Sometimes I have a very nice musical idea, with orchestration too, and I clearly hear it in my mind as if I was listening to a CD.

But I cannot retain it. The only way is to play it over and over in my mind, but then I cannot even walk or drive.

Cold you suggest some technique for "saving to hard disk"? (Somehow so that as I have time I can later write it down.)

I have a degree in classical piano, I also studied classical composition for some years, so I have a musical background.

  • 1
    I occasionally have moments where I think up a melody and my brain fleshes it out into an orchestral piece -- no idea how -- but I know very little about composition, so I can't write anything down. Very frustrating.
    – user28
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 15:22
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    @Matthew Read: I highly, highly recommend practicing transcribing your ideas. The ability to turn melody into notes is highly complimentary to the ability to turn notes into melodies. Developing that skill has vastly improved my sight-reading.
    – Babu
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 16:30
  • I always find it easy to read the notes but I don't find a similar ease with writing them. When reading the key is always implied and deviations from it are clearly indicated. When writing you have to take time to figure out what key you're in, and you have to logically analyze each time you go outside of it. I find this extremely detrimental to my own creative process, although I wouldn't disagree that this is because I lack practice and discipline. Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


This won't help with full orchestration and the like -- if you're hearing all that clearly then you're way ahead of me. But for melody, shape of harmony, rhythms you want to capture, etc, a voice recorder can help. I've found that sometimes a melody deteriorates as I try to transcribe it from my mind, so I start by singing/humming/la-la-laing it into a recorder and then I work on it, falling back to that copy if I need to. If you have a smartphone, there's an app for that. :-) (I don't, so I can't tell you its name.)

Of course, the process of writing it down can improve it, such that I no longer care about the version on the recording. It's ok; I wasn't going to share that recording with anybody else anyway.

  • Thanks, it is probably the only thing to do. Now smartphones are very popular and what you suggest is doable. In the past it was mandatory to always have a tape recorder at hand... Not very pratical at all. Yes singing some melody at least it can be a sketch. By the way hearing a full orchestration in the mind is somehow also a self-illusion, it is not a real composition, it is a kind of illusion, this means that anyone it must be re.composed from scratch, but having a line to follow (recorded on smartphone) it can help.
    – user193655
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 13:39
  • By the way for anyone interested in trasnscribing music by ear there is a non ortodox approach in this book I read in the past (the author is dead): rongorow.com
    – user193655
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 13:40

The best solution is probably going to be just transcribing the idea in musical notation but if you are able to sing the melody, any multi-track recording software on a smartphone should suffice to get enough down to jog your memory enough to get back to where you were (look out for software that has a looped recording capability as this is especially good for getting down harmonic ideas fast)

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