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Like the title asks: do you set out with a plan (e.g. I'll spend 1h brainstorming melodic ideas, 1h planning a form, 1h integrating melodic ideas into the formal structure) for a day's work? What working methods are most productive for you?

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I decided to try out your rule last night and ended up staying up until 3:30 in the morning.  I also followed it this morning and just came to a stopping point, 6 hours later.  My wife doesn't like you :)

Fredrick zinos said:

the only rule I have is to never stop a composing session at a problem. I always try to stop when I am absolutely sure what the next thing, musically, will be.

I like that rule to....but it means that I hardly ever get started, because I know that I will be at it a long time, and my wife and son would kill me if I was busy that often.

Scriabin told that he is producing music constantly -- day and night, in any status, and that his thoughts about any subject are accompanied by some inner-world musical activity. I think many great composers could tell this, For such persons your question is irrelevant.

I must object!  The fact that he was constantly composing does not mean that the process wasn't important.  The two things (how frequently he composed and how he organized his thoughts) actually seem quite unrelated to me.  Maybe I misunderstood you though.  (1 minute later) ahhh, I think i understand.  Since he was constantly composing and doing a fine job of it, the question of how he "divided his time" when composing would be no use to him, thus irrelevant.  How he managed his writing process would be a wonderful thing for us mere mortals to know about though!

Andrew Gleibman said:

Scriabin told that he is producing music constantly -- day and night, in any status, and that his thoughts about any subject are accompanied by some inner-world musical activity. I think many great composers could tell this, For such persons your question is irrelevant.

Some masters did not need to divide their time at all: they percieved the whole composition, however complex it is, immediately as a whole. So the process of writing was actually not a composition. It was transferring already existing patterns into a paper. I guess that Rachmaninoff and Mozart worked in this way.

Now I know what you were getting at Andrew, thanks for clarifying.

You do seem to be implying, Ray, that there is only one way to compose, ie. having the whole vision already in your head before you start.  If that is what you mean, I believe others, like Beethoven for instance (whose sketch books show just how much revision went into his writing) would strongly disagree with you.  Also, many composers start out by writing inferior works and get better over time.  Should they have just given up because they just didn't "have the ability to produce a piece of music"?  And how did they get better?  Magic?  Study? Taking classes in which they may have discussed processes of composition?  Just what went on in those lessons that Haydn gave Beethoven do you think?

Raymond Kemp said:

I agree Andrew,

Writing is not composing but simply recording what we hear in our head or play on an instrument.

There is no division of time needed. We either have the ability to produce a piece of music or we don't.

Interesting discussion.

I don´t have scheduled time frames. My way of composing often starts with random improvising on the piano (I love to do this, and sometimes I can go on for several hours). When I find an interesting motif or melody, I write it down (usually on a computer in Sibelius). If the music stays in my head, and I cannot get rid of it, I continue to develop it into a composition. Then it is often straightforward to produce a more or less complete “draft” with reasonably correct chromatics, modulations, thematic developments and chord progressions etc. The laborious part is to adjust the overall balance and coherence of the composition. This may involve a lot of reworking and can take me several weeks (or many months when working with a larger piece of work).Then, I spend a lot of time on notation, including the expression dynamics and spelling. This may also take weeks (or more). Finally, I continue to make revisions (smaller as well as larger if required) as the composition matures in my brain.

 

In case an interesting motif or melody comes up in my head (which can happen anywhere, any time of the day) I make a quick notation of it on a piece of paper (otherwise I tend to forget it !). Recently I got myself a small digital recorder, which allows me to document the idea by singing or humming the melody. (Has anyone of you of tested this method?)   

I lost dozens of melodies and ideas because I did not write them down or didn't hum them into some electronic device for later. 

Really, a countless number. Sometimes I assured myself that I will remember it by the time I get to my keyboard, but they vanished. Ideas for melodies strike me often when doing something completely different than working on music. In fact, The less the job was creative, in the past, the more my thoughts drifted to melodies, motifs, progressions and other musical stuff. My school years were like that. All lesson long I heard music in my mind.

Portable digital recorder is a good idea. I use it for some time now. 

Couple of years ago my friend, who composed music for music libraries told me that he finishes a track in a day or two including the mixing and the mastering. It sounded impossible. 

In that time my working methods were a mess. I was starting 20 projects with 2 musical bars in each, and finishing one after multiple sessions. Each time working couple of hours on it. I was very unfocused. 

The demands for fast work grow everyday. You have to be extra efficient, professional and focused to finish the job quickly and also to enjoy along the way. Today I finish my composition in one or max two sessions.

I work differently when working on a custom order and when working on a freestyle composition. I guess we all do when we face deadlines. But stretching the work too much has it faults. Time brings different opinions and change of moods and perspective. I'm not saying that one must chain himself to a chair and not to move until he finishes all the work, no matter how many creative crises he got. It's healthy to finish a composition in a few blows, to do it in a more cleared and unbribed mind.

I usually start with a few bars with the main theme, than I add up all the instrumentation that I believe can be suitable, thus building the core of the composition. From that point I go to the edges (beginning and ending) Adding or reducing instrumentation or phrases. If compared to painting I'm drawing a heart first, and than the human around it and the space he's in.

I never actually divide my time when composing. I just sit writing and writing, editing, deleting, writing.. and I will stop most of the time, just like Fredrick said, when I know what the next part will be. :)

In terms of your method, Johan, yes I've tested it as well, and it is very helpful to capture the idea when it pops up suddenly in my head.

My process: I play something on guitar or keyboard. It stinks. I play something else. It's a bit too dissonant. I play again. This time it's too normal, not dissonant enough for this section. I play something else. It sucks. I play an unusual variation. Wow! Fantastic! I hit the record button and duplicate it. I stay on task, trying similar ideas. It can be an arduous process and then there's that surprising glimmer of gold. ...Then it's lunch time, maybe noon, maybe 4PM.

That's how I work. I sing melodies into my mobile phone whenever I come up with them (usually when people stare at me and wonder what the **** I'm doing). Then I go through all the melodies and mark the ones I like, and let them sit for a while. If anyone of them sticks and keep coming back I start working with it in Logic (or Garageband, which is faster and more spontaneous). It's usually here I run into trouble since I tend to sing rather off key! 

Johan Roeraade said:

Interesting discussion.

I don´t have scheduled time frames. My way of composing often starts with random improvising on the piano (I love to do this, and sometimes I can go on for several hours). When I find an interesting motif or melody, I write it down (usually on a computer in Sibelius). If the music stays in my head, and I cannot get rid of it, I continue to develop it into a composition. Then it is often straightforward to produce a more or less complete “draft” with reasonably correct chromatics, modulations, thematic developments and chord progressions etc. The laborious part is to adjust the overall balance and coherence of the composition. This may involve a lot of reworking and can take me several weeks (or many months when working with a larger piece of work).Then, I spend a lot of time on notation, including the expression dynamics and spelling. This may also take weeks (or more). Finally, I continue to make revisions (smaller as well as larger if required) as the composition matures in my brain.

 

In case an interesting motif or melody comes up in my head (which can happen anywhere, any time of the day) I make a quick notation of it on a piece of paper (otherwise I tend to forget it !). Recently I got myself a small digital recorder, which allows me to document the idea by singing or humming the melody. (Has anyone of you of tested this method?)   

Interesting rule Fredrick. I find that many of the problems I encounter while composing get solved when I step away from composing and give myself time for the ideas to incubate.

Fredrick zinos said:

the only rule I have is to never stop a composing session at a problem. I always try to stop when I am absolutely sure what the next thing, musically, will be.

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