I used to compose at the piano when I was younger. When I got married and had children, it was diminished. Then, when I lost house, wife, child 1, 2, then 3 (the last), it was really hard. After suffering all that, I just don't seem to have the heart to play. Does anybody have any tips on how to move past great loss. I should try to channel it into my music, but when I try, it just doesn't seem to click.

Most helpful would be if anybody has had a heart-injury (solar-plexus blow) knock them off-track, and you can tell me your story of how you got back on track. This is my first time posting here. Hopefully, this is not off-topic. Thanks, all.

P.S. -- My style is "contrapuntal melody", syncopation, both baby grand upright, and electronic piano, and synth, and voice, and b-flat cornet. When I proposed to my (x-wife now), I used a four-part barber-shop quartet of myself I made on a 4-track as a background tape, and proposed in front of the entire church. Gave her hives, and she loved it.

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    Had a girlfriend long ago who said she made her best songs written after break-ups. Perhaps you're very different. I regret I never heard her new song after our demise...
    – Tim
    Oct 13, 2021 at 7:00
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    It's possible that your inspiration schedule (at least so to speak) just doesn't mesh with times filled with despair. I know I'm generally in a near-constant state of composer's block, and I need either great, sudden inspiration or the impetus of a contest to force me to use my less memorable improvisations as a basis in order to compose. I also find that anything exciting enough (e.g. Magic: the Gathering set previews) often distracts me from composing.
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 13, 2021 at 12:48
  • One answer suggests this is off-topic, but I think that depends what you mean by ‘get back on track’, which you have not really explained. If you mean ‘how do I recover my ability to compose after my losses’ I think you are just as on-topic, as dealing with any other problems. If you mean ‘can I use music to help solve my problem’ it does not seem such a good fit, but is still about living with music, and may find still find sympathetic ears. Of course the bald question ‘how do I solve my problems’ is off-topic, but I do not think you mean that.
    – PJTraill
    Oct 14, 2021 at 20:38
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    All the answers below have shown that the answer to this is a matter of personal opinion which doesn't fit the Q&A style very well along with some hints at off-topic matters as others have pointed out. MicroservicesOnDDD, I'm very sorry about your current situation and hope some of the comments/answers could help, but I've closed this question. If you want to have more discussions with people on our site where this would be more appropriate feel free to use our chat.
    – Dom
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:22

7 Answers 7

  1. You've experienced significant trauma, and it doesn't take a licensed psychologist to say you're experiencing (quite understandable) depression. By all means, you can aspire to return to making music, but I would encourage you to look to more direct help than composition to address these wounds. Yes, music can be a powerful tool to heal the psyche, and music therapy is effective, but I would strongly encourage you to seek direct, professional therapeutic counseling. The state of counseling today gives us much better help than Gesualdo, Bach, or Mahler could have wished for, and in your shoes I would absolutely lean on the expertise of someone trained to help me start on a journey out of depression.

  2. It might take time. I can't find the exact details right now, but I'm sure that many great composers faced periods of trauma and depression, responded with a pause in their output, and eventually returned to composition. Beethoven was brought to suicidal thoughts by his deafness. Mahler lost two children. Schubert and Schumann both suffered from what was likely bipolar disorder, and their output was affected. In all these cases (I believe), their troubles caused them to temporarily stop composing, so the fact that you've paused is not at all surprising. We have the benefit of hindsight which can foreshorten these composers' "slumps" and their return to writing, but at the time they might have been concerned that they might never write again. Don't despair, and give yourself time.

  3. While, yes, music can be therapeutic, and yes, your trauma has understandably affected your writing, I encourage you not to put too much poetic/spiritual/metaphysical weight on the relationship between our psyche and our musical craft. The way we think of the relationship between the composer and the composition is strongly colored by the Romantic period, in which the act of composition came to be seen as a mystical, ineffable exchange between "the Muse" and the composer's spirit. Composition was seen as highly individual and personal, and the assumption that a composer's work and their personal life were intricately interrelated became a given.

