Sketch Quickly - Here's Why

We already talked about sketching, and today, Frank wants to dive deeper into why you should sketch quickly! There's more to it than you might think, so let's jump right in!

Note: We've covered the importance of sketching and how it fits into the process of composition. Today, I want to dive deeper into one particular subject that is essential in sketching.

Your unique Musical Voice

I want you to sketch as quickly as you can! Get into your building blocks, move them around on the canvas and simply listen to the result. If you like it, keep it. If you don't, find something else quickly.

You know that I bring in a sense of humor into this podcast, but believe me, I'm dead serious about this. I really am :) ... And I want to give you some context around it so that you understand why it's important to sketch as quickly as possible.

I'm indeed not a brain researcher, but this information will change the angle you look at sketching. Writing music is a complex process and involves different parts of your brain. The limbic system takes care of your emotional decision-making, and the neocortex is responsible for your logical decision-making.

While you need both in creating music, here are some things to consider. Many studies revealed that the limbic system tends to work faster and at a higher quality when honest decision-making is needed. It's also responsible for your long-term memories. So it can compare new information with what you remember, and therefore, tell you if something new matches with what you remember and probably like.

Really think about this because that's huge!

You know that you should trust your gut feeling. Well, this has nothing to do with the gut but your limbic system.

And because the limbic system works faster than the neocortex, your emotional evaluation is most honest before it gets colored with logic and facts the more you think about something.

So, usually, there's an order to how we make decisions. We start emotionally, and then we try to rationalize the situation later.

Very much like: "You know, honey, I bought this new Lamborghini sports car because it is safe, and I just read a great article about its safety in a car magazine. It also has enough space for our baggage when we travel!" -

Yeah, right, the sports car was the first logical decision you came up with, I get it! :D

So, please do yourself a favor and don't spend too much time thinking about your sketch. The more you think about it, the more likely you'll find logical reasons why something might work or even why it doesn't. In any case, it will always distract you from your emotional point of view.

Do you like it? Yes or no?

Be practical when Sketching

Now, I understand that sketching is a skill that you have to learn over time, and yes, it needs a bit of time, but here's a good way to get better at it.

Whenever you sketch out a composition, track your time.

You might want to give yourself a time limit, like 30-45 minutes before the sketch has to be done. This limit will help you tremendously focus on the core decision and won't allow for an internal logical debate.

This could even remind you of Nike's slogan "Just do it", but now, you have a deeper understanding of what happens and why it actually is essential to "just do it" and not overthink. I'm pretty sure, though, that Nike hasn't thought about such a deep level that brings in brain research and stuff but anyway. :D

Track and limit the time you spend on a sketch so that you can evaluate your progress, no matter where you at today. And as a result of working quickly, you'll also see that your sketches actually become simpler and handier.

Musical Example

Let's look at an example. I want to play you a sketch that is based on an interval theory technique called IRIS. That stands for interval resolutions in sequence. We'll talk about the technique in a dedicated episode.

For now, please listen to the piano sketch first. It includes everything already that we'll also hear in the orchestral version later. Whether or not that is something you can achieve in around 40 minutes depends on your skills. In this case, TC wrote the sketch, and I'm pretty sure he completed that section in under 40 minutes. But don't forget, he sketches half of his life already. Here we go.

[please listen to the podcast episode at around 6:12 ...]

And now, we'll jump into the orchestral version, which follows the sketch bar after bar. Marc Bercovitz, one of our Academy graduates, did the orchestration by following the Orchestration Concepts.

[please listen to the podcast episode at around 6:54 ...]

Isn't that niece? You know, many of these changes and transitions do not even look right on paper, but once you hear them, they sound great. And emotional decision-making is a critical part of judging whether or not you like it.


You want to consider sketching quickly. That's the best way to evaluate an idea emotionally and most honestly. Your limbic system works very accurately in telling you what you like because it also processes your long-term memories, and therefore, shows what's important to you.

The more you think about something, the more you rationalize your decision-making. And logic is not always the best guide for creating substantial and unique art.

So, now you know why quick sketching not only frees more of your time but also gives you better and higher-quality results. It's a win-win situation for you, so you get out with two wins.

Well, that concludes today's episode, and I can't wait to welcome you back in the next ones.

Sketch quickly, and have a great day, this was Frank, bye


Sketching can and will be (if done correctly) a fantastic time-saver for you. Even if you've never sketched before, we recommend you try it while tracking the time it takes you to achieve a usable result. This defines where you're at right now and makes it possible to measure improvement.

Author: Frank Herrlinger