The Inspiration Project

There’s no worse feeling for a composer than looking down at the blank page and getting an overwhelming feeling of “now what?”

It’s in trying to conquer that feeling that this project came into being.

Perhaps you’ve seen those little trays at convenience stores that say “Need a Penny? Take a Penny. Have a Penny? Leave a Penny.”  That’s akin to how this project works.  Here you’ll find germinal notions or broad concepts that could be taken in any number of directions.  If you need something to get your mind moving, hopefully you can find it here.  Or if you have such ideas yourself, hopefully you’ll share them for others.

To sum it all up:

If you have an idea, share it.  If you need an idea, take one.

Note:  Over the years, I’ve taken much impetus from Vincent Persichetti’s seminal “Twentieth Century Harmony.”  The book is a gold mine of ideas and I’ve listed some of  them here to get things started.  The numbers in brackets refer to page numbers in the book.

-develop musical materials around particular intervals (“zones” of interval deployment; one phrase could explore seconds, the next fifths, etc.) [22]

-use lines of chained intervals contrapuntally, as you would with single melodic lines [22]

Get more ideas from my book Composer’s Toolbox: Practical Ideas to Inspire



  1. Imagine your audience first. Not just who they are, but what they are doing, in detail. Watching a live performance? Where? What’s their attention span? Or are they watching a video? Again, how long, and where are the major and minor sections? Are they dancing to the music? Yet again, how long? What sort of dancing – choreographed or spontaneous? Or is your audience ephemeral, and the music is wallpaper – what Satie called musique d’ameublement – which serves to create a mood but not tell a story?

    Looking at a blank page offers no clues. Once you’ve imagined your audience in detail, you’ll have a better idea of how long your piece will eventually be, what its sections will be, its instrumentation, its tempo, its emotional impact, etc. This is something like “Test First Programming” in which you write tests for your code before you write any code. Imagining in detail how your code (or music) operates enables you to write code (or compose pieces) that target your goal. Ta-daa! You suddenly know a lot more about the piece you’re writing, without having written a note yet.

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