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How to Hum Your Way to Better Compositions


This post focuses on the somewhat strange practice of humming to compose music.

At some point in my songwriting process I got tired of the pressure of trying to perform parts as I composed them.  Ever since I  was a kid I would hum and form musical parts with my mouth by vocalizing what, in effect, were the sounds of drums, guitars, brass and whatnot.  Surprisingly , this can be a very effective improvisation method when documenting musical ideas.

Sometimes when I am feeling particularly frustrated in the composition process, I will simply hum out the parts that I hear in my head.  I can compose an entire arrangement this way very quickly and then, after the fact, figure out what it was that I recorded in order to record it properly with the respective instrument.

Don’t worry… nobody is going to hear these rough, ridiculous sounding versions of your music (hopefully).  The beautiful thing about composing this way is that it is increadibly intuitive, fast, and effective. Give it a shot next time you have an idea you just can’t wait to get on tape!

P.S. nobody commented on the song that I posted in the mastering experiment from before I left town.  Shame on you!

8 Responses to :
How to Hum Your Way to Better Compositions

  1. Keith Handy says:

    Although nobody has to hear the rough, ridiculous sounding phases, I force myself to publish that stuff anyway, just to overcome fear. There are six billion people in the world, and if a handful of them see my youtube idea-in-progress videos and say “you suck”, that’s their problem, not mine. :)

    This post is good in general because we tend to get away from doing things in the “little kid way” once we have real equipment, and it’s important to keep the “little kid” in us involved in the process, and that humming (or beatboxing, etc.) suggestion is a good way to do that.

    By the way, I didn’t comment on your mastering experiment because I was still shell shocked from when a previous comment of mine had been accidentally deleted, but I think I’m ready to get back on the horse now. (Just kidding!)

  2. Kristie says:

    I’m stuck on slow Internet at the moment so haven’t listened to it yet :(

    BTW… Please please please post some of your humming compositions for me to listen to when my Internet is running at full speed :-D

  3. Dan Connor says:

    Keith – I know! I get too serious about this stuff sometimes. I’ve been trying to listen to more Zappa in an attempt to stop thinking about music in terms of hard concepts.

  4. Dan Connor says:

    Kristie – I forget to do the humming thing a lot when it would be most useful. I’ll have to poke around for a good example of it in my material ;)

    If I can find one where I used it a lot, I’ll post it.

  5. Oneoverphi says:

    I find myself whistling or singing nonsense words to generate new melodic phrases. Sometimes while driving in the car. I would record a particularly good one onto my cell phone for later reference (when I’ve pulled over safely to the side of the road of course). I would suggest anyone who produces music keep some sort of recording device on hand at all times. You never know when that masterpiece will usher forth from your lips!

  6. Dan Connor says:

    @ Oneoverphi. Absolutely – I agree 100%. A little voice recorder combined with playing with melodies in an informal setting can be really helpful. I do that too.

  7. Craig Jacks says:

    Great ‘tip’ article. I’ve been doing this very thing lately whenever I can’t seem to come up with anything that pleases me. Some of the ‘hummed’ comps have eventually turned into something close to worthwhile. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my thoughts tonight.

    The Shed

  8. Dan Connor says:

    No problem! Thanks for reading and commenting. Keep humming.

Comments are closed.