This weeks SMNP is a continuation of last weeks. The subject: How to get started with jazz composition.
5. Get into the habit of recording ideas. That’s right, record those ideas either on paper or on your phone/iphone/answering machine/ whatever. Even if it’s only 1 bar. Even if you think it’s silly, or not hip enough, or whatever, it’s still YOUR idea and that’s a starting point, and starting points are very valuable when you’re staring at a blank sheet of manuscript paper.
6. The 1st version is just that,… the 1st version. Try to have fun with it. If I have any natural ability when it comes to composing it’s that I’m simply able to enjoy the creative process. My “starting point ideas” aren’t any better than the next persons but I like chipping away at it. I’ll try to finish the 1st version of a song without too much commitment to it, then I’ve got the 1st version out of the way, and then I stand back, listen to it, and start chipping away at parts I don’t like. “This part is WAY too predictable…” or “This section is WAY too complicated…” or “This needs to be longer”, etc,. Having fun with it is of course very important; if you can’t find a way to enjoy the process then you probably won’t keep doing it,… unless someone’s demanding hot tunes with a gun to your head.
Oh,… someone does have a gun to your head?… I see. Then you’d better read the last step.
7. If you pollish it for long enough, eventually you’ll have something. I remember Jim McNeely saying that sometimes his students would tell him “I started working on this new piece, but it really sucked, so I trashed it.” To Jim, this meant simple laziness. Lazy in that they weren’t willing to spend the time to chip away at it, to diagnose what they didn’t like about it and then try to “fix” it. Another one I hear a lot is “It sounded too much like a tune by _____.” So try inverting the melody. Or displacing the rhythm! Or take away half of the notes and see how that sounds. Or pick notes at random and see if that inspires any new ideas. Eventually, (maybe after a few 30 min sessions over the course of a few days/weeks) you’ll have something you like.
Okay, this SMNP is super late so I’m going to leave it at that for now. Hopefully this is somewhat helpful for some of you. Next week I shall conclude with the pros and cons of using music notation software.
I know,… I’m pretty excited too.
Above painting by Peter Eurlings