From Doodle to Music



Doodling is the act of just playing with abandon not really focused on being musical. Most of the time its at best relaxing, it can be exploratory if one is doing it over a changes i.e a chord progression but too much is a waste of time. Practice needs to be structured if one in going to progress so doodling in general is contrary to a serious musician’s objectives.

However, one area where a bit of doodling can be beneficial is in composing. Often , ideas come when one just let’s go and is free from the stress to produce. The key of course then would be to record your “doodling” and go  back and try to glean some musical lines.

For a recent doodle which like most of my doodles pretty much crappy run of the mouth line I went back and tried to salvage the underlying musical idea that was lurking in my subconscious at the time. What you see above is the notation of it and below is the audio for the midi playback.

It sounds better on the guitar. The performance includes slides and minor nuances that I can’t be bothered notating i.e. too difficult. Perhaps the transcription is not totally accurate though I think its quite close. You would not turn a lead sheet with all those rests but the cleaner lead sheet would have misleading playback i.e. more legatto than what I intend.

I’ll share a recorded guitar line later.

from doodle

Updated April 24th, 2013



The above is a more accurate transcription of what I intend the line to be. This is amounting to the start of a solo as opposed to a melody.

Here’s the audio for it:

from doodle v2

The audio is just the midi playback for the scored line , the performance includes stylistic innuendo in the form of slide approaches which I will share.

Updated : 4/26/2013

Recorded guitar line:

from doodle v3 w guitar

9 thoughts on “From Doodle to Music

  1. jon

    How did the doodle happen?

    For example was the starting point in the mind and singling? then you put it to guitar then wrote down or …

    The exact steps is sometimes important. For example there is what I call, “instrument bias” (that includes the voice). So for example:
    The voice can sometimes be a cleaner reproduction of the mind. But it is limited in conception and it also not as multi-dimensional in terms of how it comes to you.

    The instrument can be inspiring, but sometimes it can make you follow your fingers

    What I like is doodling directly into the playable score and listening back. I can then adjust until it sounds right. I can also try out other parts and listen to those and use the same process.

  2. Charles Post author

    this doodle did come from the guitar. Don’t know what you mean by doodling into the playable score i.e. midi into Sibelius ? What I do i,e. when I do record a doodle and try to go through the exercise of doing something with it is that I try to transcribe myself. In this case the doodle was all over the place and way too many notes but I could hear what it was my mind was hearing, so I then recorded that new conception and transcribed it and the process then continues until I get it down. I hear this as a solo so am I going to continue the exercise by expanding the line into the changes for So May It Secretly Begin

  3. jon

    ok. so you played some. Transcibed it then cleaned it up/edited it? You transcribed it how. How did it physically get into score form?

    when I say doodle in score, I sing and/or sometimes just sketch/drag other notes into score on principle

  4. Charles Post author

    I listened to the original doodle, from that I understood what I was trying to say and so I just played it again i.e. different notes closer to what you hear in the transcribed midi playback. I recorded that new re-statement and that is what I scored i.e. it took a couple passes. It physically got into score form pretty much old school i.e. I had it recorded in logic which includes a piano roll and a notation editable view, so I entered the notes via both the notation view and the piano roll. The piano roll makes it easier to move notes around and change their duration and velocity for that matter. However, the notation view is easiest way of initially entering the notes.

    I see what you mean , you actually doodle on Sibelius, drop some notes and try to build from that.

    I do come up with melody ideas both by singing and by playing the guitar. Those arrived by singing are more melodic :) but what comes out of the guitar is also closer to “guitar music” if you know what I mean which is sometimes exactly what I want.

  5. jon

    You often have these familiar type melodies that transpose rhythmically in unexpected places.

    For example measure 4 is an imitation of measure 2 a beat early. For me – I know you disagree but I find it easier to start with more grounded things and then move away from that gradually to make it more interesting. Just in terms of the gestation process. It’s easier to build that way. At least for me.

    1. Charles Post author

      well, its not that I disagree, I’m not composing here per se, I”m transcribing a thought that was a reaction to sound context I was on, so I at first try to be true to that and see where it takes me. i’m basically documenting once I have that worked out then to me the question as far as song structure is do I reduce what I have i.e. glean from it a more basic re-statement i.e. something suitable for a melody.So far this feels like a setup to a solo which means that I need to figure the setup to that i.e. a suitable melody.

  6. jon

    ok. my instinctual reaction is it starts out very melodic and then it gets a little murky. Since this is a small kernel you want to have it strong so that you can build on that. But as you say it’s a sketch process. just weighing in in my typical way:)

  7. jon

    Another comment I can make is that I didn’t listen to your last guitar rendition only the software outputs. The notation and translation makes it murkier for me. your guitar rendition is clearer with less odd rhythms. Although it’s still hard to tell because I can’t quite hear the meter against the line. Perhaps you can post a guitar track with fixed metronome so I can hear what the notation should be. The guitar track sounds different than the notation

  8. Charles Post author

    yes, I ‘ll catch up with that project. The guitar has these stylistic approach notes i.e. slide ins in several spots which happen before the notated notes. Its hard to notate that. Even though there’s an approach note the accentuation is on the landed note i.e. which should be the notation.

    All of this stuff to me is still an approximation, it reminds me of my intent. If i were to ask somebody else to play it I would have to give some directions, even perhaps show them.

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