January 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm #23790ChevereauxParticipant
1. Do you have those days, where you just can’t compose anything because you have a lack of energy, a lack of color. A general feeling of lack of uninspiredness, not all that different from writer’s block?
2. How often do you practice? There’s an interesting approach by a prolific writer (note – he’s not a composer) that he’d write sporadically and in random moments (every day), for no more than 1.5 hours, and that at the end of the day he’d view it from a different perspective and transform what he did. I’ve tried the approach and I find it way better than composing at fixed times or routines.
3. Do you think improvising is important? I remember around September I would just go with the flow, with whatever was inside me and just spill the beans. I must’ve collected about 100 improvisations, about 30 tops which, to me, sounded unique, characterized by what made me different, but universal at the same time.
I like to compare this to some sort of brainstorming process, or prewriting process, where you sort of just spill the beans and gather the material you like, and discard what you don’t. From that you develop a song.
I stopped improvising in favor of "formally composing" – which, according to me, means carefully and deliberately making melodies and chord progressions as they sound best at the slowest pace. It’s a tedious process but some good results have shown up.
I read this interesting thing in my Communications book. It was a four-step process to becoming proficient in a skill. It went something like this:
1. You suck, but you don’t know it
2. You become aware that you suck
3. Through lessons, rules, regulations, and concepts, you begin learning, but not to the point of having an awesome skill
4. Through practice and instructional failure, you become awesomely proficient
Where would improvisation fit somewhere in there? I would think it fits somewhere between 1-3 (or in all of those) but It’d be cool if I got as many different perspectives.
4. Do you think awesome improvisation (and by this I mean your improvs sound good to others) is a function of how well you apply different learned rules?
5. What do you think of rules in music? I think music is guided by an infinite number of rules. For example -in Western music, the 12 tone system is already a very restrictive method of creating music. To the best of my knowledge, 6 intervals are possible, which would total the amount of 720 possible combinations between themselves. Thus there are quite a few ways to begin a melody.
But back to rules.
Should you seek to restrict yourself to a set of rules – for example, to build a melody of major 2nds and perfect 4ths only – and study the different relationships and possibilities of said restrictions?
William Russo seems to think so.
I think that once you have learned this rules, you become free to do whatever you want with said restrictions, and you can later apply what you learn to a different set of rules, and combine and so and and so forth. Thus, freedom is not always a good thing.
For example, let’s say I have some talent in knowing how to draw still-life pictures. But then they tell me, "Hey go draw an awesome car, whichever style you choose." You’re at a loss because you don’t know the relationship between boxes and spheres (set of rules #1) or the relationship between triangles and boxes (set of rules #2).
Same thing for music, if they tell you to build a chord progression, and you are free to choose whichever chords you want, which do you choose? A book has told me that perfect 4ths and 5ths and major seconds build the most propulsive relationships, as opposed to 3rds, which are neutral, and 7ths which are unstable. With nondiatonic chord progressions, you must be familiar with interval relationships of augmented 4ths, minor 2nds, minor 3rds, et al. With these guidelines, I am able to combine things in a new way that make sense. And with practice, my compositions/improvisations become better through applied rules.
6. Would this be a good place to submit a few of my compositions for critique? I just realized that the only judge of my music was myself and nobody else (which is never good because then it only sounds good to you, which would lead to you thinking that you’re good when you’re not – thus failing without even knowing it), so it’d be greatly appreciated if I got as many constructive perspectives as possible.January 28, 2008 at 10:43 pm #35264CaseyDoddMusicParticipant
1) All the time. In fact, at this point in my life as an aspiring composer, I would say I have those days more often than I have good days.
2) I definitely don’t have a set routine when it comes to composition. In order for the ideas to stay fresh, it IS important to come at them from different points of view (and different points during the day).
3) Improvisation is definitely important. I don’t think improvisation is necessarily in between steps 1 and 3. Many great composers sat down at a piano and improvised and then used THAT material to build their pieces. It definitely can be just as formal of a process as just sitting there trying to write from scratch.
4) Awesome improv certainly can be a result of your knowledge of learned rules, but at the same time it is a result of instinct and quick musical wit.
5) I don’t necessarily agree that too much freedom can become a hindrance. I would agree that sometimes when you have total freedom it’s hard to know what to do, but I think with careful thought and planning, the freedom is where you can really achieve your greatest work. What if Wagner decided he had too much freedom? We wouldn’t have heard any of his incredibly revolutionary sounds.
6) I think you should definitely submit your compositions. I would like to start doing the same. Do you work with a program like Finale or Sibelius?
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