I can write it down on any key I want and transpose it to any other key in my mind and write the proper harmony.

This is supposedly how formal training is supposed to be done to this day in composition but unfortunately most students don't take advantage of it and lazily end up going back to their computer software. A few composition major friends I have have become too dependant on it to the point that they couldn't write a lick for the life of them without their computer and the major flaw of that is they no longer truly tap into their deep creativity because that can only be reached in solitude and tranquility when you meditate into the recesses of your mind for the truly inspired ideas. They merely sit at the computer clunking away at random notes to see which harmonies sound good and the result consequently ends up being, although technically strong sometimes, uninspired.

I understand though for those of you who know little or no music theory, you have no choice but to use a piano or computer because without theory you can't possibly compose in your head or on paper, but for those of you who do, I urge you to practice some composing away from the keyboards.


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At the piano, on paper, at the computer. RARELY do i ever hear something in my head and have it come out exactly as it should sound. If that ever happens its maybe 3-4 meausres, not an entire symphony like mozart.

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Requiem A.: Thanks for the interesting post. Your post gave me confidence to give your idea a try. I get annoyed trying to go between paper and piano. It is slow and cumbersome and it makes me "lose" some of my original ideas. I'm going to try your suggestions. I need to keep up on my theory knowledge anyway (it's becoming a losing battle of "if you don't use it, you lose it").

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no problem for example, check this composition I just posted in the pianist forum http://savefile.com/files/5574250, it's something I just started today so it's not that much yet about a minute of music, it's a piano concerto in the style of Mozart. I composed this entire segment of music without using any piano or computer except just once or twice to check the bass line in a tricky section.

The reason this is possible, and it is actually quite simple if you study your theory well, is look at it this way: in this particular piece it's really just a mundane SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) 4 part harmony. That is the basis of all theory/harmony training in school or anywhere, because I have a violin 1, violin 2, viola and cello parts. Then, the piece so far has no complicated harmony at all, it's mostly tonic dominant, or the I and V degrees and that's it, that's like having C-E-G chord in the c major scale and then G-B-D over and over again. Ofcourse I spruced it up a little bit with the woodwinds which makes it sound more complicated than it is but it's all really simply and Mozart for one loved that simplicity. And so because of that, and with the knowledge of counterpoint and 4 part writing that I have, I was able to easily write this without any use of computers. Although ofcourse later on when I get to the development and things get a little more contrapuntal I'll probably be going to my piano or computer more often, even Mozart who famously wrote everything out in his head, worked out the difficult counterpoint of his later symphonies (jupiter) on paper BEFORE setting it down on the manuscript because even he wasn't capable of doing that many calculations in his mind.
But like I said, my suggestion for anybody is to study 4 part harmony which is the most fundamental form of harmony and theory, and learn good voice leading with that and work out all of your exercises as much as possible on paper alone and you will see really good results, soon things will begin to make a lot of sense and even pieces with 10 voices/instruments will look simple because you will see that most of the instruments are doubled and/or are just extensions of that fundamental 4 part harmony which you already know.


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Yeah, it would be nice to know all of the above. I, however, know none of it and just "shoot from the ear". So, I rely heavily on sound. I know enough about chord structure, though, to know roughly how something will sound without hearing it, and once I see it on paper, I can "hear" it in my head, but the transition between the two usually requires tinkering for me. wink


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I also "shoot from the ear" at the piano, but I suspect that what makes it possible to harmonize something in short order is indeed the subconscious integration of 4-part (and extended) harmony concepts into the player/composer's brain ... the ability to get close to what you hear and not simply "plunk out notes" until you hit the right one ...it's been a long time since I did any written harmony exercises (a music theory elective in college about, oh, twenty plus years ago) but I'm sure some of that skill became embedded.

I think it would be wonderfully liberating to be able to compose -- perhaps not to completion, but to a first approximation -- away from the keyboard. It seems that such skills would only augment capabilities at the keyboard.

I hear music in my head all the time (at least when the alien radio transmissions don't interfere, hee-hee) and look forward to the day when I might be able to simply write it down rather than try to keep it going (mentally) until I can get to the keyboard ...


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I hear music in my head all the time (at least when the alien radio transmissions don't interfere, hee-hee) and look forward to the day when I might be able to simply write it down rather than try to keep it going (mentally) until I can get to the keyboard ...
"Son of a b*tch...he stole my line." :p (Robin Williams) wink


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
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Most of my compositions are just notated improvisations. This is what I do. I improvise a melody and develop it, and make a good classical piece. Then I try to "get the piece in my fingers" as best I can. Then, when I know the piece's form and structure inside and out, I notate it, usually by hand. This is how I composed most of my sonatas and concertos. If I am composing a larger piece, like a symphony or an opera, I don't bother learning it on the piano, because that instrument is too limited in the shadow of an orchestra. Then, I just notate it when I get the idea.

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My compositions are improvisations and vice versa, all made at the piano. Some sound more "conventional" than others, with more or less clearly delineated "sections," and others are more "patchwork quilt" in form. I like to strike a balance between these two extremes. It is satisfying to hear something later in a piece of music that you heard earlier, even if it is just a vague reference to it.

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I write several motifs while sitting at the piano, then try to string them together in the best sounding sequence. The beginning and ending are composed last. Finally, once the song is finished in my mind, I will put it down on paper. My hope is to save time through MIDI keyboard (which I am purchasing today!). My true goal is to one day be able to write a significant amount of music away from the piano. My composition instructor is teaching me how to do this.

It's amazing how differently each of us writes music.

I love this topic!

Teri

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I start at the piano, and have my laptop right by me at the piano, I come up with something and jot it into PrintMusic. Then I eventually do more work on the Piano and then put it into Finale, so basically I believe I work from the Piano, then write my pieces on Computer


-Austin
Working On:
Prelude in C # minor by Rachmaninoff
Bouree in G minor by Bach (violin to piano transcription)
and
Morning Mood: By Edvard Grieg
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