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3) Sources and ideas for compositions

[Post # 3] In the previous posts we talked about composition and why composing music. Now, however, someone might ask himself "yes ok, now I want to write some music, but I do not know where to start, which are my sources of inspiration?"

Indeed, even if we are really motivated, this problem can seem big enough, if we do not know where to get ideas and inspiration. Yet the answer is easier than it looks.

1) First you need to listen to a lot of music. A careful listening will help to develop a good pitch, to recognize melodies, patterns, styles. From already existing music we could take ideas, develop variations of melodies known, we could be stricken by an original intuition and so on. We do not have to ignore this things, because our brain absorbs much more information than we remember and than we realize. In the future a short melody could come back to our mind and we do not remember the source, we may find ourselves whistling a tune that we like, but we do not understand where we get it. These ideas could simply be the result of music listened long time ago that we have revised over time.

2) Sometimes the mix of different musical genres, styles and ideas coming from different cultures, can have the same effect and be an incredible source of inspiration. The mix of these elements belonging to cultures sometimes very different from ours, can open to the composer new horizons and the result of the composition could be surprising. Some simple examples:
- "That musician has composed an album of samba and bossa nova after spending the last 10 years of his life in Brazil ";
- "The joint between Tom and Dick, the king of the blues, has been the basis for this new single-style blues of Tom. "

3) A third factor to consider is closely related to the previous two, but is more general. It is not only necessary to hear a lot of music, we must also pay attention to all the musical sources that surround us. The world is full of music. Everywhere we are we hear jingle, short melodies in commercials, street performers who improvise compositions, people singing, birds chirping, kids on the subway who listen to the mp3 player so high that we recognize what they are listening to (!), and much more.

Well, as a phrase heard from someone passing by, a brief written by a friend or a quote from a book can be an inspiration for our last poem, so all the above material can be a source of inspiration for our musical works.

Now we have a good starting point. Yet the sources of inspiration are much more and not always so immediate as the previous ones.

4) We could have an appointment in a beautiful, colourful garden; we could admire the sunset over the sea; watch the mist crashing against snowy peaks; follow autumn dancing leaves falling from the trees and much more. The Nature and its observation are a great source of inspiration. Here, however, we have rarely real sounds that can guide us. The rustle of leaves. The roar of the sea. But the bulk of the work must be done within us: to develop these images and sensations, and convert them to music.

Now someone could be disappointed. "To be inspired from these elements is not so easy." Are we really sure? We try to combine them.
The waves breaking on the beach are giving us the time, like a metronome, a couple of notes come in our mind, meanwhile we hear a siren in the distance as a suddenly chord exploding right in the middle of this quiet atmosphere...
A bird sings on a branch and the wind is blowing between the trees, creating a continuous background music. More intensive wind blasts push the leaves higher to stress in those precise moments the singing of the bird, as they were its orchestra leader...
The examples are endless.

Are we dreamers? Tireless romantic? No, we're musicians.

But let's go on.

5) Which are the other elements that can inspire our compositions? For example our feelings. It is a fact that our mood affects our own compositions. The comparison with the poetry can be useful again. As a text can reflect the sadness, happiness, illusion or disillusionment of the writer, so can do the music. Let us return then to a concept already expressed. The composition is also communication. "It is only about using a different language, notes instead of words, staffs rather than letters."

6) At an higher level we might find inspiration in even more general concepts, like love or beauty. We would then compose to give a sound to the idea of beauty, like a painter gave her colours painting a Venus, or like a sculptor gave her a form, carving a naked body.

7) Our memories not only of events, images or sensations, but also of dear persons or sad moments may be an additional source of inspiration. Our memory is in general a great source of inspiration. We must learn to explore it and to put into music what we carry inside us.

8) We have been inspired by anything so far, but not yet by our instrument. Improvising few notes or deepening elements of the theory we are studying could be two perfect examples. In the first case we improvise few notes, creating some sequence that, if we like, we can write down or save for later work. In the second case we use the theory (for example, the study of intervals) to create something original. What we play by studying our instrument  or practising it, can bring us musical ideas that we just have to discover and develop. Even from a wrong execution, which twists a melody, a rhythm, or a meaning, we could get ideas for creating a new original composition.

To believe in what we do, to compose with enthusiasm, to be creative and to take risks are a corollary to this argument about the sources of inspiration. Even the best idea and the best composer need them.


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Learn To Compose And Notate Music - Beginning LevelLook InsideLearn To Compose And Notate Music - Beginning Level (By Lee Evans and Martha Baker). Evans Piano Education. 24 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.9072)
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Complete IdiotLook InsideComplete Idiot"s Guide to Music Composition For composers. Reference Textbooks; Textbook - General. Complete Idiot"s Guide. Instructional and Composition. Instructional book. 264 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing (AP.74-1592574033)
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3) Sources and ideas for compositions Reviewed by Satin Beaus on Sunday, February 20, 2011 Rating: 5

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