Notes from the road

Posted by Philip Sheppard on June 3, 2015 at 7:30 AM


If I'm trying to come up with a sound or a tune for a new piece, I'll go outside for a walk, a bike ride or a if I'm really lucky, a hike in the mountains. (The photo above was taken on one of my recent hikes).

Travelling has always given artists and musicians incredible new ideas., and some of the greatest music you'll ever hear was written after a really long walk.

While I'm outside, I may see something interesting, beautiful or curious that sparks a little idea, and that idea that might grow into a whole piece of music.

I keep a little music notebook in my pocket when I'm out and about, and, if I have an idea for a tune pop into my head I'll write it down as soon as possible.

Sometimes the notes are messy and wonky because I'm trying to write quickly, before I forget what I can hear in my head.


Incidentally, the famous artist Paul Klee talked about drawing being the art of taking a line for a walk. (These two squiggles are from his notebooks).


I think writing music works exactly the same way. When we compose, we're simply taking our notes for an interesting walk.

Those notes walking around the page become a melody or a motif, and when they're written down on music paper they become a map for musicians to follow.


I think of my notebook as being like a packet of musical seeds.

One of my scribbles might grow into a piece of music for a film, another might be the beginning of a piece for a dancer, another might be an idea for a song to record with a band.

Lots of the scribbled ideas in my book won't work at all, and that's fine because making mistakes is a really important part of making something great. (In fact, the greatest inventors in history would often have really messy notebooks).


Some of the trees in the wood near my studio produce lots of acorns in the Fall. They're all over the forest floor, well the ones the squirrels haven't taken yet...

Anyway, every single one of those tiny acorns is packed with all the potential to become a huge oak tree, which may stand in a forest for hundreds of years.

Think about your ideas as being like those acorns… Just one of your scribbles in a notebook has the potential to become a symphony, a beautiful painting or the most exciting book in the world.

What are you waiting for?!



 Action Points:

  • Get a notebook
  • Go for a walk
  • Fill it with scribbles
  • Amaze the world with your incredible idea



  • Richard Strauss - An Alpine Symphony
  • Respighi - The Pines of Rome

Topics: Read Music, Music Makes You Smarter, Compose Music, Music Education, Kids And Creativity, Creativity