#1
Okay, so this is my big goal of life.

I've heard of composers, and a few guitar guys (aka Prince being the only one in popular music, but I'm sure Jordan Rudess can do it) who are familiar enough with music they can write songs, be it pop songs or little symphonies, with nothing but a page of standard notation and a pen/pencil in front of them.

I can't do this, and I am in total awe of those who can. I'd be able to compose so much more with only those two items as the needed tools to write music.

Can any of you guys or gals do this? Is it a normal thing? What kind of things do you have to practice to learn how and how long does it take? I'm betting intervallic studies are a huge part of this.

Obviously I'm really obsessed with this and would LOVE to hear your answers - jokes are cool too, but I want so badly to learn about this.

I appreciate you all! Thanks!
Member of the Frank Zappa Fan Club. PM deadhead313313 to join
Founder of the Soundgarden Fan Club (Louder Than F*ck!). PM me to join.
#2
Anyone with a music degree can do it to some extent. It's just a matter of ear training, concentration, and experience with written music. Really not an unusual skill among professional musicians.

If you practice singing and aurally identifying your intervals and chord qualities, it's really not a very long process to gain basic competency in instrument-free writing. Put a good year into training your ears and you'll be able to write out plenty of ideas without your guitar.

Basically, the more sounds you are familiar with, the more you can write down without reference.
#3
Ear training is key when you are learning to audiate.

Train those ears so you can sing a line mentally and then work it out on paper.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#5
Yeah, it's all about ear.

I can do it but I like having the option for playback. That way it's easier to try different things. If I get an idea in my head and I don't have a computer nearby, I use pen and paper. But that's more for just writing down ideas. When I write an arrangement or a composition, as I said, I prefer having the option for playback because that makes it easier to try different ideas and experiment. Some ideas need some tweaking. And that would IMO be painful to do without having any reference. Of course if your ideas are perfect when you get them, pen and paper should work and there would really be no advantage of using anything else.

And of course if you do it on pen and paper all the time, you'll get better at it. But I personally don't see a point in doing that (for writing compositions or arrangements) when using Sibelius and guitar/piano as a reference is more efficient and gives better results. That's of course just me.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Feb 26, 2016,
#6
I'm pretty sure John Cage composed a Concerto for Pen and Paper in Bb.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#8
Different levels, most of it I'd expect to be hard work (via ear training), but things that some people do can only be attributed to talent.

However, pen and paper doesn't preclude phonation. The voice is an instrument that way, so it's not out of a real-life aural vacuum that people's ideas can gain traction.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#9
With a little struggle and a lot of corrections I guess I could do it in a very basic way but why would I? I'd only be impressing myself.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#10
Quote by tateandlyle
yeh i think it's great when musicians write based on everything except how it sounds


Well the whole point of being able to read and write music is so that you know what things sound like without having to play or hear them. Just the same as written language.
#11
^ Yeah, it's not like people who use pen and paper just randomly write notes on paper. Actually, it's quite the opposite. When you are using pen and paper only, you need to know the sound very well. I would say that writing on an instrument can be a lot more "random" in that way because you can just move your fingers on the fretboard and accidentally come up with a cool melody. When you are using pen and paper, you really need to use your ears and listen to the melodies you hear in your head.

Pen and paper doesn't really work unless you have actual musical ideas. As I said, it's harder to experiment with pen and paper because there is no playback. When you write on Sibelius or Guitar Pro or something similar (or use your instrument), you have instant playback which makes experimenting a lot easier. What does it sound like if I change this note? You can do that on computer, but it's harder to do on pen and paper only.

But if the ideas are already in your head and don't require much tweaking, pen and paper works just fine, and I don't really even see the need for something like Sibelius or using an instrument for that.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Feb 26, 2016,
#13
That awkward moment when Mozart starts in roughly the right key and then adjusts to the recording in B-flat minor
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#14
Quote by GoldenGuitar
It's not really that big a deal to be honest.


hahaha I feel like such a novice now haha

But seriously - all your answers really help me. So, I'll focus on ear training - what, likely will go chromatic initially? Or do you all recommend sticking to the major scale first since it's so much easier to remember and use while remaining in pitch?

If there are any specific exercises any of you can recommend for this it'd be cool. I'll likely hit up ye olde google for general ear training stuff too.
Member of the Frank Zappa Fan Club. PM deadhead313313 to join
Founder of the Soundgarden Fan Club (Louder Than F*ck!). PM me to join.
#15
Start with liquids before going to solid food.

1. Learn songs with pentatonics, how to transcribe them, play them, inside-out. (Example off the top of my head: a lot of Chinese music, "The Hanging Tree")
2. Go towards diatonic songs and transcribing/mastering those.
3. Only after steps 1 and 2, chromatics are fair game.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#16
Quote by scottishmob
hahaha I feel like such a novice now haha

But seriously - all your answers really help me. So, I'll focus on ear training - what, likely will go chromatic initially? Or do you all recommend sticking to the major scale first since it's so much easier to remember and use while remaining in pitch?

If there are any specific exercises any of you can recommend for this it'd be cool. I'll likely hit up ye olde google for general ear training stuff too.


As said above, learning songs by ear as much as possible will get you a good part of the way there. Learning by ear is a tremendous practical skill, even if you don't take it to the point of writing unassisted. I'd say it's essential for anyone who wants to move beyond an amateur level of musicianship.

There are also a number of ear training web sites out there, if you just google "ear training". I'd use multiple resources, since they all contain limited material.

You can take a more structured approach and buy an ear training/theory book, which will come with the listening material and workbook. Probably a bit pricy, ~$100 USD.

Of course, if you really want jump in head first, get a teacher with at least a masters degree in guitar or music pedagogy. Those guys get the living shit trained out of their ears. You're looking at probably $50/lesson for that.
Last edited by cdgraves at Feb 27, 2016,
#17
Quote by MaggaraMarine
When you are using pen and paper, you really need to use your ears and listen to the melodies you hear in your head.

this is mt
#19
I wrote songs (lead sheet with lyrics and chords, the melody will be in my mind) on paper because it's not hard, but if I want to write actual notes I use Muse Score.

Writing with pen and paper on the staff is a great thing to learn and will definitely help develop your ears, but are you sure you want to make this your life goal considering you may achieve exactly the same result by using some software? Just asking.
#20
This really might just be me, but I usually get a melody or a riff spontaneously, and then the rest develops after that about as quickly. And because I have that concrete idea in my mind, I don't want to hear interfering instruments before I'm done writing the ideas down.

Basically, any form of notation is fine; whether you want to hear it or not is up to you using the volume control, if any, for whatever system you use. (This is also a way to train your ear: notate the ideas as best you can without listening, then play it back and check.)
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#21
Quote by Serotonite
Why would you want to? Sounds boring.

How else would you, if you didn't have an instrument handy? The people who want this skill are people who think about music even when they're not playing it.
#22
Quote by cdgraves
How else would you, if you didn't have an instrument handy? The people who want this skill are people who think about music even when they're not playing it.


We live in a digital age, hum it into your phone so you have it perfectly for when you pick up an instrument.
#24
Quote by cdgraves
How else would you, if you didn't have an instrument handy? The people who want this skill are people who think about music even when they're not playing it.


I don't even think about music most of the time that I'm playing it.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.