What's up everybody? I've recently become very interested in music composition. I bought this book titled "Hearing and Writing Music" by Ron Gorow along with 5 or 6 other books I plan to read over the summer. What I find fascinating is the claim that music can be written without an instrument, as in, all composition is done solely in your mind then transcribed to paper. I did not get the book in the mail yet, so I can not elaborate too much. I find this really fascinating, as I have written many things in the past, yet it has always been through a series of playing the notes and verifying which notes sound good together by ear and such.

Has anyone read this book? Has anyone been able to successfully identify intervals between notes simply in their head, then correctly transcribe this to a staff, all without an instrument as a reference? I'm not talking about perfect pitch (the C in your head probably won't correspond to the exact frequency of the C of your instrument, but that's just the starting reference point), but close to perfect intervals. I find this very interesting.

I will add that I've never had formal music theory classes or anything. All my studies of music have been through self-study, reading various books, and a few series of lessons from local music teachers. So if this sounds crazy, it might be. Haha, well anyway, let me know what you guys think, and if you have any tips for composition, feel free to share.
I've written a few songs solely with my mind, but it's kind of weird... I guess.
Imo, I'm far from having perfect pitch, but for some reason, I can easily write down the intervals that I have down in my head and be correct.

And I've never read any books on composition, and I don't have much training in music theory.

My music professor had perfect pitch, and could correctly sing middle C and pretty much any note within her singing range without the aid of any instrument.

I'm no expert, but simply having knowledge of chord progressions and cadences should allow you to compose a song without hearing any of it beforehand.

Unless you have good relative pitch or knowledge of *acceptable* chord progressions, you might have difficulty composing mentally.
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Last edited by lespaulrocks39 at May 13, 2008,
If you do alot of ear training then it probably won't be all that difficult. I'm not saying that you'll be writing any Bohemian Rhapsody's in your head but when you get used to how certain notes sound relative to one another (ie. intervals) you'll be able to hear a tune in your head and then write it out on paper. I definitely can't do that yet but a number of students in my program who have played longer seem to be able to do it very well.
I'm fairly good at writing stuff out of my head. I play brass instruments in symphonic settings, which is what gives me a good ability to hear intervals. After playing an instrument like Trombone, you get very familiar with what your basic pitches are (Bb F D and such) that you just can hear something and then see it written on a staff in your mind. Then after you have a melody you can use your knowledge of chord progressions and voice leadings to make a harmony part. Then you add counterpoint and a bass line, and you've got yourself a song.

Imagine people like Tchaikovsky and more large symphony writers, who write phenomenal, emotional, and extremely complex music meant for 100+ people, with only the help of a piano.
Thanks for the quick replies! I actually think I may be capable of achieving perfect pitch, as I will go without playing an instrument for over a day, then grab my guitar, sing a note, then play the note on the guitar right after, and it is usually exactly in unison. I cannot do this for every note on the guitar however, though I have memorized most natural notes surrounding middle C. I feel with practice I might be able to memorize all the different intervals (both up and down the chromatic scale) and be able to write without an instrument. This will probably take forever, but I'm gonna try. :-) I was just wondering if anyone else has taken this approach to writing music, and if it's possible. I think it's really cool that a few of you have explored this.
i compose a bit, and everything ive done i normally write the base for on a piano, regardless of if its intended for strings or wind instruments or whatever, and then i just write the rest without any instrument

first you've gotta know the theory, and what scales are what notes, then after that youve gotta know what notes outside of the scale sound like, ie, what a natural sixth sounds like in a minor scale

i personally dont have perfect pitch, and probably never will, i can sing intervals and whatnot, but i cant really sing scales without an instrument, its more just experience than it is perfect pitch
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alot of what i write personally is written in my brain beforehand. but the difference is most people don't know it and can't tell. i've gotten pretty decent at hearing something in my brain and generally being able to play it almost instantly. normally now i just start off with 2 or 3 chords and my brain makes the rest of it.