Posts Tagged ‘music composition’

Creative Processes and Products- Order and Chaos in Dialogue

March 5, 2016

Jim Simmons no guitar

By Jim Simmons

When beginning to write your own music, you will quickly discover the need to record your ideas. Soon after this discovery, another usually follows: namely, the need to make decisions about the ideas that have emerged.

These two problems have many solutions, and that is a good thing, because as you grow in your craft, so too, will your craft change. Even stranger is the fact that your creative process will also undergo its own changes and life cycles. Let me give an example:

Genesis used to write all of her chords down on paper, with the lyrics underneath, but now that her guitar technique has improved beyond simple chord playing, she’s found it difficult to describe what her guitar accompaniment is doing with words, letters, and symbols on paper. After trying to notate riffs and ideas simply by labeling them as they occurred (idea 1, idea 2), she became frustrated at never quite remembering what she had played. So, then Genesis began to video herself playing the ideas.

Now, what could some of the hidden difficulties be in the new approach? Perhaps our song writer still has the necessary and difficult task of sifting and choosing before her, and this may not just apply to different sections of the song—perhaps, she’s discovered there are two versions of a section that seem equally satisfying, and she can’t choose between them.

I have recently been undergoing certain changes in my own creative process, similar to the ones described above. I want to offer a few encouragements to any creators out there who’ve struggled with such challenges.

First of all, your song, project, piece, whatever it is—it doesn’t have to be the end-all-of-all perfect artistic/musical statement that you make. So, don’t feel the need to put all of your ideas into one song/piece/etc. Hopefully, you’ll write more in the future, so leave something else to say for later projects. Secondly, if you have differing versions of a musical section, that may be a good thing, since deliberate variations often lend interest to the listener. Regarding creative process, remember that just because it’s a “process” doesn’t mean it has to be systematic. It’s true that sifting through videos, audio recordings, lead sheets, and other sorts of sketches can be a chore, but such work will always bear fruit. Even if you wind up creating “too much” material, you may eventually use some of the leftovers to get you started on another work.

Lastly, creativity is, in my mind, more a way of life than a means to an end. It’s true that an artist should seek to share their work with others, and that it’s a shame when an artist never gets their ideas out of their head. But, similarly tragic is an artist haunted by perfectionism and the fear of failure. As good as you (and I) want that song, or piece, or project to end up sounding, creating music and art are values in-and-of-themselves. So, on one hand, be passionate about the quality of your finished product. But, on the other hand, be free, messy, methodical, imperfect, and committed to the chaotic, ordering process of creativity.

Here are some videos documenting a piece as it grew. I was sick at the time, and not very concerned with my playing technique, so some of the notes sound pretty bad, and some of the videos end with me more frustrated than satisfied, but I am so glad I can now reference these for the new version of the piece that is now underway.


Happy Creating!

Jim Simmons


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


Part 6


Instructor – Liz Comninellis

July 2, 2010
Liz Comninellis, Voice, Piano and Composition Instructor at The  Lesson Studio

Liz Comninellis

By Elizabeth Gold, Correspondent of The Lesson Studio

When Liz started music lessons at age five, she did as she was told but not because her heart was in it.  She recalls a mild interest in learning to sing and play piano but the majority of her focus came from the drive to fulfill her parents wish that they’d stuck it out as children.

Instead, the establishing moment in Liz’s musical career came about in the fifth grade when a friend who had convinced her to sing together in a talent show freaked out as the curtain went up.

“I decided to just go for it myself,” she says, with a just-do-it attitude.  The glue that sealed the deal was when the mother of a boy she admired from afar called her parents and applauded her performance.  It’s one thing to enjoy doing something but it sometimes means a whole lot more when someone else notices how well you do it.  Especially if that someone is the mother of a crush.

A lot of what Liz uses to inspire her voice, piano and composition students comes from what she didn’t get from teachers early on.  For example, her childhood piano teacher stopped her every time she made a mistake.  “I never got to feel passionate because I didn’t get to the part in the music where I was good.”

Knowing first-hand the damage that comes from shining more light on challenges rather than on successes, Liz encourages her students to go all the way to the end of a piece they’re working on in the lesson.  She then asks them to point out where they’re having trouble.

In her early teenage years, Liz literally found her voice through a teacher who took her aside and said, ‘You’ve got something – let’s develop it.’

“I looked up to her and wanted to be like her,” she says.  “She was the only adult role model I had that really invested in me.”  And that’s what Liz brings to students at The Lesson Studio – an encouraging, knowledgeable music teacher who’s focused on bringing out the best in them.