There is nothing quite like the thrill of writing your own piece of music or helping your student to compose but sometimes it can be extremely hard to get started. What can you do to get the ball rolling as it were?
1 Numbers: A great idea I picked up the other week is to pick an easy key, roll three or four dice and convert the numbers (1-6) into degrees of the scale to generate the start of a melody. For example, say we picked G major and the numbers were 3, 4 and 1, that would equate to B (3rd note of the scale of G major), C (4th) followed by G (1st). After toying with these three notes, you should be inspired to know what comes next. If not, roll again! You could try something similar with a phone number. After writing out the number, cross out any zeroes or nines (not degrees of the scale) and see what happens!
2 Letters: I’ve found that writing out a name or word, crossing out the non-musical letters (letters other than ABCDEFG) can generate just enough inspiration to get a melody started.
3 Words: One of Paul McCartney’s songs “Yesterday” started out as “Ham and Eggs!” He simply used whatever words popped into his mind so as to generate a melody and carefully refined the lyrics later. I’ve found that words conjure up their own natural rhythm and pitch direction. Words are easily found everywhere and can just be enough to induce the start of something great.
4 Pictures: Many classical composers used the method of looking at a painting and reacting to it in a musical way. How can you express the scene you see or the emotion the picture makes you feel in music? With Google images at our fingertips, inspiration is never far away.
5 Singing: This is probably my favourite method. I will repeatedly play a chord sequence, humming over the top until I stumble over a pleasing melody. I find that I am less conscious of what notes I am choosing with the results being a lot more organic and original.
Forcing a new approach on your composing can really help fight cliché and genuinely surprise you with fresh, original possibilities. What methods have you used or heard of for fighting writer’s block and generating new ideas?