Creating Music Through Meditation and Muscle Memory

Peter Calandra’s Creative Composing Process in 4 Steps



Watch This Process in Action - “A Quiet Spark” from Inner Circle


As the new year approaches and we are working towards our goals of

“More Creative Output!” I would like to share my insights in case my approach might be something you think is worth a shot.

Every individual has his or her own creative process.  We are all unique and therefore have our own method of forging our creative output. For some people knowing their creative process just comes naturally. I had to work to discover mine. There are many books and ideas written about this and it is my intention to add my personal system. If you ever feel stuck while creating or you want to try a new approach here’s what I do:

Step 1: Flow With As Little Conscious Effort As Possible

Creativity is putting study into action. When I practice the piano, I spend time each day drilling different musical concepts into my hands and mind in all twelve keys. I do this slowly over time with a metronome and I pay painstaking attention to detail.

Step 2: Realize Your Idea In A Slow Steady Pace

For example, I take a sequence of chord voicings that I consciously created and learn them in every key. Then I practice these chord voicings in different inversions. Next, I practice them using different rhythmic patterns. Maybe I’ll make an arpeggiated version and learn it in all twelve keys with different rhythms and note sequences. The possibilities are endless, but the main concept here is to slow down and carefully realize my ideas in a slow steady flow.

Step 3: Create Muscle Memory

What I am attempting to do is take a small idea and work it into my muscle memory so that I can play the idea without thinking about it. The value of this is that I cut down on the time it takes me to execute my creativity. I have now enabled myself to be more concerned with accuracy and detail and not so much with speed.

Step 4: Calm Your Mind

In addition to this, I also find it useful to work on calming my mind and letting the music flow out of me. I focus on my breathing and allow the notes to fall into place. Meditation while not in front of the piano might prove useful and getting used to the practice of letting ideas that come up just float by like clouds in the sky.

Note: It Takes Discipline

At first, this was difficult for me. As you can imagine, working out the music creatively while trying to stay calm and focused is quite challenging, but this is the intention I always start out with. Over time and with repetition, it has become easier to achieve this calm state while composing. Eventually the music becomes not an effort but an outflow that you just ride.

And Finally: Over Time It Seeps In

What I have found is that if I stay with this, doing it a bit every day (continuing to learn things in all twelve keys), over time it seeps deeper and deeper into my subconscious and the music becomes sound I just create and not think about and formulate.

Listen And See It In Action: Audio And Video

My album, Ashokan Memories, is completely improv. It is the result of years of working with this creative composing process. Most of the music on my latest album Inner Circle, started out as improvisations I captured in Pro Tools and then developed and orchestrated.

In both of these performances, I improvised complete compositions using expanded methods I described in the above steps.  It creates a truly genuine sound that creates an authentic expression of you, and I encourage you all to explore these practices to find your true expression.

Peter Calandra is a New York City-based composer and keyboard player. He has scored 40 films, written over 2,000 compositions for television broadcast, including over 40 theme packages, and performed as a musician in the Broadway productions of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Lion King, and Little Shop Of Horrors. Parallel to this, Calandra has released four albums of imaginative and lyrical instrumental music encompassing jazz, contemporary jazz, classical, and refined pop.
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