Composition question

When you’re working on a piece, and you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, do you tend to just work it and work it until you like it, or just scrap it and start over?

Really struggling with a piece right now, trying not to rely on tricks or instruments/FX I’ve used before, and resisting the temptation to use Scaler to bail me out (which it can do quite handily).

Once you start something, do you feel like you’re committed to it - and even if your central progression or melody is solid, do you just let it go if it leads you nowhere?

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I counted again recently, and noted that there are over 1m basic combinations of ‘expressions’ and ‘songs’ in 2.4 - before you have applied a myriad of possible variations to any of those. Each scaler piece is probably unique.
My take is that I don’t see it as something that comes up with an answer, but providing the users with a framework for them to come up with their own answer, which I guess is what you are seeking, Captain Chords or others of that type it is not, IMHO.

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Why “resist” using such a great musical idea generator as Scaler? I’m never afraid to re-start, re-do, discard or improve a part or project. The beauty of our DAW technology is it offers so much flexibility. I’d jump in with Scaler and explore. Most useful for me is to sing a part or to tap out a basic rhythm if I’m stuck on finding a continuation for a song or project. Other times exploring patches suggests a continuation even if the continuation is not based on the particular patch that inspires it.

Good luck.

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This is exactly was I do each day, deleting unconvincing stuff

But I am not a professional: I just compose/play for fun, and very often I record nothing
not mentioning going further with Mix & Max

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Many composers and producers have different ways of completing tracks or overcoming brick walls. I find those with a bit more experience have learnt not to fight and just put something aside or consider it finished and move on. Sometimes the best art comes when there is no pressure and that can usually be the track after the one you have struggled with for time. In addition, many of the great tracks were done in little time. Certainly the above is all true for me.
Having said that, sometimes when a tight deadline in play that is not possible, so if I am stuck and even if I have 24 hours to deliver, I will take a length of time away doing something entirely not related like eating ice cream at a beach, hanging out with a mate, doing something leisurely and outdoors if possible - even walking. From there I can come back and attack with vigour.
I’d sum up by saying that younger artists tend to get stuck in a loop smacking their heads against a brick wall for days, weeks even months - rarely does that amount to anything good. More experienced artists subvert this by saving and moving on to something else effectively having a group of tracks they have n rotation with different feels so they can come back to them when they feel ‘appropriately creative’. Remember a track is only as good as the fun the artists had when making it - generally brick walls and fun factors don’t go together.
My two cents worth, hopefully that helps.


Thanks, Davide. I’m teaching myself to walk away when I get frustrated. More often than not these days, I’ll think poorly of a piece and get frustrated…then give it a day or so, come back to it, and find that it’s actually pretty good and worthy of additional support, or tweaking.

I don’t work under a deadline (currently unemployed, and I do this just for fun), but one constraint I seem to have put on myself is segueing pieces into each other on a single song. I compose soundtrack music for my UK/castles/cathedrals/churches slideshows, and I’m learning how to make 1:30 statements, modulate keys and work another theme, with different instrumentation - sometimes different tempos.

The DAW interface (I use Studio1) gets a bit cranky when I get up to thirty or more tracks, and mixing can be an interesting experience, but it’s teaching me patience and combining musical expression with visuals. Eventually I’ll run out of images and have to compose in an image-less vacuum…but for now, that’s my palette.


I’m not sure how helpful this will be since I usually am working to a deadline although luckily not usually 24 hours. I find that I like to set a time limit for “discovery”. I’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes or maybe an hour depending on what the piece is, how important it is to the over all work and how much time I have to waste, just sorting out an idea. And within that timeframe I can usually tell if something is worthy of more time to improve and finish it or if it’s heading down a dead end and I should just start over. I wish I could be more specific about how I determine that but it’s mostly by gut and instinct. I also usually have a script that is my guide so it’s not quite as anything goes as it sound like what you’re working on.

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Thx RB - I think sometimes a deadline is probably what I need to start enforcing some discipline on my process. As I’m composing pieces that align to static images, and groups of them of duration 1:30-2:00, I find myself dithering as to whether I should build out a single piece that can wrap around three groups of them (a six minute piece), or simply segue three distinct pieces together, of different timbre and tempo and instrumentation. This is a high-level concept that I still haven’t found the confidence to assert consistently.


