Hi all,

just curious if you guys write your original music by "accident"? meaning improvisation, random idea or creativity. Or by design, which is by using theory?
I am not taught in theory, I know the names of maybe 5 or 6 chords but I've written a lot of music over the years.

Is this a disadvantage or should I invest more time in learning theory ? Just curious.
I use both - theory opens doors, gives you options and helps you avoid repeating yourself. It can also guide you when you are looking for a certain sound. However, it doesn't write a good riff or song for you.

If you've written a lot over the years and you've developped your ear by tinkering and improvising, basic functional theory ( major scale, chord progression naming, chord construction, modes etc) will come easy for you - i'd encourage you to try learning some and to analyse your own music - it helps you see patterns in your writing, which in turn helps you break free from them as well.
"Theory" isn't a means of composition. It's how you explain the tonal relationships in a composition, but it's not a template for stamping out generic music. No matter how well you understand concepts, you still have to listen to and analyze music before you can use it like a template. If you've never heard or read a piece of Jazz, no amount of theory is going to help you compose a Jazz piece.

Ideally all composition is "by sound", and you just choose what sounds you want. If you want something that sounds like a typical song for a genre, that's a choice you make, and it's perfectly valid. Knowing what kinds of chords and rhythms and melodies go into that genre help you make quick work of it. At no point are you unaware of the sound.

What I think you mean is whether you start with an idea in mind that you're honing in on, or whether you just have an open ended process. l'd say most people do it both ways, just depending how they feel. I'm not a big writer, but when I do write/record stuff, sometimes I start with just random noodling until something starts to take shape. Other times I can almost hear exactly what I want and I just have to sit down and play the parts already in my head.

In my opinion, a lot of successful writing comes down to being comfortable with limitations. Not in terms of ability, but in the choices you make while composing. It's hard to get anything done if you don't put any underlying structure in your composition. If you know from the outset that you're going to write in a particular genre, or use certain instruments, or to a specific length, you can get a clear picture of a sound in your head much faster. You can channel your creativity through a few limiting choices and make the most of the narrower scope. Start by making a few basic decisions that keep your mind from wandering too far. It can be as simple as deciding what key and tempo.
Last edited by cdgraves at Oct 24, 2016,