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Composing at the Desk vs. on an Insturment

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So I was just wondering how many people prefer composing at the desk over composing on an insturment or vice versa? Both have their merits.

I know I prefer at the desk (I don't play an instrument, wanna learn piano) the reason for this is I can see what's going on on the paper and I can hear the music play in my head. I also like going outdoors and composing, like whenever I go hunting or fishing I always take some blank sheets and a pencil, instead of being inside on the keyboard.

So what do you prefer? Desk or Instrument?

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I write at a desk, with an instrument.

...

By "desk" I presume you mean sans-instrument-solely-on-paper; and by "instrument" you mean with some sort of instrumental/acoustic audial assistance.

...

I stand by my original statement....I use both at the same time. I write by what I want and what I know, but use a piano for fine-tuning and refinement.

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Probaly shoulda clarified that :P

Yeah by desk I mean solely with paper, your brain, and no sound producing device.

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I've actually never used an instrument to compose initially... But I'm the same as robin, I write everything out on paper without an instrument or anything, and then use an instrument to fine tune.

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I, too, write at a desk, but I'll usually have instrument nearby like my keyboard or a guitar. I usually use the instrument to double-check what I'm hearing in my head to make sure I'm actually writing down what I want. I don't do this for every note, usually more for melodic parts that I need exactly as I hear it and that it still sounds good coming from a proper sound-source. Sometimes I'll hear something in my head, then play it and it decide that it wasn't that cool, after all!

Anyway, I write at a desk, but having a instrument nearby comes in handy.

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I do compose my music on the computer. If the computer isn't around because it's broken or something, I'd do it by hand. I don't care whatsoever. One thing I do always do is play it out at the piano or violin first. I'd NEVER even THINK about writing a piece without working it out at the piano/violin first. (If the piece, has percussion, I'd add that on the computer, or tap it on the top of the piano)

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Neither. I use the computer because writing by hand is too tedious for me. Plus cut-paste is a godsend. So often I write something then decide I want to put something in between measures A and B, which means erasing measure B, putting in the new part, then remembering what I had originally. Or I decide I want to transpose something. Bah, now I have to rewrite it a tone higher. All the work that goes into actually writing this all out impedes my thought process that led to making that decision in the first place. At the computer I can make changes in a snap and still have time left over to second guess or advance.

I physically can't write at the desk as you define it. If worst comes to worst I use my voice as reference to make sure what I wrote is how I hear it. If I'm getting really frustrated, I use my recorder (the flute, not the electronic device... ). If it's a polyphonic piece, sometimes I get fed up and check it on the keyboard. My ideal setting is a table set up such that I can be seated at the piano, improvise something, turn around on the piano bench, and write it on the desk. Since I'm lazy, I'll stay in that position and keep writing until I absolutely need to turn around and use the piano again.

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I compose at a piano or at a computer. Or using an electronic keyboard at a computer.

I'm curious about whether anyone thinks it's a serious disadvantage not to be able to compose just "at a desk", without some kind of auditory preview aid like an instrument. Because I can't really do that, and I do feel somewhat inadequate because of that fact--and I wonder if I might be able to think about my compositions in a better structural way if I did it more "in my head" than by listening.

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Instrument. I generally improvise for a while until I come up with something worth writing down. Unless I'm composing for an instrument I can't play, in which case I don't have a lot of choice but to do it at a desk.

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Its defiantely not a disadvantage (we know from his letters that Mozart needed a piano to work out his ideas). The advantage of the desk is that you see all the music before you all at once allowing you to think harmonicly and melodically ahead, and its plays in full in your head :).

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I'm awestruck by people who can realize their music without aid other than a tuning fork or reference pitch. I wonder how much of that ability comes from inherent brain power vs. solid training starting at a young age, neither of which I have.

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And I try to compose mostly by hand with a keyboard but some pieces I end up developing in the box, which I don't like. I should probably get more efficient with using a computer.

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I'm awestruck by people who can realize their music without aid other than a tuning fork or reference pitch. I wonder how much of that ability comes from inherent brain power vs. solid training starting at a young age, neither of which I have.

You don't need perfect pitch to compose away from the instrument. Just use relative pitch in your head or with your voice. You can transpose to any key later on depending on what you want. If I have a good idea that I need to get down quick I hum it and jot it down in C major even though I have no idea what key Im singing in. The intervals are the same.

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You don't need perfect pitch to compose away from the instrument. Just use relative pitch in your head or with your voice. You can transpose to any key later on depending on what you want. If I have a good idea that I need to get down quick I hum it and jot it down in C major even though I have no idea what key Im singing in. The intervals are the same.

So effectively, you're transcribing by "Ear" what's in your head.

I take it that all that really requires is a judicious amount of ear training?

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on computer (= kind of desk)

I've always been thought not to compose behind the piano. I guess because thats more like writing an improvisation than really composing?

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So effectively, you're transcribing by "Ear" what's in your head.

I take it that all that really requires is a judicious amount of ear training?

Not really. You basically only need to know what a downward/upward fourth and a downward/upward fifth sound like. Once you have that minor/major seconds are cake-walk. the only think that gives most people trouble is the thirds.

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Computer, piano, cello or desk (whatever that may be at the time) depending on what I'm doing. I can make sketches or write short passages on the train using relative pitch, but need Sibelius to keep track of large forces or complex rhythms. I prefer to use my head when voicing chords but find the piano good at testing contrapuntal lines - although there is the danger of said counterpoint becoming too pianistic because of this.

There's no shame in not being able to compose in your head and write it down perfectly, or needing an instrument to hear the pitches, or having to use a computer program. In fact I'm quite opposed to the idea that notation programs are for inadequately skilled composers or make you write in a certain style. Sib and Finale are tools; they don't make you a better or worse composer just by using them.

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So effectively, you're transcribing by "Ear" what's in your head.

I take it that all that really requires is a judicious amount of ear training?

Yes. I've transcribed jazz solos for years with guitar in hand using the instrument for translation. I realized it was a crutch. Once you "own" an interval, say...the sound of a perfect fifth...you can identify it instantly. You can use the instrument to check your perception but soon enough you feel confidence in your abilities of perception...your 'inner ear'. Steadily progress through ALL intervals to "own" them all equally. As you come to rely more on your ear (and not the comfort of an instrument) your compositions or improvisations will take on more of your natural personality.

This is not to say I don't love to compose on the guitar...just not as much. I feel liberated. YOU are the instrument.

I wish to suggest a phenomenal book which some of you may know and which sent me down the path to putting music to paper directly.

The book is HEARING AND WRITING MUSIC: PROFESSIONAL TRAINING FOR TODAY'S MUSICIAN by RON GOROW.

I'm sure there are countless books out there which teach these skills as well but check this one out. It is comprehensive as hell, methodical, well organized and very encouraging and inspirational. It was the tipping point for me which gave me the confidence to move into composing what I hear in my head directly to paper...which I previously considered to be some unworldly skill reserved for freakishly talented, savant types with perfect pitch lol! So NOT the case.

I strongly recommend this book if you want to develop the skill of directly expressing in notation what you hear in your head. For professionals as well as beginners.

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how are you supposed to write music onto paper dircectley from your head? do you just use relitive pitch and write it in some random key?

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how are you supposed to write music onto paper dircectley from your head? do you just use relitive pitch and write it in some random key?

That's one way.

Another is to aim at less precise aspects of music - focusing more on form/structure, mood, colour, texture, energy... the development of which can often be better accomplished away from an instrument.

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