In 900 Minutes, YOU Can Be Composing Very Fine Music in Your Own Genre

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 13 (July 1997)

Even though recent Winsights columns have been very strongly into science and technology, the arts are virtually as crucial in our concern for improving human ability, performance, and well being. Today’s example presents the little-known fact that you, or virtually anyone, can become a highly original composer of really fine music. –Your preferred type of music, though this writer is steeped in the classical. Whether you play an instrument with any skill whatever, or are just a bathtub singer, the same principles hold.

All you need do to find yourself composing astonishingly good music, is to set up a tape recorder where you will be attempting to create music, and to follow the simple 900 minute self-training program we call “Improvitaping.”

Yes, this simple 900-minute program does involve improvising, but even the narrowly formally classically trained can do as we describe below and your payoff will utterly astonish you. But unlike improv jazz and improv in other branches of music, you do not build up routines. In fact, any time you find yourself playing familiar themes or anything you recognize, you change away from it and let the feedback system we’ve designed do its integrations at a deeper level instead.

In only 900 minutes, you will be creating entire fine pieces of music, in your own preferred genre, highly original, and in their own elegant form without your ever having had to wrestle with composition formalities or other music theory. Just do the following simple 900 minute self-training, and feedback and your own brain will take care of the rest. Here is this simple 900-minute self-training program, 180 minutes total per day for 10 days:

The Improvitape Technique—

  1. Simply play your chosen instrument (or bathtub-sing!) for a half hour per day while recording on blank tape. Try to make it sound like a “real” piece, keep going for a half hour per day….
  2. In so doing, steer away from recognized themes and patterns. Keep on doodling for that half-hour per day, trying to make it sound like “a real piece.”
  3. –And then the hardest part! –Play back the tapes you make, for an hour per day. –A half hour while paying attention to the contents; the other half hour as background while you are doing other things.

–As simply as that! Within 10 days, doing this at-least-90-minute-per-day program, as you run this simple flow-with-feedback process, you will be amazed to discover:

  • How much of what doesn’t work drops out;
  • How much of what bores the ear drops out; and
  • How much of what does work reinforces up into good new pieces of music!

It’s probably ‘wince-and-groan’ for you at first….

You will likely experience going through these three distinct stages, during your 900-minute evolution into becoming a good, original composer:

  1. Wince-and-groan Stage, while you are playing back the first tapes of your improvisations. Bear with it–this is the hardest part right there, and it lasts only for the first 3-5 days. You won’t believe how quickly you move on into the stages of pleasant surprises…..
  2. Mining Melodies: good thematic material and figures will start surprising you, showing up here and there in your taped improvisations. You can “mine” this increasingly high-grade “ore” to extract from these tapes these instance of good original melodies, motifs and patterns. Even if you did not take the Improvitape Technique any further than this, you could use these good original themes for pieces which you then compose conventionally. But if you continue this Improvitaping program for 3 to 6 days further, you reach—
  3. The Stage of Elegant Whole Pieces: the music flows, following its own intrinsic logic, developing its own form, and your improvitapes emerge as complete original compositions. Finer and finer works emerge from this flow, each of them a rich surprise. At times while playing, you won’t know that anything special is happening until afterward, when you are playing the tapes back and sit in stunned disbelief that l’il ol’ you could possibly have come up with such a wonderful thing. Real hair-raising at times! –And nothing else quite so extraordinarily rewarding as this experience, which – if you continue Improvitaping – will occur for you again and again and again with different wonderful pieces each time.

From that point on, most musicians who have done this simple 900-minute program, over 10 days, will find themselves generating a mixture of Stage Two (Mines) and Stage Three (whole pieces) tapes. Expect a variety of valid musical forms and, increasingly, instances of breathtaking elegance.

I challenge you to do this simple 900 minutes without getting at least these high-level results!

I know it doesn’t seem fair – the above Improvitape Technique in composing music, or our hundreds of other techniques for improving various areas of human ability, performance and well being, when so many people have by more formal training labored so hard for such results as they are getting now or are not getting now! I am reminded of how a certain unnamed major university, with whom I had arranged an intelligence-building study which had been about to go to catalog, suddenly had fierce objections and an overrule from unnamed sources within. One quote which got back to me was: “You can’t increase human intelligence and, furthermore, you can’t increase it HERE!”

Well, this one you can do here, or there, or wherever you please, on your own and no one to overrule you. And as is the case with each of the techniques we’ve offered here in “winsights,” you can reasonably infer with the results you get from this one what the likely verity of the other ones must be. So we invite you: make this simple 900-minute experiment and, while judging therefrom the verity of results of our procedures and something of the huge human stakes riding with them, enjoy harmlessly your own creation in a highest-quality experience wholly beyond any you could normally expect to get elsewhere – and enjoy it for a rich full lifetime!

Listen to an excerpt from a Win Wenger improv number!

Further Reading