    In contrast, in earlier periods, there was less emphasis on the composer's personal "voice," less assumption that the work was inspired or affected by biographical events, and less assumption that the act of composition affected the composer. Composers were craftsmen who turned out works to order, rather than oracles who channeled mystic realities from spiritual realms. I don't mean to imply that this viewpoint was 100% accurate either—surely Bach was impacted by the deaths of his children and wife—but I encourage you to temper any expectations you place on your composition. Just because Shostakovich used chamber music as a confessional medium doesn't mean that he mightn't have gotten more benefit from a trained counselor (and freedom from his situational stressors). And conversely, if you free your music from the requirement to mirror your soul, it might give you more permission to compose.

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    +1 I think it's wise to debunk notions of artists and tortured souls. Oct 13, 2021 at 15:17
  • @MichaelCurtis It is a shame that the notion of the tortured artist does persist. Thankfully people no longer hope to contract tuberculosis to improve their art.
    – Theodore
    Oct 13, 2021 at 21:21
  • @Theodore, this morning I was thinking of that exact trope: tuberculosis and Chopin. Oct 14, 2021 at 12:39

When you have a problem, you should deal with the problem.

Your problem is not musical.

It's completely off topic to advise you about your actual problem. No one here knows anything about your financial and personal affairs.

You need to acknowledge the problem is not musical, be honest with yourself, figure out what the problem really is, and overcome it.


Leave the composing for another day. You have musical knowledge from prior writing, you have physical music knowledge from playing piano. You are over half way to playing another instrument. Choose one, and study and practise until you are good with it. It will give you a different musical direction, and occupy you at the same time - with, or without a teacher. As mentioned, the only thing lacking is how to get that instrument to sound good. It will hopefully inspire some more writing in the future - perhaps even using that chosen instrument.



I agree with others (especially Andy Bonner in his thorough answer) who say you probably should first seek help from a licensed counselor or similar health professional. Many people (including myself) have sought such help for trauma of much less magnitude than yours.


While that is going on, you will still need to continue with your life. As painful as your situation may seem, it also presents an opportunity. Something has been lost and you have a chance to decide what should take its space. As you rebuild, you can stake out as much space as you like for your music in whatever free time you may have.

In the past, something that has helped me to refocus on composition has been to accept "challenges". Having a more-or-less prescribed task and a schedule helps motivate. Constraints can help break composer's block! Perhaps they even push you closer to the "craftsmen turning out works to order" that Andy mentioned:

  • In 2013 I participated in NaSoAlMo where you must compose, perform, and record an entire album (minimum length 29:09) during the month of November.
  • For a stretch in 2019 I signed up for the Disquiet Junto, a constrained composition mailing list. Each Thursday you receive a "prompt" with composition constraints and must post your creation to Soundcloud by the following Monday. You can skip any week that doesn't inspire, but the prompts never stop. They are on Week 510 now. (Most participants are more electronica-oriented than you seem to be, but anyone is welcome.)

There are no prizes beyond your own satisfaction. These are two that I participated in, but there are many other similar groups out there if you look. Maybe others who like this idea can add links in the comments.


Music might help. I HOPE music will help. Maybe you'll need to use the technique of 'force a smile onto your face, even though you really want to cry'. I believe the emotion often follows the face's cue. It's worth a try.

So don't make music because you want to. Construct a scenario where you HAVE to make music - like fulfilling a contract. Just do it, as a chore. You won't enjoy it. Except, maybe, you will...


Your heart-hurt isn't what's keeping you out of music. Music is keeping you out of music. Any subject that accepts the wrong answers to things will become more difficult than it really is.

What I thought was a heart-hurt made me leave music school almost 20 years ago. I blamed it on my bad luck. More than 10 years after leaving school, I learned that there was a scientific basis to music and that started to get me out of feeling discouraged.

I came to realize that what made me quit music was the missing data. Honestly, the missing data gets filled with "Jazz" and a lot of people get discouraged. "It's good enough for Jazz".

The best things to do is to keep an open mind and a closed fist. Seriously, what answer stands a chance to reach you that doesn't parrot what some answer that will get a good reputation by consensus rather than proof? You have to accept that you are alone while at the same time not giving up on happiness.


Music is a confessor to the guilty, a shelter to the tortured souls, and the voice of the entire spectrum of human experience.

Don't do it this as an exercise in cerebral composition. Go to music with your heart full, whatever your feelings, and let the waves of sound wash over you until you're cleansed.


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