Opportunities for formal musical education passed me by for various reasons in my schooldays. Despite that I've heard music in my head since I was a kid, and the itch to compose has just got stronger as the years have passed. A few years back I got a digital music set up which has gone someway towards satisfying that itch, but I've not been able to avoid feeling a bit of a fraud, because I know that real composers do it with pencil and paper. From time to time I've made efforts to study harmony and to train my inner ear. However, with no real structure to my efforts, I've just ended up with a big heap of scruffy manuscript paper, a vague sense of defeat, and a barely perceptible rate of progress.
I bought this book a year or so ago, briefly fiddled with the opening exercises, and then let it get lost in the scruffy heap. However, a recent email from an Amazon customer regarding one of my reviews enquired as to whether I knew any books that might help in learning composition. That got me thinking and I suddenly remembered this book, which I dug from the heap for another go. And now, after about a fortnight of daily, sustained effort, I can report that it's really working. Things I have been trying to do for years are starting to happen with a growing sense of fluency.
I think the key to this book's success is that it trains your inner ear while it's teaching you to write, and it starts from such a simple place, the C major scale. It builds on this in such gradual increments that development takes place with you scarcely realising it is happening. There is an emphasis on simplicity and on constraints to be used, on the notes, chords, rhythms and time values, and there is a constant focus on expressing what you want to say whilst submitting to those constraints. It's now readily apparent that the main reason for my earlier failures was quite simply attempting to run before I could walk.
I'm now able to look at notes on paper and hear the music they represent in my head. It's still very simple music, but it's happening all the same, and improving day by day. When I put the book down and try to compose freely, the speed and confidence with which I write, and the duration of what I can hold in memory, has increased substantially from just a week or so ago. And when I write, I am hearing as I write it, and I can tap out the chords and melodies I am hearing on the piano with less and less fumbling. I can only wish I had encountered this book many years ago.