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?

You need to be a member of Composers' Forum to add comments!

Join Composers' Forum

Email me when people reply –


  • 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.



  • 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.

  • Michael Forbes said: "... I have found it helpful to "hear" the song in my head ...hopefully it's not voices I'm hearing!!"

    yeah, if its just MUSIC, your Okay... if you hear VOICES you'd be a songwriter, not a composer, LMAO...

  • Hi Karl, it's almost reassuring to hear someone else has the same problem I sometimes do, annoying as it is. I am in agreement with Don - sometimes it is hard to keep track of what you are trying to express. I find going slow and practising the transcribing process is the way to go. I also go over the music extensively in my head, and try to work out the details (intervals, accidentals etc) mentally before going to the piano and/or manuscript paper. That in itself is a good exercise I suppose!

     Take it slow and practise, practise. practise!

  • I second Lara's advice, composing away from instruments is very good for your development. Another thing to try practice is to develop the music more before trying to go to paper or a piano. For instance, play it back in your head until you really have ingrained or even memorized. When you practice this it will increase your ability to hold more and more music in your head with more accuracy. Certainly practicing it with something by someone else that you know well will help too (like Rus is saying with Happy Birthday.) Rus suggests starting with small bits and this is a really good suggestion.

    Another thing is spend more time casually trying out music in your head. Start doing it while waiting in line or on hold. Don't worry about it being brilliant and having to capture it. Just practice "seeing it" and even picturing the notes by name or notated. The key really is the more you do it the better that skill will become.
  • And as a last note, it isn't a problem, at all. It's just something to really focus on developing.
This reply was deleted.