Monday, December 12, 2011

Guidelines for Compsing Music

  1. Develop ideals to aim for, unless they cause so much stress that focus is lost.
  2. Write at least two ideas per session, and have sessions as many days in a row as possible.
  3. What you have to say is more original than what you find impressive. Aim for the closest approximation of your imagination before it begins to bore you.
  4. Compose out of the corner of your mind's eye, in the periphery.
  5. Be careful chasing something new for too long, when you will be tempted to save energy by replacing it with a pattern that cannot compare.
  6. Map sounds to different parts of the body, with the head representing the highest octave and the pelvis the lowest, and experiment with imagining ideas, emotions, and melodies originating in these places, or cloning themselves with small variations in each place. Develop ideas in a small area first to see them in their entirety, then enlarge it to the whole body to work out the details.
  7. Don't react to a feeling of uncertainty until your idea is fully elaborated. What seems dull at one moment can make sense in the end.
  8. Listen to silence as attentively as you would listen to melody.
  9. Extract rules from good music and try variations on them.
  10. Listen to music you don't like, and ignore/break all the rules it definitely obeys, first in your mind while it plays, and later while sitting down to compose.
  11. Play in a band with to learn about harmony, timing, loudness, how long or short to make notes.
  12. Keep returning to that instant where a melody seems to begin expressing itself without any help.  
  13. When composing, abbreviate thoughts to free up all but the essential underlying emotion and style/personality, rather than the music explicitly. This takes some trust in the original idea.
  14. Make bold changes that go against your sensibilities, or else your music will be dull and lifeless.
  15. Represent sounds by a vocabulary (e.g. "masculine" or "dark" or "cheesy") and challenge yourself to develop the more ugly ones instead of neglecting them.
  16. Plan your work so you are constantly switching between  opposing concepts in your mind while you do it, high and low, loud and soft, simple and complex, happy and sad etc. In other words, don't try to make every part of the song have an identical personality.
  17. The pleasure of seeing inspiration following through into form can compromise your judgement, so it takes a lot of willpower to keep polishing an idea.
  18. Learn from videos and books that teach you the mechanics of the instrument or program.
  19. Use shortcuts but remind  yourself now and then that they aren't always necessary.
  20. Imagine and compose from ideas more complex than you think you can remember.

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