Musical Sketches


I do a lot of sketching at work, and I've always thought to think of it as a purely visual activity. It's even the inspiration for our company name: the fat pencil is a traditional tool used by architects to capture ideas on paper quickly, without getting bogged down by the details.

But now thanks to a great new podcast called Song Exploder, I know that sketching is also important to musical artists. Episode 7 features composer Jeff Beal, who created the title theme for the popular Netflix TV series House of Cards. In this episode, Beal talks about his creative process, including this observation, five minutes into the show:

“Part of the reason that sketching is useful, is it's like the bones of something... by doing simple versions of themes, you are able to make sure you have an idea.”

Hearing a composer’s perspective gives me a new appreciation for the importance of using sketches in visual communication. It’s a quick way to test different approaches to explaining an idea, and ultimately have confidence that a selected approach will work.

The image above is a sketch that Beethoven made for his String Quartet, Op. 131. Via Wikimedia.


Joshua Cohen is a Principal at Fat Pencil Studio