i find making an outline on paper writing the time and key changes with what instruments im using . then i go directly to staff paper. never been much of a person for playing and writing at the same time.
I can guarantee that when my head hits the pillow at night, then a fully blown, symphonic orchestra will take the melody that i've been humming and run with it. It's then a mad dash up to my studio to get the bugger down before i forget.
I always work at a keyboard. I love the live sound, it stirs what little I have by way of creativity. I initially write in the old style, notes on manuscript paper.. by hand. Very rarely will i write something directly on the computer. If I think I have a good idea (that's happened to me twice in my life) I try to come back to it a day or two later after the bloom is off the rose so to speak, and evaluate it, looking for places where it doesn't work or where one set of sounds is not connected to the surrounding material. I tinker with the idea. If it gives up without a struggle I usually lose interest, and if the idea is beyond my ability to develop, I give up and go to something less challenging.. But if the musical idea fits into that tiny realm where I can do something with it I will spend some time with it.
The reason I like to compose on paper is that most of what I write is trash and goes to light the fireplace... and winter is coming.
I record the process whilst playing my instrument. I spend more time and efforts developing the instrument than playing it. Today I have about dozen 2-keyboard setups, which allow me playing simultaneously 5-6 or more instruments. Unfortunately, I have only 2 hands -:). Music is constantly in my head, day and night. Almost newer use paper and classic notation. A simple sequencer is enough for me, but the instruments I use are quite sophisticated (several pedals, knobs for chosing instruments, building the performance setups etc).
Interresting to hear how different we create music...
I can hardly compose when I want to, I'll get empty in the head. The ideas comes when I'm doing something else, often while driving. I always have more ideas than time to arrange it, so I don't need to compose at will.
I use the simple sound recorder in my mobile phone to capture the ideas, so I hum och sing the different parts. (I wouldn't like other people to hear those recordings...)
Some times later I go back to the recordings, to sort out what's good and what's not. After that I develop the ideas in cubase, playing guitar or keyboard, depending on the style, and create the lacking pieces.
Arranging then... The crucial parts are always played, edited afterwards, but some instruments or parts could be clicked in the piano roll. I don't use pen and paper at all, except for lyrics.
I had a film-scoring professor (Jack Smalley, wonderful veteran of the trade) who once gave me a great piece of advice: "the WORST way to begin a piece is by writing the first note."
What he meant was that by the time the first notes are written, the composer should already have sharply limited and defined the piece. What's the instrumentation? Roughly how long are you envisioning the length? Is it part of a multi-movement work? Are there solos? What's the mood? If it's a film cue, what's the time in/time out? Etc., etc.
The good thing about this way of working is that it gets you past the dreaded "blank piece of staff paper" paralysis. If you make all those decisions ahead of time, by the time you sit down writing, the piece is already beginning to develop in your mind. Makes the work much easier, at least for me.