I sit here with bongos in my lap. The rhythms I tap out invoke melodies, many of which I discard as being too fragmented. I sometimes will sing these melodies out loud with the drumming to see if they match up as well in reality as they do in my head. Other times, I will sit down at my synthesizer and try to map the melody in my head to actual notes on a keyboard.
I find that playing my clarinet is often the most effective way to bind disparate melody fragments into a cohesive whole. This is how I used to do it years ago, experimenting with melodies on my clarinet, writing them down, and then developing them into full fledge songs. But I fell out of practice on the instrument mostly due to work taking up so much of my time, and the fact that my mouth muscles are out of practice. You have to keep a tight embouchure in order to keep a clarinet in tune when you play.
These days I stick with my drums and synthesizer and wish I had the stamina to play that clarinet again. To develop my ideas more cohesively. The two month period of aching face muscles deters me however.
It is only recently in the last month that I have had access to decent recording equipment and software, and now that I have this wide open opportunity I find myself hesitating. The doubt creeps back into my writing, and I wonder if I can pull off the ideas that surge through my mind. Can I truly make a cohesive song that’s worth listening to?
I used to write music all the time. It’s my minor in college – music composition, and I have four recordings of the songs I wrote while at the university. I know I can do it, but that doubt is often debilitating. It’s that thought that maybe I am mediocre and no matter how hard I try, I may never be good at this. It is a bit like a writing block, but with music, and most of it is a relic from a childhood where I was afraid to sing at school. Afraid of being made fun of and bullied, and it’s fascinating and awful how such experiences from long ago can still rear their ugly head to make me doubt my own talent.
I can write music well, and it is interesting to listen to as others have told me this numerous times. Urging me to continue, to try despite the doubts, to develop those themes and melodies in all their glory.
So I sit down with my instruments, recording equipment, and my notebook. And I start to write.