I've been producing for about a year now since November, granted it's been on and off. I can come up with a few things by improvising (although that hasn't been case lately). What I really want to know is how do musicians come up with all of this stuff in their head? What is it called when one creates original music in their own head. Is it innate or can this ability be obtained through work? It feels like I should've been able to come up with something in my own mind without have to improvise. Also, would meditating make a difference?

  • You can certainly learn how to copy other people (and many people make a good living doing exactly that) but you can't "learn" how to be original. As John Cage used to answer when challenged that anybody could write a piece of music consisting of 4'33" of silence, "sure, anybody could do that, but nobody actually did it".
    – user19146
    Dec 1, 2016 at 2:17

4 Answers 4


What I really want to know is how do musicians come up with all of this stuff in their head? What is it called when one creates original music in their own head.

We call that creativity! :-) If you mean a technical term, we call that "composition."

Is it innate or can this ability be obtained through work?

As far as I can tell, we're not sure if this ability is innate. Furthermore, it depends on what you mean by innate: encoded into our DNA (nature)? Or encoded by society (nurture)?

In any event, it can certainly be improved through work. The best methods to improve:

  • Listen to the type of music that you want to try and create. If you want to make EDM, listen to a lot of EDM. If you want to write music like Coheed and Cambria or Francis Poulenc, listen to a lot of Coheed and Cambria or Francis Poulenc. All the best authors will say that, in order to be a good author, you must be a good reader. You're doing the same thing here with music.
  • Try to recreate this music. This is called style composition; try and determine what it is you like about a given composer/group/genre and mimic it. (Also try it with aspects of the music you might not like!)
  • Listen some more. Start branching out to other artists within the genre you're focusing on. Start listening to rock, blues, even classical. Listen to everything.
  • If it's practical, take lessons. I'm a classically trained musician, so the notion of "composition lessons" is well known to me. If you're an EDM guy, I'm not too sure what the market is like for composition lessons! At the very least, learn some basic to intermediate music theory so you can understand the building blocks of it all.
  • Keep listening. Listen to everything. Bluegrass, Chinese opera, even high school marching bands. You'll find things that you love and things that you don't, and you'd be surprised what you can incorporate into your work!

Also, would meditating make a difference?

Perhaps! Everyone works differently; if you think this could be valuable in your creative process, try it out. Plenty of composers over time have used it to help them!


Use some randomness. Do you have any dice? Here are some ideas.


Assign a note to each number:

C - 1

D - 2

E - 3

G - 4

A - 5

B - 6

Roll the die a few times and write down the results. If you roll 3, 3, 5, 1 your melody is E E A C. You'll of course have to decide the rhythm, or you can roll a die for that too:

Rhythm: Assign a rhythm to each number

quarter note - 1
2x eighth notes - 2
triplet - 3
half note - 4
quarter rest - 5
whole note - 6

Chords: Roll 2 dice - the first one will choose the root note, and the 2nd will choose the chord "flavor":

Major - 1
minor - 2
Dominant7 - 3
minor7 - 4
Major7 - 5
diminished - 6

If you don't have a dice, or don't want to do all that rolling, you can use the same assignments from above, and use a familiar number to you. Zip code, street address, age, year of birth, etc.

If you do this often, soon you won't need the die. Just come up with a number in your head, convert it to your notes / rhythm / chord, and see if it sounds good.

I've also used this "Random Rhythm Motif Generator" for rhythmic ideas. http://learnhowtowritesongs.com/random-rythmn-motif-generator/


Definitely You should look secrets from a real master: Steve Vai speaking about one of his famous song "For the love of God"

And how he discover new melodies to write new songs. Definitely meditating makes the difference.

It's a new language you need to learn. You can start speaking with great composers/musicians. Definitely You should focus in a period/epoch (range of time) that You are more love with. For example the romantic period.

Listening orchestral composers like Joaquin Rodrigo (Concierto de Aranjuez -

), Rachmaninoff's Piano concerto no 2 (
), Micheal Giacchino (https://play.google.com/music/listen?authuser#/artist/Ahcjyqxtt4rsfzpobl7hyvy3pwa/Michael+Giacchino), Ennio Morricone, Juan P. Moncayo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Pablo_Moncayo), Aaron Copland (http://www.coplandhouse.org/aaron-copland/timeline/), Hans Zimmer

And finally I understood is like any other human subject : Practice and study, concentration, passion.


If you can, play different instruments. Muscle memory affects which notes are easiest to gravitate to when noodling on a particular instrument (e.g. mandolin, for me). So sometimes I pick up a guitar, and the noodling produces different ideas (esp. pentatonic stuff). Then when I get an idea from something that just popped out of my fingers ("Now, where did that come from?" is a common refrain), I duplicate it on mandolin.

Then I try a whistle, or flute, or keyboard. All different!

As for drums, listen to patterns from other countries, notably West African nations like Mali (Sabata and Pankeke), and Senegal and environs (so many rhythms), but also mid-East (Sufi/dum tek), Cuba (clave), Brazil (Bossa Nova, etc.), and India (tabla).

Edit: After writing this I watched the Vai video above and noticed that he reiterates the same idea.

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