Avoiding writers block when learning how to Write Piano Music

In the last article we looked at why you are composing for the piano. Now it’s time to start looking at how to start writing music for the piano – fantastic!

Straight away I want to tackle one of the biggest obstacles that many of my students come up against when seeking to compose – the blank piece of paper! Musicians are not immune from the disease that novelists call “writer’s block” – in fact, we suffer equally if not more so from it. Writers have a blank piece of paper, we have a blank set of black and white piano keys. Where on earth do we start?

Well, let me give you my 4 tips to avoiding composers’ block.

1. Pick the right tools for you

We live in an incredible age of choice – think of buying a mobile phone. You can have one that plays music, surfs the internet, works with apps. How smart do you want it to be? Do you want a Blackberry, an iphone, or do you just want one that you can talk into? The same choice is available to the contemporary composer. You can use everything from the latest most high tech recording equipment through to a simple piece of manuscript paper. You can record in audio or midi, you can notate on computer or by pencil or you can simply record ideas on your phone (however smart it happens to be!). Make the most of this – try as many of these things out as possible – see which one(s) work best for you. I have used (and still do use) all of these methods although my preferred is to record ideas down on a rough phone recording (my phone is not particularly smart!). The key thing is to find a tool which works for you.
benjamin dunnett music

2. Don’t Be A Perfectionist

If you are like me, you can easily fall into the trap of rubbishing lots of your ideas – don’t!! Get passed any perfectionist instinct you may have. When you have an idea just get it down (phone, paper, computer, etc..). Lots of my ideas will never get be heard by anyone except me, but they are often key parts of the creative process which leads to the final finished pieces.

3. Never Erase Anything

I use the mantra “No idea is a bad idea” – once you have jotted down an idea, don’t erase it or throw it away. Periodically, I listen to the ideas I’ve come up with over a period of weeks and months and it always amazes me how ideas that I’d previously forgotten about become key starting points for pieces of music. If I had erased these initial ideas then I would not have been able to produce the compositions that came from them.

4. A Little Bit a Day is Good For You

Some people say you must compose a bit every day, in the same way that they will say you must exercise every day. Others will tell you that you must only compose when you feel inspired to do so and you must exercise only when you want to. These patterns seem to be as much about personality type as a “one size fits all” method. Personally, I don’t find a religious devotion to daily composition particularly helpful, but I do recognize that a commitment to regular composing is a key component of successful composition. Whatever your personality type, some combination of committed regular composing and a willingness to take a break when your brain hurts is needed.

Going Forward

So, there we have it, my 4 stage process for avoiding writer’s block. Keep these in mind as we head into the next session where we are going to start to compose a melody.
If you wanting to find some piano music to further inspire you in your writing then Click Here for a free download of some of my piano tracks.