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The title can sound broad, but my question is not. I have a background of 4 years of solfege that I have done a long time ago. A few years ago I became a big fan of piano, I spent months listening to the integral of Schumann Piano Works by Wilhem Kempff, and since then I've been busy listening all the piano works of Schubert, Liszt, and a couple of other artists.

Today I am full with inspiration and I have piano melodies running in my mind all the day long. It might be simple themes, but most of the time it is long and complex ones, with both hands, variations etc... I also have inspiration for songs. At some point, I realized that I was certainly wasting that and decided to record my self singing these melodies. As a result I have lot of them in my smartphone.

My problem is that I have great troubles to write them on a music sheet. I am not fluent at all. I don't know what note it is that I have in my mind. A few months ago, I downloaded the software Musescore to help me create the sheets. The great thing is that it allows me to recognize one note at a time by ear... but I am very slow with this process. And I can't describe how frustrating it is.

Today I wonder which one of these two assertion is true :

1/ If I continue writing by ear, and perhaps do it more regularly I will eventually become fluent.

2 / There is a magic book/method that I haven't heard of that will help me progress more quickly.

So far the resources I've seen are mainly about composition theory, techniques to get inspiration etc... but my concern is only music writing. I need to write down what I have in my mind.

What would be a standard way to achieve this result ?

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Learn to walk.

The great thing is that it allows me to recognize one note at a time by ear... but I am very slow with this process. And I can't describe how frustrating it is.

There is no magic mind reader.

As with anything we do, practice makes perfect. It may be frustratingly slow at first, but with persistence, the process will speed up. Cannot run without first learning to walk.

1/ If I continue writing by ear, and perhaps do it more regularly I will eventually become fluent.

This.

What would be a standard way to achieve this result ?

One note at a time.

Patience and Doing.

Composition is making it up and getting it down. It reads like making it up is easy, so practice skills that will help with getting it down.

Take a lesson in musical transcription. Or, teach yourself - find some lullabies and transcribe them. They will be simple melodies that should not take you too long to get down on paper.

When children's music becomes easy, move on to some more complicated material. Transcribe some Miles Davis solos. When your able to transcribe single line melodies, bring in some counterpoint.

The point is, these exercises will help you learn skills necessary to get what you have in your head down on paper. Otherwise hire a transcriber.

Another option would be learn how to program a MIDI sequencer. Many have notation tools built in that will print out what you've programmed...

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The word you are looking for is transcription; this is the act of taking a melody (or other musical part) and writing it down in musical notation. The process for doing it better is by using ear training -- the ability to recognize various aspects of music (such as scale degree, intervals, harmonies, and rhythms) from just hearing it. There are already numerous questions on this board on how to go about learning ear training, and there are many other websites that will help as well. It is not magic, but it will definitely help you move beyond the "one-note-at-a-time" way of working. It takes an active effort to learn it, but as with any skill, it will get better as you practice. It's what allowed someone like Beethoven to write a symphony while being almost completely deaf.

The best way to start is by what I call active listening -- constantly asking questions of whatever music you are listening to (not just your own compositions). What instruments are playing? What is the tempo, meter, and rhythm? Is the melody moving by steps, or leaps? How many notes were in that scale? Which note is tonic ('do' in solfege)? Can you identify the leading tone ('ti' in solfege) or the dominant ('so' in solfege)? Can you tell the difference between major chords and minor chords?

  • I wish we could accept several answers, especially for the active listening part. Thank you for your comprehensive answer – tobiak777 Feb 23 '15 at 19:42
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I recommend starting with a physical pencil and blank staff sheet. It feels laborious, but it puts you in a more intimate contact with the activity.

Write up a discrete section - 8 or 16 bars - then enter it into your program. Hit replay and you will see how well you did. Correct it and go back to your paper.

Slow at first, this will get you humming. You cannot skip over the learning process, but will surprise yourself on how quickly you acquire skill. Those pieces floating around in your head will drive you on.

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