I’d like to share one of my favorite exercises for generating new music. This organic process allows you to draw from your own imagination. If you have never composed your own music before, this is a great way to start.
Composition VI by Wassily Kandinsky, 1913. Public Domain
Intuitive Melody Writing
Sit at a piano. Take a few deep breaths to let your mind and body relax.
Sing a pitch.
Find the pitch on the piano through trial and error.
Play/sing the pitch and listen. Let your inner hearing reveal the next pitch. Sing the second pitch and find it on the keyboard.
Sing the first two notes and listen for the third. Try to withhold judgement—follow your ear and intuition.
Repeat the process until the phrase reaches a natural ending
Play/sing your melody several times and experiment with rhythmic phrasing.
Write down your melody.
Repeat this process dozens of times and fill a notebook with melodies, fragments, and sketches.
Here are a few ways to begin shaping one of your melodies into a larger composition:
Write melodic and rhythmic variations
Write a contrasting B phrase to answer your melody
Combine variations with your B phrase:
A (original melody) A’ (variation) B (response or answer phrase)
Write a countermelody—try recording your original melody and sing or play along
Write a bass line
After writing a bass line, harmonize your melody with inner voices
Turn the intuitive melody into a bass line and write a new melody above it