How do you expand an "idea" into a composition/song ?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by Bansaw, Sep 21, 2018.

  1. jhughes

    jhughes Member

    May 12, 2017

    There are way too many examples of great composers/writers working on a piece for months and years in some cases for me to believe it’s a flawed concept for everyone to revisit or work slower. Also, plenty kept notebooks of ideas only to finish or develop them years later. If this advice was taken, who knows how many would have thrown away their best ideas and art.
    If your goal doesn’t involve lots of quantity and deadlines then I can’t say I agree with it either. Not every piece is meant to be written the moment you conceive of it. Some of arts greatest works took an extended time to realize.
    I think it’s better in the beginning to save your ideas. Accept they won’t all be good. At the same time, learning how to work quickly is a skill to aim for as well...and those tactics might come in handy for that.
    Not all composers work alike. I saw a guys video recently where he had a big box beside his piano. When he worked on a commission, he just wrote on paper and put his ideas in that box. He’d go back through it keeping all that worked. It was a huge stack of paper full of short ideas.
    Steve_Karl likes this.
  2. ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    that might work for you. But in my experience this is a mistake. I can think of many occasions when something got finished many years later that was well worth finishing


    jhughes likes this.
  3. InLight-Tone

    InLight-Tone Senior Member

    Dec 31, 2013
    Not for me. If we're talking years, my growth as a composer has grown exponentially, so those ideas I had years ago are mute, old, and a reflection of my state at that time period. I used to think that way, but I also believed that GOOD ideas were hard to come by.

    I now know that ideas/seeds are easy to come up with, and that inspiration is more craftsmanship than DIVINE INSPIRATION. To me, finishing quickly is key, not letting things linger for years but finishing tracks and creating a snapshot of my current abilities, knowledge and production skills here and now.

    We all get better as the days go by for the most part, the more music written the faster the progression. I find saving ideas from the past is a hindrance to that free-flowing forward evolution. YMMV.
  4. TimCox

    TimCox Active Member

    Oct 14, 2013
    But what if the idea was something that you, as a craftsman, weren't yet skilled enough to complete? I don't believe in divine inspiration but I do believe that music doesn't have a shelf life.
  5. InLight-Tone

    InLight-Tone Senior Member

    Dec 31, 2013
    As far as composing modern media music, I think that music DOES have a shelf life. YMMV...
    MichaelB and TimCox like this.
  6. TimCox

    TimCox Active Member

    Oct 14, 2013
    I see your point of view, I still disagree though! :grin:
  7. Daniele Nasuti

    Daniele Nasuti New Member

    Jul 14, 2018
    One of the best advices I've ever heard!! Thank you!
    I think this is true also in other disciplines like Mixing and also Graphic etc.
    The important thing is that we should use plugins and our skills only if we need and we feel that the piece need it because maybe you can hear that something is missed, and so you add things.
    Alex Fraser likes this.
  8. ghandizilla

    ghandizilla Active Member

    Most important thing I've learnt last year:
    - play on the piano before arranging so you know where you're going (regarding dynamic structure), emphasized by Mike Verta

    Most important things I've learnt this year:
    - have a precize metaphore in mind (aka. "What are you trying to say?"), emphasized by Alain Mayrand in OTL2
    - always begin by listening pieces close to what you're aiming for, transcribe bits of them, what is the tonality, what are the bass and main lines doing...
    -> with a clear metaphor and a clear inspiration, you don't even have to lock everything on the piano beforehand, because you already know where you're going

    I recommend this Farkle Friday:

    It seems remote to what you're asking but in fact, it's the core of it. As I see it, you may be stuck when it comes to developing because your first basic idea may not be well-defined enough. Because once you're clear on the metaphor and inspiration, you already hear in your head how it's supposed to develop (and hence, the best places to surprise people, deceive what they are expecting).

    All the best,
  9. MichaelB

    MichaelB New Member

    Oct 25, 2017
    This might help for getting some inspiration, take any song, write a new melody for the lyrics e.g Hey Jude , do it in a minor key , it may not resemble anything like the original, not even remotely, see if you can come up with a new melody that sounds good. You can also change the lyrics to get inspiration for a completely new melody e.g Hey hey hey Jude, don’t make don’t make don’t make it bad , if I try and make a melody from this line I immediately get some nice ideas. Please note that I’m not suggesting you voilate any copyright laws. Make a game of it, no inspiration, take the first words that comes out of somebody’s mouth and write a melody line. Imagine your spouse walks in and asks ‘Have you seen my keys?” I can think of nice melodies based on “have you seen, have you seen, have you seen my keys”. Once you have a motive going, develop it, transpose or invert, legato change to staccato, change note values to dotted note values, have different instruments play it in different ways, then loud then soft then high then low, then fast then slow, you might be surprised with what you can come up with.

    I try and imagine how did Freddie Mercury write Bohemian Rhapsody, he repeats many words ‘Mamma Mia Mamma Mia Mamma Mia let it go’ and right away you can come up with a much better melody and rythmn compared to a short line like ‘Mamma Mia let it go’, he transposes over and over and shows what a master he is in transposing by doing it with one word and it makes in my opinion the most catchy line from this song ‘no no no no no no no no’. Or Mozart, in the movie Amadeus, playing the welcoming march that Salleri wrote for him and instantly comes up with the idea that the last line doesn’t really work, paused for a second and he puts his magic touch on it and rewrites the whole thing in one go and you can hardly believe how he transforms this simple boring piece into a brilliant piece just by putting his stamp on it.
    still_lives likes this.

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