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

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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Im curious about note taking smartphone apps that can cater to “lines-esque” type folks here. What do people like for things like: saving audio clips alongside traditional text notes, hashtags, cross platform apps for different devices.

How do you save ideas of many different media types across your digital life?

I think in the apple eco-system the easiest way is Notes app, you can put anything at all in a note, sound, links video whatever. It comes with every device, is free and searchable - has built in drawing tools and now even handwriting recognition, Shareable with Icloud and using the cloud can share to windows or …?

Now if that didn’t sound like a plug what does.:grinning:
I have been using it for many years and it has survived many OS changes intact. I think I have notes from the early 2000s.

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I’ve not seen examples of it handling audio, but Obsidian can do everything else you mention and has a really rich plugin ecosystem. It’s my go-to for all of my non-paper notes these days.


Good call out with obsidian. You can definitely put audio clips on there, not sure if it was a plug in or just a setting, but it’s definitely possible.

I’m currently messing around with Logseq to keep notes for study, patch ideas, things I read that I find interesting etc. Since I’m both messy and disorganised the idea is that I can just dump notes into Logseq and the tags/ pages system will give me some structure and discoverability.

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Obsidian (which i use every day) does Mermaid charts which might be useful for documenting signal and data flow, cabling and other connections.

Pen + paper tho, what a superb medium unbound by tyranny of the alphabet (McLuhan 1962) and the banality of the computer. Obviously our new best friends, the calculating rocks do some useful things such as copy+paste.

I’m moving away from pens to pencils; it’s quite an interesting transition.


Just checked (now I’m back on my laptop) and it looks like Obsidian supports embedding most audio file formats natively - mp3 , webm , wav , m4a , ogg , 3gp , flac


Many thanks @radioedit, I had heard and read Obsidian wasnt great with audio so I hadnt dove too deep into it. Maybe thats more about direct recording from a mic? In any case, this is definitely my use case- getting randon chunks of audio organized and passable back and forth from various sources. I’m also on Android, fwiw

Happy to hear more suggestions about what works for everyone, and appreciate all the feedback. As of now Obsidian is the front runner, so In going to investigate syncing and all that jazz.

I hadn’t been familiar with Obsidian, but it seems quite handy. Can it be a collaborative environment somewhat like Drive? I’d love to be able to share ideas between my musical partner and I without having to involve Google.

My friend and I use TiddlyWiki. It’s a great way to get the flexibility of a Wiki but then also some real structure and tools for finding stuff in a myriad of song ideas, synth notes, song metadata, images, inspirational videos, etc…

The only rub is that media isn’t really drag and drop. You can drop images in a TiddlyWiki but it’s not ideal because it gets saved within the Wiki itself as a binary blob.

I haven’t tried it, but looking around, I believe this has been possible since version 0.14. Note that you and anyone else who wants to join a “shared vault” has to pay Obsidian for a “Sync” account.

I don’t see how Obsidian could be like Google docs ie. with simultaneous editing. Since it is based on the model of files. I have no experience with collaboration on Obsidian, but cannot see how it would work in parellel. If instead of editing together, you take turns and have a reliable sync (maybe the native Obsidian Sync @alanza mentions) then it could maybe work. Think like Google Drive, not like Google Docs :slight_smile:

Maybe check out HedgeDoc which does Mermaid too although you would need it hosted somehow.

You wouldn’t be able to see the other person typing like in Google Docs, but I suspect that an Obsidian vault living in a shared Dropbox (or other syncing solution) folder would work mostly fine - especially if you’re not going to be editing the same file at the exact same time very often. I used to sync between Mac and Windows this way just fine.

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