Jotting Down Musical Ideas: Patches, Notebooks, Sketches, Small Devices, etc

I use Spire for humming in ideas above a track when I’m not at my studio. I also have a music notebook.

However, I’d love to have a separate program with a keyboard for playing in melodies. Just a piano sound, an awesome on-screen keyboard, and a recording feature. Looping and time signatures a bonus. MIDI export, even cooler, but I’m not sure I’d use it.

What do ya’ll use when you’re AFK?



I like Tuxguitar for quickly getting ideas down. Android version is super handy when on the train to work.

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I’m constantly recording acoustic sketches into my H4n, the simplicity of it helps me keep my ideas fresh when I’m not in music recording mode. Not sure how I’m going to use them yet, but I’m sure I will someday

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That note book is great, I use the blank pages on the LHS to jot down patch/preset info

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like many of you I don’t spend the day anywhere near my system, and like many of you I spend a significant amount of time at work thinking about what to do the next time I get to sit down with it. how do you keep your ideas straight between sessions? how, if at all, do you annotate your ideas as they pop into your head?

i’ve been keeping a tiny notepad and pen in my pocket for the last few months and it’s definitely helped me not lose ideas between sessions. my notes are usually super raw, as they’re usually scribbled down on the subway home from work. mostly ideas for samples, weird patch ideas, etc.


Nice topic!

I’ve been too lazy lately to write these things down. I do have several notes on my phone with patch ideas, sample ideas, track tiltes and concepts etc. But with so much in the digital realm, I tend to forget about it and loose track.

A very good idea to bring a small sketch book and pen. I actually have one sitting on my desk with my modular setup, but I forget about it as soon as I get down to it! Been meaning to write down patch notes before I let them go, but I seem to always be in a hurry to set up a new one. May be some of the charm of modular though.

I keep a “music” section in my todo tracker. Half of it usually makes sense days later.


with the weather warming up in chicago and fewer days requiring coats [aka fewer days with twice as many pockets], figuring out a good way to keep these notes on my phone and keep one more thing out of my back pocket is a really good idea. a quick google search yielded about a hundred app options, one of them has got to work!

Dan’s app looks nice, I wonder which one it is. I use a similar one called workflowy and I’m fond of it because it syncs on all my devices

I’ve got a bit of a thing for note/pocket books.

My favourite by a mile are Rollbahn (esp the mini 112x138mm type)

Field Notes are also really nice (quite hard to get hold of in the UK though).

I find a handy pocketbook is much more useful than phone apps etc.

I carry two around in my work bag; one effectively a glorified ‘to do’ (or more accurately ‘don’t forget’) list, and the other for sketches, notes, ideas etc. (the fun stuff :grinning:)

I like ring-bound as they are easier to handle, and the ring binder bit makes a very handy pen holder!


Looks like Things 3!

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Notebooks are necessity for me. Like to keep a spiralbound pocket one covered in duct and/or electrical tape on me at all times. Keeps the cover from tearing off and cuz I tend to slosh coffee/tea/water.

Also keep a modular idea book (and for actual patch notes that usually end up so convoluted I never seem to come back to them in detail). A graph paper notebook for teletype stuff has been a recent addition. One for sketches/watercolor pen drawings. One for notes/quotes on/from whatever books I’m reading. Endless notebooks!


what app is that? it looks great!

Thats Things. I think it’s in its third iteration now, been going for years. Mac, iPhone and iPad apps. Its very very well made.

Hello everybody!

Recently I’ve been caught in yet another “creative habit” pocket on a course oriented website (not the one every youtuber is sponsored by) centered around daily sketching and regular creativity. Most of these courses center around the benefits of having a moment of creation everyday, using simple tools (usually ink and/or painting) to fill up some kind of very limited storage space with sketches, usually with a specific set of technics and subjects. The idea behind this is mostly to focus on regularity, inspiration finding in everyday life, with limited time, space and tools, work on technic and letting go of perfectionism to favor process. Usually these courses have a final project in the form of sketching everyday during a set number of days or until you fill the book.

And I instantly began to wonder how this could be transposed to the musical realm and if any of you were already doing this or interested in doing it? In that case, what would be your limited set of tools? What subject or genre would you focus on, and which technics? Also, what would be your equivalent to the physical sketchbook in music terms? A tape recorder for example? What are or would be the benefits of such practice for you? And would any of you be interested in starting a kind of group challenge here where everyday we post that little sketch we did that day?

Edit: I realize now this is pretty close to Jamuary :slight_smile:


Hi everyone! I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways to take patch notes and haven’t found a good solution. Things get muddled or overly complex. Does anyone have any good resources for taking patch notes?

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hmm i have tried to “save” patches simply by writing every in/out connection on with a pen in a notebook. But his also means notating every parameter and keeping the preset file for a few digital modules. I also used GitHub - SpektroAudio/Patchbook: Markup language and parser for writing and distributing patches for modular synthesizers. a bit.

In the end i realized i actually never re-enact complete patches so i just accept the transient nature of it and lock/keep a patch until i am pretty sure i recorded everything useful i could with it. Also when i left a patch in a corner for too long and it’s too much effort to remember what it was about, i just scratch it.
If i need reproducibility and iterations over longer periods, i use software.
Anyways, some ideas and processes will stick in my mind and come back to life several times in various guises.

Since your question ended up in this topic, i’ll elaborate in this new context.
I also mainly use a notebook (and a notes app on phone. and self-sent emails. and a portion of my dayjob wiki. anything on hand, really an anti-GTD way) to write general ideas for stuff to try later; what kind of sounds, transformations, relationships.
While a track is in the making i try to keep all my notes about it in the same notebook, mostly results of critical listening, what to change, how to develop, etc.
I am very much someone who needs to think way too long before taking action so laying out lists/sequences of events helps in this planning. It also provides a good chunk of work to do when i get in the studio, so when the realization of the first idea sounds dull, it’s no big deal, something in the list will end up interesting.
It’s very slow though. I shall work instead of textwalling
I also make simple drawings of “form over time” which are not very useful in the long term but help kick-start and sort out a too dense initial idea.

Edit. i love the A5 and B6 notebook formats. Just the right size imho.


There’s another topic here that might prove helpful on I haven’t personally used it (yet),but it might be worth looking into. :slight_smile: Shoutout to @Polyterative for designing it!


For those interested in jotting down musical ideas, be sure to check out the many paper notebooks available with musical staff lines. Moleskine makes a hardcover A5 one with staff lines on the right page and blank on the left page, so you can write your music on the right, with ideas and annotations on the left. Almost all the notebook companies produce a variety of music notebooks, including in pocket sizes. They usually are made from good paper, friendly even to fountain pens, in the tradition of music manuscript paper.

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Thank you so much!! I will try the product, though I’m mostly in serge land now and not sure if itll work for me. I really like the idea of making drawings… will try that!

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