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I'm pretty young and I have played the piano for a long, long time. Now I 'm learning about composition and orchestration.

But I always stumble into this problem: I can hear music in my head, I can imagine it and how it will sound; themes pop into my mind, it's truly amazing.

But whenever I sit in the piano, I cannot execute what I imagined. I try to nail down the notes and the harmony, but I simply can never nail it.

I can hum it, for sure. But can't write it down.

How can I overcome this difficulty?

  • How have you been learning the piano? Paying from score? – topo Reinstate Monica Jul 26 at 19:23
  • Are you hearing piano music in your head? – Michael Curtis Jul 26 at 20:52
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    The situation is unclear, you hear it in your head, can't nail it down at the piano, but you can hum it. When you hum it, you can't play the matching notes on the piano? I mean hum the theme and play it in unison on the piano. – Michael Curtis Jul 26 at 20:56
  • Write It Down. Don't compose at the piano. Think of it, write it down, look at it, improve it. You'll compose far better that way. Your brain doesn't fall into preconceived patterns the way your fingers do. – user207421 Jul 27 at 2:18
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I'd like to share two different potential answers to your issue:

  • Train perfect pitch: Even relative pitch can help you here, but the goal in this scenario would be learning the sounds of the notes closely enough to be able to transcribe a melody from your head into notes, with or without the assistance of an instrument. Don't be mistaken, this is definitely the harder option, but perhaps with more benefit.
  • Record your humming: There's a reason why musicians have stereotypically carried a personal audio recorder device with them. Sometimes melodies pop into your head and being able to record the humming can help you recreate it later. For some people, the same thing happens with lyrics and it can be easier to record them than write them.
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    +1 for recording. I think I read somewhere that Charlie Puth (if he's anyone to go by) wrote his album Voicenotes with them – marcellothearcane Jul 26 at 17:45
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    Training perfect pitch, is that even a realistic ambition? music.stackexchange.com/questions/1169/… – Your Uncle Bob Jul 26 at 18:21
  • There's no need for perfect pitch when writing down music from your head. Relative pitch would be vital. When you hear a tune you should be able to hear the intervals, but the absolute pitch is not important. . . – PeterJ Jul 27 at 11:29
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Not a complete answer because I don't really know how to do this myself yet. But I do have a few pieces of advice.

For an amateur, getting on paper (or in the computer) something which you can hear in your head is hard. In fact, my general piece of advice for someone who's only just starting out in any musical capacity who has something stuck in their head - is to let it stay there in their head. At least for the time being.

All the songs I've successfully made, I've made through a combination of screwing about and applying basic bits of music theory to the stuff that sounds nice. They've grown organically.

Almost all the songs over the years that I've made up in my head have resulted in abject failure when trying to transcribe them. It just never quite sounds how it's supposed to. The problem for me is that what I have in my head is often supplanted by the wrong notes I'm trying out on the keyboard, and I can no longer remember what the notes were supposed to be.

So here's my advice:

  • Make sure that you have your song firmly planted in year head. 'Listen' to it over and over so that you'll be able to remember it tomorrow and the days after.
  • Study your song, don't just let it idle in your head. Yes it sounds weird to talk about active vs passive listening to something that's only in your head, but you do need to actively break it down into its component parts.
  • I disagree that perfect pitch is necessary. You only need to be able to identify chords and intervals. If you are able to identify what that specific chord/effect/interval/tune is, that's great. Write it down. Otherwise, leave it until you've gained the experience needed to identify how it's composed. There's no rush. If you're able to keep remembering it, you can work on bits of it any time.

Working on the skills needed to transcribe what's in your head is a lifelong process. It's tricky, but with practice and effort you ought to make some decent progress.

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