To Compose Music by Hand, or Compose by Computer? That is the Question.
Recently I have been writing a lot more music by hand and I have noticed something drastic. The music is better. Now, this is my opinion, others may not think so, but none the less, my opinion is what really matters to me at this point. So I am going to try and explain why I think it is better.
The Process of Composing Music
I have written a little bit about the process of composing music, but I feel now is a good time to expand a little more. What goes on when you sit down to compose? Well for me, it can begin in several different ways.
- Forcing myself to compose, when I am tired and don’t feel like it. This way of course is the least ideal, but can lead to some breakthroughs with your composing. The reason is, you end up just composing quite a bit more than you would otherwise. You can also push aside notions of grandeur and tackle “problems” you are wrestling with. Not metaphysical, psycho problems, although maybe… more like, theoretical problems, like how to modulate here or there.
- Inspiration. This is always the best, as you get an idea, or hear something in your head that you just have to write down. Inspiration seems to come from the strangest places.
- Wanting to compose something, but not having any inspiration. This is probably what happens most of the time. You know you want to compose something, but you don’t really know what. You just sit down at the piano, or grab your instrument and just noodle. This is what I am going to examine further.
Staring at a Blank Page of Music Staff Paper
This is a situation I think most of us have been in. I would go so far as to say, probably even Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner…. Bartok… (I am out of B’s). Well, you get the point. Everyone has this moment. What is the best thing that you can do.
Just Start Writing
Sounds easy. Well, actually, it is. See you have to start putting something, anything down on the page. Once you get over the hurdle of just noodling and actually start writing, you are half way there.
So Which One? Hand or Computer?
Okay, here we go. The winner is… it depends (Disappointment throughout the crowd). If you want to be more creative, hands down, it’s… hands. If you are going for speed, and you are composing for a commission or arranging for a large ensemble that you cannot play every instrument for at the same time, then probably computer. But, and here is the big but, in most cases you should start off composing by hand.
Why Composing By Hand is Better
I am probably not going to have everyone agree with me on this, but composing by hand improves creativity. In an article titled, How Handwriting Trains the Brain, on the Wall Street Journal Website, several observations have been made about the benefits of writing by hand versus computer. I believe these can be just as easily translated to composing. Its like any other language that you write.
- A study was conducted asking adults to differentiate between new characters (things like music, mandarin, and chemistry) and their mirror images. One group had written them out by hand previously and another had typed them on a computer. The group that wrote out by hand, they had a better memory of the symbols correct orientation, meaning they had more memory engagement.
- Another study showed that sequential finger movements, that kind that are used in writing by hand, versus typing, which produces the entire letter with one stroke, “activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.”
- A third study showed that children “wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”
One more thing to add. If you are learning to compose, the absolute best way to do “composing exercises” is by hand. As stated earlier, you will have better memory of what you have done, and in turn, the concepts of composing will become firmly cemented.
All of this adds up to more brain power gets recruited when you write by hand. And more brain power equals more creativity.