Get the music out of your head and onto paper
We all have found ourselves hearing something in our head that sounds so fantastic that we have to play it and get it down on paper. However, once we find ourselves there, the next step of actually writing down what we are hearing often becomes too frustrating to accomplish – and then as we sit there in front of the paper being frustrated, the music we hear disappears into the ether. Thankfully, there are ways you can learn to get the music out of your head and make this process easier – even seamless. Here are a few of the key points to focus on while developing this skill.
Sing what is in your head
There are many reasons for every musician to sing, but one of the most compelling for me has always been the power singing has to develop what “we in the business” call “big ears” – the ability to hear, identify and play whatever you want to hear.
Singing has a way of checking whether we hear things accurately. Often, what we don’t actually hear what is in our heads as clearly as we think we do. Singing reveals this. If you can’t sing it, you can’t hear it. You might find singing uncomfortable at first, so feel free to find some space to practice this where no one can hear you. Don’t worry about singing with good tone or anything. Just hit the pitches you are trying to hear.
Give pitches names
To help identify the pitches you are singing, give each of them a name. Most musicians who study music in school do this by using solfege (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) or scale degrees (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The most important thing to remember when using these systems is to keep using them. As a melody passes by, just sing it with these syllables as best you can. If you discover later that you used the wrong syllables, you will know your ear is improving.
As you get comfortable with this approach, it will get easier and easier to know what note you are singing at any one time. Pretty soon, simple melodies will become easy to write down because you will clearly be able to hear and identify them.
Sing every part you hear in recordings
You will probably find that certain parts of music are easier for you to hear than others. Some musicians hear melodies more clearly than bass lines. Others hear harmony lines easier than melodies. Choir members often most naturally hear the parts that they sing the most. Be honest with what you hear best and be sure to spend time singing whatever you need to hear more accurately. Bass lines and melodies are often a great place to start because they often frame how we hear everything else. After that, learn to identify and sing all the pitches in harmony lines, chords, riffs, solos and any other extraneous musical parts you hear.
Write down something you hear every day
This last point is pretty simple, but very important. Often the reasons we can’t write down what we hear is simply because we never work on it. When it comes right down to it, this is often because we don’t like facing the fact that we are still bad at it. News flash: You will always be terrible if you never practice. In fact – that is the best way to ensure being terrible. The time to start is now. Give yourself a safe, quiet space to write and do it. Every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just write something.
Get the music out of your head: by Daniel Roberts
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