For about a year I did what I called Speed Composing after sketch artists that do speed drawing. The idea was to give myself a set of sounds limited to a certain palette. Time limit was anywhere from 1 hour or so. You can give yourself a theme if you want (say western or film noir, etc. as an option)No adding new sounds and must finish in the time. It was very good practice and at that time I didn’t have Scaler. I highly recommend it as a creative exercise.
I even logged them into a Bandcamp album that I kept adding to during that time here - Compositions of the Day


Interesting idea, thanks Jamie. Your work is cool - very evocative. Great sounds, this is stuff I would listen to, although somewhat more abstract than the kind of music I’m trying to go after. Thanks for the link and the recommendation.

Thanks. It’s not an easy mindset to get into but once you do, it is quite fun and very useful.
One way to start and include Scaler might be to pick a progression or Key you haven’t used before and go from there.

ADDENDUM: I listened to these today after not hearing them for quite a while. I realize there are a few in these that do use Scaler. So on those I did start with a chord progression that was new to me a proceeded from there.

When this happens to me and its not a piece that is needed for something, IE its just a piece I am working on because I had an idea. I will often put it away and come back to it later.

But sometimes I will keep working on it till I find it again so to speak.

I also ask myself why am I stuck? All to often I will get stuck because a piece is trying to go into a direction I did not envision when the idea first appeared and until I get to a place where I am willing to let the music take me where it wants to go, I get stuck.

If it is something that I put away, I will periodically go back and review those project files and listen. If it still grabs me I will leave it, if it no longer grabs me it gets deleted. My theory is good ideas remain good ideas and that as long as it still grabs you its a good idea even if you don’t know what to do with it at the time.

Now if its a piece I need for something I will tend to push thru, using whatever tools I can to spark up the ideas again.


Well, as something of a coda to this thread (and thanks to all for your thought-provoking contributions) my current project continues to evolve.

I title my pieces with an alpha character at the end - most of the title refers to the slide show and the section it aligns to - and as of this morning, I’m on version “g”. I’ve wiped out several sections that were pretty good on their own terms, but just didn’t fit. I save all my prior versions, so I can access them later for something else…which I usually don’t do anyway.

Funny thing about Scaler - I like to do a lot of string-based/classically influenced pieces, but I’m learning that all the amazing expressions and phrases makes it easy to get into that space, but my limited abilities in DAW programming (in general) and harmony (specifically) means that I find myself well over my head trying to accompany and harmonize. Scaler can forgive and postpone my mediocrity, but it eventually wins out anyway. :slight_smile:

But again…thank you, everyone.

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I’ve really enjoyed this thread and getting other peoples perspectives on how they work. Its really more of the old ‘how to complete a track’ question. Wish we could make software that would help with that!

Yes I agree completely, you feel enraged, you right a dark piece. You get up in the morning and the sun is shining and you change it all up to suit your morning mood but you must honour the creativity and come back to it when you relate.

Interesting, sounds scary but it’s an interesting approach. I kind of do give myself a period of time but rather a palette I do a round by making sure (dependent upon type of track) I have the initial elements checked off: Vibe / Melody / Drums / Harmony / Bass etc…

This is absolutely a vital skill that can only be picked up with the experience of having been through the ringer a thousand times. Totally undervalued and something that makes the pros more pro.


Speed composing is just an exercise in being creative within a set of predefined parameters, the idea being to train the creative juices to flow without getting distracted by stopping to choose sounds, tweak things, etc. To just play. My artist friends do it by speed sketching or speed painting. Movie friends have done it by making a film in 24 or 48 hours. Portland had a competition every year BP (Before Pandemic) called the 48 hour Film Competition.
When I did it consistently (not everyday but twice a week sometimes) I felt I was more prepared for a film I might get and have a real deadline for.
I need to start doing it again I think. It can be really fun.

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This speed composing reminds me a little about the spirit of minimalism - I know, not quite the same, but there’s this movement to make all musical pieces exactly 2min long, and yet tell the whole story arc of a song or other musical narrative. It’s a bit how Formula 1 racing has standardized the car specs, so winning is more of a function of the pilots. I myself have experimented in limiting my pieces to 140 seconds sometimes (a pun on Twitter, musical tweets, no longer than 140 seconds = 2min+20sec).
Not sure if limiting the length of a song translates to less time pressure during production. But then, one can also focus on more minimalist musical elements, I think that might work for several genres. Sometimes the brilliance is in keeping it compact. I did a 50 page slide show last week, cuz I didn’t have time for a shorter version :wink:

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Oh Man, David just suggested that I’m a Pro. I’m both charmed and humbled. And I better step up my game. :smile:

And here is your premio

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You do, believe me, you do!