One of the questions I get asked most frequently is "how do you write music?" At first it seems like a daunting question, and my head swims, trying to decide where to start. College, performance, and teaching experience? Various books, influences, and techniques? It could lead to a long, rambling answer, but here's what most people are looking for: I use a computer.
I use a program called Finale, familiar to many student musicians and pros alike, because it's the industry standard for music notation software. Finale allows a user to play a keyboard and have the music transcribed automatically on screen, but I don't play piano that well and have gotten good at keying in the notes one at a time. My computer's audio card and external sound module can approximate any instrument and play back what I've written.
Most of my sketches and notes are done on-screen, but I keep a few pages on my desk to jot out a few notes. Here's an example:
Music theorists will immediately recognize what this is. I've been negotiating a few key changes in my latest pieces and have used these little charts to identify pivot chords. Here's another page that I keep on my desk:
I've mentioned this here before - it's a chart that lets me keep track of what I've written and what I need to write to balance out my portfolio. It includes titles and keys (though you'll notice that I'm two titles behind). Looks like I need an Advanced piece in a major key, a beginner piece in a minor key, and a few novelty selections.