I'm writing again, but the song I just composed is not my song.
November 7, 2007 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Should I transcribe what I'm hearing in my head? How? (And should I see a shrink?)

So, a song just fell into my head. It's fully developed with the exception of some of the lyrics missing. I've got the main vocal line, a background descant, a very full piano part, and some drums. Sometimes the background lyrics don't match the main lyrics.

It's a very nice song. I like it. The problem is, I'm pretty sure the aether misplaced it. It's clearly meant for Tori Amos's brain. In fact, it's Tori's voice singing it! It's built like a song of hers, too, in terms of the chords chosen and how the vocals drape across them -- maybe a kissing cousin of Tear in your Hand.

It would not surprise me too much if tomorrow some of her people banged on my door and threatened me for stealing the song already on the way to her. (Okay, yes it would. But you see where I'm going with this.)

I frequently have bits of music I have composed just pop up in my head, but I'm always the one singing, and it doesn't seem so derivative. But I never seem to be able to finish those.

Three questions:
1) If I wanted to try and transcribe what I'm hearing, I'd need a quicker way to write the music down. I could run to a store nearby for paper pre-lined with music staves, but is there a way of doing it digitally? I'd like to create a JPG or GIF of some sheet music.

2) Is my writer's block over, or has it just begun, if I'm writing someone else's song?

3) Given all of the above: do I need to see a shrink? ::toothy grin::
posted by RobotHeart to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1) I don't know about digitally, but you can skip the trip to the store and get the paper online if you have a printer.

2) In order to answer this question, one would have to believe that you're writing someone else's song.

3) Yes, I think maybe you do.
posted by amro at 2:14 PM on November 7, 2007

For your first question: Having used music notation software, you'll never achieve a speed anywhere close to what you can get by just writing it down on a piece of paper (and sticking it on the computer later).

What if you hummed the song as you heard it, and recorded that for transcription later?
posted by DMan at 2:17 PM on November 7, 2007

Best answer: 1) musictheory.net has a staff paper generation utility.

2) It happens, although it doesn't sound like you're actually writing someone else's song.

3) No, you just need to stop padding your questions with superfluous cuteness.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:19 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

i just did a google image search of "blank sheet music"
this should work. now grab a pencil and get crackin'.
posted by robotot at 2:50 PM on November 7, 2007

Response by poster: Argh, now I'm talking like her too. No, I didn't mean that I'm literally stealing her song. I mean that it feels like it's too derivative for me to consider it "mine."
posted by RobotHeart at 3:03 PM on November 7, 2007

If you know any music theory jot the chords down first. Hum the melody into the record function of your cell phone.
posted by konolia at 3:03 PM on November 7, 2007

Get it out, none-the-less. It's there, it's your duty to let it out. Maybe then try recording it even. THEN decide if it's your song or not.

My guess is it WILL be, but even if you don't like the finished product, the journey is the destination anyway.
posted by Espoo2 at 3:32 PM on November 7, 2007

Write it down! I've had a couple of nice tunes pop up and, sure I can remember them, I haven't written them down. Then when I go to remember them they have degraded.
posted by tomble at 4:41 PM on November 7, 2007

Best answer: Paul McCartney had 'Yesterday' come to him fully formed except the lyrics. He was pretty certain he had ripped it off of someone, too.

Now if only George Harrison had been so mindful.
posted by eritain at 10:47 PM on November 7, 2007

Best answer: I keep a hand-held voice recorder around, so that when the muse strikes, I can get it down. If the uke is around as well, I'll work out the chords and drop it in.

Then I forget about it for a while, come back and listen -- and either it's terrible and I move on, or it's good and I set to developing it.

So don't worry about getting it on paper -- recording it, no matter how bare-bones -- is always faster.

As for accidentally rewriting an existing song...it happens. Just be aware that if it reminds you of another song, you should take the time to make sure it isn't. I once spent an hour assembling an 80's style cheesy electronic thing, only to realize at the end I'd just "written" We're Not Gonna Take It.
posted by davejay at 12:14 AM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Write it down, definitely! Whatever you remember of it, in as complete a form as you can. I do this occasionally, and good songs are sometimes the result.

In one particular instance, though, my brain had percolated enough that it spat out a modified version of Pachebel's Canon.

Write it down, walk away for a while, and come back to it, so you can evaluate the music on its own merits, rather than in the heat of the moment.
posted by LN at 5:20 AM on November 8, 2007

I once interviewed a guy who swore he was the reincarnation of John Lennon and that he was really just trying to get a record deal so that he could make a comeback. He was a diagnosed paranoid schitzophrenic.

Even though I know nothing about paranoid schitzophrenia (IANAP!), it sounds to me like you are just having a bout of creativity. I'd say stay alert and make sure you can tell what is in your head and what isn't. So long as reality in your head and reality out of your head are still lining up, you should be fine.

Well. Not fine. There are still wars and germs and poverty and stuff. But your mind should be okay for the time being.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:28 AM on November 8, 2007

. The problem is, I'm pretty sure the aether misplaced it. It's clearly meant for Tori Amos's brain.

If you truly believe this in its literal sense, then the answer to #3 is yes.
posted by tastybrains at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2007

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