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I have been composing for about fifteen years. Studied it at university and had a few performances of my works. I have good aural transcription skills. For example, if you give me a recording, with the use of a piano I can write what I hear in a fairly good level of detail. But I have a problem. I thought I had a lack of "inspiration", but its more complicated than that. I can hear what I want to write in my head, as clear as if I were listening to it on my ipod, but I can't seem to write it down. I have tried singing the main melodies and rhythms into a dictaphone or playing the piano along with it but as soon as I do this the music in my head stops.

Anyone else have this annoying problem? If so do you know how to fix it?

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What tends to happen to me is the moment I begin writing the music down it starts taking new directions and I lose sight of the bigger picture, I'd be hard pressed to plan two measures ahead without ending up somewhere else. I just assume that with enough practice I will begin to keep hold of longer passages as I get faster at getting it down on paper. I'd suggest just playing 2-3 notes and hold back playing any continuation until you can imagine one clearly, then setting it down. It's far easier working from the momentum of notes already set down than starting from scratch, especially if those notes leave you in a place of unrest and beg for a sense of closure. 

In a word no! I wish I could have these tunes running around for me to cherry pick from.

I'll certainly try your way Don. I like the idea, I suppose three notes in the right direction is better than 4 bars/measures in the wrong direction. Thank you.

I have the same problem. For years I had attributed it to not having a very good ear, but when working out things I hear by other composers I don't have too much difficulty, so I don't think that's it. I frequently will have a thought and won't be able to put it to paper, and when I sit down at the piano I can't "find" what I'm hearing. I'd love to hear others weigh in on this.

A good ear does help, and I find that composing away from a piano also helps, interestingly enough.  At a piano I tend to forget what I just did, not so much when I do everything in my head.  

Thing is, then the problem is trying to find out what you just heard in your head.  For a lot of people, that is the piano... Though trying to figure it away from a piano seems to work better for me, for not everything can be played at a piano.  And now we've gone full circle.  

I often find it rather difficult to play something exactly as I hear in my head. But, fortunately, the music never stops as I can sort of play it back over and over, which sometimes disturb me for I can't make it stops. This probably happens as I repeat the music again and again in my head which somehow helps it to get stuck there.

I've got this exact issue! We've also got a near identical basic background! How I'm solving it? I'm not! I'll be attempting to address it though. I believe for me --- I'll need a place inside I can go that's a place of peace and a path to take to bring the wonderful flowering music to fruition for one and all to love as I love.

I wonder if you're doing too much or thinking too hard - forcing the issue?

You may have an entire symphony in your head; yet, you need to write it - bit by bit.

Or when writing a Pop song. Write what would be the verse - even if you hear he verse and chorus in your head. They don't have to be in that order.

Do it bit by bit - leave and then come back, but finish a part you are sure of. If nothing comes, it's best to leave it be.

As Lara said, composing away from the instrument is helpful because you're really more focused in playing than writing although you may need to play to help you write.

The issue is really thinking that composing is magic and it clearly is not. Was it Mozart that was credited to having that ability? He saw a flute and like magic ... (get it?) For most, it doesn't work like that.

To remedy this:

1) Do a little bit at a time.

2) Don't force yourself to mimic exactly what you heard, the second you get the opportunity. Make some mistakes and make them obvious. It'll be like having an argument with your musical conscience. Don't let it win and you'll notice, the more it struggles to do so, you'll be able to give in. As I said, the trick is to pretend not to!

The hardest thing about finishing anything is getting started. However, I do know that when something musical leaves, it will come back. I also know how music changes. So, by the time you write what you heard first, it may turn into something else. Just go with the flow as they say.

One must need to mentally concentrate and let her take over.

Another example would be trying to sight-read. That takes practice, yes; however, novice players get frustrated because they are trying to do two things at once - read + play. When you should read first and internalize it, so your ear can hear and your eyes can see, then sit down to play.

If what you heard doesn't come back at that moment, just write/play anything; it'll come back to you.

"Where was I?" or "What was I talking about again?" (Someone says the exact thing or something close to it) "Oh, yeah! Now, I remember!" (Then you pick up where you left off)

For the sake of argument, let's say I heard Happy Birthday in my head, but I'm stuck on "Happy Birthday, dear (insert name)"

C-C-D-C-F-E / C-C-D-C-G-F / C-C-*C-A-F ... what comes after the F? Well, find a similar phrase. The first one. C-C-*C-A-F-E-D. That sounds right. Then, "Happy Birthday to you!" Bb-Bb-B-G-A-G; those are obviously the wrong notes, but what phrase is this one similar to? Again, the first one. By seeing/hearing that phrase, I can correct my mistakes. The point is to literally make mistakes.

And like I said earlier about how music changes. Even if you could write it down immediately, does it not go through lots of changes in its early stages? That's the other problem. Not so much that, but people thinking it's a bad thing and not want to accept it. Anything -and everything created goes through phases, changing with each phrase. While it's wonderful to have the symphony abstracted from your subconscience, it's more fun to pick at it (out of love) - than fight against it.

You knows what you'll find! She's probably got gems you never drempt about, just don't begrudge her if you end up searching to find them.

She doesn't want to follow you - she wants you to follow her! If you need to stop for a breather, tell her to go on without you. One of two things will happen: You'll either find your way by a clue (from her) or she'll come back to/for you if you just stay put.

I have experienced the same type of thing as Karl and Gordon.  I think the hardest part of translating that amazing symphony in your head into something someone else can hear is figuring out the instrumentation - the symphony in your head is a collage of sounds, not lines of staff paper(If it is then you're a freaking genius though!).  It seems like it takes quite a bit of trial and error to successfully transcribe your idea into something that is an accurate representation of what you heard.

I've always "heard" musical ideas in my head (not sure if "hearing" is the right word, but it will have to suffice)

mainly if i am daydreaming while listening to ay style of music, I will get ideas, and "hear it" in my head... but i can in NO WAY recreate anything I imagine in my head.

I have no real "control" when making anything, either... if i sit down to make a nice, pretty piano piece... it might end up a heavy rockish thing... if i try to make a guitar rock song... it could easily end up going classical.

I am starting to "hear" things in all sorts of music i listen to... but its slow going. I am a beginner, and a self taught music sort of guy... I cant transcribe or re-create what I HEAR or imagine...

when i am making something, it goes where it wants to go, if i like it, I keep at it, or if not, i scrapp it and try somethign else.

*shrugs*

In my EXTREMELY limited composing experience (started Spring of '12), I have found it helpful to "hear" the song in my head (hopefully it's not voices I'm hearing!!)  I then try to transition that to the keyboard.  I have tried pounding it out at the keyboard endlessly, hoping for a good sound, and it just doesn't happen.

 

I'm with Lara... going over the tune in my head away from the keyboard helps to sort it out.  While at the keyboard, I tend to try to make it overly technically correct.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Michael

I think every composer has this problem. The difficulty is "translating the vague into the specific." You get an idea, it seems good, then you try to write it down, but fail. Why? Because you are deceiving yourself. The idea was never really very good, or as well-defined as you thought. It's similar to dreams - they make sense until you wake up and try to remember them.

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