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Many have noticed, I guess, that when you make up a song in your head you can hear many aspects, lots of instruments, different melodies and sometimes create a full arrangement.

Most of this can lead to a complete piece.

This may sound strange but the question is: How do you get it out of your head and onto paper or into a program. How not to forget it a few minutes later?

I'm asking because I'm having this problem a lot. Just before sleep I start composing in my head and think to myself, "Oh, this is going to be a great piece..." but when I wake up I forget all of it.

  • 4
    Don't go to sleep. Get out of bed and record it or write it down. – Todd Wilcox Jan 24 '17 at 6:54
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    Are you sure your mind isn't playing tricks on you, regarding the completeness of the piece? – Tim H Jan 24 '17 at 12:09
  • @TimH I am sure! – SovereignSun Jan 25 '17 at 7:39
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    This is my problem all the time for me. I have a great tune and go Holy yass this is going to sound great and never can get it sounding just right – Christopher Mar 12 '17 at 0:58
  • I would absolutely love to know how you manage to hold a full arrangement in your head. I can get a basic loop in there, but as soon as I start modifying anything, I lose other parts :( – naught101 Dec 27 '19 at 2:46
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The safest way is, as someone commented, to record it or write it down. But when I get an idea like that I like to challenge myself and try to remember it without documenting. (I do this in the shower all the time too, just for fun)

So to answer your question:

It's easy to forget a bunch of pitches in a row, but it's not that hard to translate it into simpler information, that you can easily remember. If i were to come up with a melody in my head as I'm falling asleep i would do the following:

  • Melody: Listen to the melody in your head. What intervals are you using, and more importantly, what interval are you starting with? I almost always remember the melody later when I play/hum the first few intervals, and I usually don't even try to remember the rhythm, it just comes back with the melody.
  • Style: What is the feel of the melody, or what is the point of the melody? This step is my favourite, because 9/10 times, when I later try to recall the melody, I almost always find ways to improve upon it, because it wasn't optimal for it's point to begin with.
  • Rhythm: Some people have trouble remembering melodics, some people have trouble remembering rhythmics. Find the one that is easier for you and repeat step one with rhythm. Instead of intervals you can think in "groups". Visualize the rhythmic notation and take a mental snapshot of it. I belong to the group that has trouble remembering rhythm, but this step still works for me.
  • Instrumentation: This is pretty simple, what instrument do you hear playing your melody? Remember the instruments names, not their sounds.
  • Harmony: This is the hardest part imo. But if you are familiar with chord functions or step analysis, you should definitely use that and just get the base chords. You can figure out extensions when you are fully awake.

If you do all of this, you'll have translated your abstract idea to a very concrete list of information. You should have no trouble remembering the melody and in addition you've trained your hearing and your theory skills. Win win!

OR

  • Don't care. If you compose a lot you learn to trust your ability to write melodies, and you shouldn't have to celebrate when you "find a good one". Also I've learned that the importance of a good melody is lower than the importance of good orchestration and production (sound)

Hope this helps!

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I have this problem a lot, so I sympathize. Here's what I do.

  1. Get out of bed and go to the piano. Play the melody through a few times. Do some variations on it then go back to the simple melody and play it through a few times. (If you don't have a piano, do it on some other instrument.)

  2. If there's some blank music paper handy, write the simplest form of the melody down. If there's no blank music paper handy, but some plain paper, then write down the letter names of the pitches with little arrows up or down to show the direction of the interval.

  3. (Really important.) Write down the instrumentation ideas you had. If necessary draw arrows from those to different parts of the melody.

  4. Go eat something or drink something.

  5. Turn on the TV for a couple of minutes. Then turn it off.

  6. Play through the melody again (without looking at your notes) and see if it has changed any. It usually has. Write down the new version or at least the changes.

  7. Go back to bed and dream of sheep or whatever else turns you off.

  8. Next morning, first thing, before you do anything else, go the piano (or whatever) and see if you remember the melody. Whether you do or don't, go to your notes and see if what you now feel about it matches what you wrote. If it all seems kind of dead and blah, throw everything away. it isn't worth saving! But if it's a good one, your brain will start messing with it again, perhaps a continuation of last night, perhaps a whole new approach.

  9. Smile and get on with the day. If the song's still in your head, it will never go away. If it isn't, good riddance.

  • Interesting. Especially the part about turning the TV on and then off. Do you save many ideas this way? – SovereignSun Feb 10 '17 at 6:31
  • I used to average about two a week this method. Now it's more like one a month. I'm getting old! (76). The bit about the TV on and off is to make sure the melody is stabilizing in your head. The sudden distraction is a test. If the melody survives that, it's probably a pretty good one. – L3B Feb 10 '17 at 14:10
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The following are the methods, i use when a melody or music piece comes in my head.

1 ) with very less time - Hum the melody which arise in your head and record with your phone so that your effort and time is less.In the same time you can retain the melody without forgetting.open notepad in mobile phone and note the instruments which comes in your head.(go to sleep and refer whenever you want this piece) While recoring using phone-Beat the table/desk to give the rhythm so that you can record melody along with the rhythm which is in your head. 2) With less time - Just try playing the notes using "my phone piano" app (if you are familier with keyboard instrument) the tone and the flow of the melody to be played couple of times and this will help you to remember the melody next time when you run your finger on your piano.

3)With resonable time in hand -Take a blank music sheet or notaion software and notate the melody and write atleast two or four bars so that there is no starting trouble when you sit later for completing this piece and the remaing part will come out automatically.

And the very intersting part is if i fail to record/write and try to recollect next day when i wake up-i get something else which was not the yesterday night's melody but something new which is diffrent but a new intresting piece.So not necessary that you have to record all which comes to your head.Because melodys are not limited to one or two-it can be not countable and each time you try to get a new melody and that will be a unique one.

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