Possibilities of working on music without sound

During downtime at work, or on public transportation away without any music making devices, I often get the urge to work on music. I’ve tried brainstorming track outlines on paper, thinking up creative ways to use renoise DSPs, and coming up with melodies in my head. I was wondering if you guys had any ideas or techniques of your own on for working on music without sound.

writing stuff down on paper usually works for me but i have to have the idea first and most of the ideas i get when i’m not at home are either from sounds that i hear around me or beatboxing. but there are some trackers for mobile devices like Android phones (see PixiTracker) and if you use headphones you’ve pretty much got all you need.

This is interesting.

I usually get musical ideas when I least expect it and wish I had a neat way to, somehow, write them down.

Someone suggested to me, Kurtz I think, to get one of them “tape”-recorders and simply record me singing or huming my ideas. Maybe not the best, or easiest, technique to use while on the bus/subway.

Nowadays, everything is so amazing… If you want access to, “millions of books,” you download the nook or kindle app to your smartphone or tablet, and you can read all the music theory books you want. You can also read books on engineering and production… ( perhaps you actually have the Kindle or nook hardware. )

When you are not playing music, but reading about music, you will begin to think in this way. Thinking about music without sound is an exercise in the amount of knowledge you have about music. For example, if you start a song in A minor, and you throw down some chords in i iv v, you can start thinking about a bassline, ( on your way to work or wherever, ) because your bassline might follow along with the root of each chord, or be a syncopated rhythm of the tonic note and an octave up/down. So thinking without sound is all about, “understanding the history of the music, directly related to the structure of music your are writing.” If your A minor is a chord progression like this i ii v VII, and your goal is to make some Detroit Techno, than when you have the background of the style, the history of the style, the production techniques of the style, and a bit of work done in Renoise you can start thinking like this… Example below:

I put together a nice kick, and I have a bassline that runs the tonic, and its flatted third, and now I want to add a double saw sound, and osc 1 is going to be the tonic with osc 2 tuned up 3 semi tones, so that I get a chord from the synth that is really a root and a third… then I probably want to widen the stereo spread… but I am going to need to get a better sound out of that clap… so perhaps I will dig deeper into my samples and I find something a little more bright… what I will probably do for the first 16 bars is make sure its just a kick and my saw waves so dj’s will love to mix this…

You begin to think things out, depending on your level of knowledge of music. I am not sure how to give a great answer to this questions, but I think if I wanted to have deeper thoughts on Jazz, I would pickup yet another book on Jazz… by reading the book, than my mind would, “think it over,” throughout the day when I am not playing music, and when I am not reading… Go over your productions in your head… I hope this helps


Nashville numbering system. It only works for diatonic ideas, but you can write it on anything. I also have a personal shorthand for rhythms which looks like drummer’s notes but fits on one line.