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(part 9 of 20)
Self-Portraits by Sofonisba Anguissola

The Artist Trains the Mind’s Eye, the Composer Trains the Mind’s Ear

When composing, it’s important to keep your mind open to anything interesting that might turn up. Experiment and listen deeply. Stop as soon as you discover an idea of interest. Take the idea and manipulate it, try to “hear” where it wants to go, what might come before it, what sounds good underneath it, etc.

This process is similar to an artist sketching as a face gradually takes shape, visualizing how it would look with deeper set eyes, or with wild hair. The composer must learn to ‘visualize’ their music, hearing it in their imagination (audiation) as they play and manipulate it at the piano. They must learn to find the notes they hear. Ear training will help immensely, and in fact the composition-improvisation process itself trains the ear.