5 Songwriting Exercises Everyone Should Know
- Words From a Hat
- Beat the Clock
- Songwriting Prompts
- Theme Brainstorm
- Character Writing (My Favorite!)
John was a budding songwriter with dreams of becoming a star. He had written dozens of songs and was eager to record his first album. One day, he sat down with his guitar and paper ready to write another masterpiece – but he ended up feeling quite the opposite.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t come up with any solid ideas for his songwriting. He had WRITERS BLOCK!
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever struggled to come up with lyrics while songwriting?
I know I have.
“One of the Biggest Blocks to Writing a Song is Yourself.” -Mattie
In this article, I’m going to show you 5 Songwriting exercises that are going to help you write better songs, break through the dreaded writers block, and have fun along the way. I’m even going to include my absolute favorite exercise I use to write songs that gets me past writer’s block every time.
Let’s do it!
Exercise 1: Words From a Hat
This first exercise is inspired by the world renowned songwriter David Bowie! And I’m calling it Random words out of a hat!
Here’s how to do the exercise:
- Find a pencil and paper
- Rip up the paper into sheets – about 20 will do just fine
- Write a random word on each piece of paper
- Examples: Bed, crocodile, sky, backpack
- (These will be used in the song later)
- Now put all the pieces of paper in hat
- And pull out a few of them! (The more you pull out the harder this exercise gets!)
Write a song including these words you’ve pulled out!
Remember the goal isn’t always to write a hit, but instead to just start writing. Get creative with it! Be silly. That’s all okay! This exercise is actually how David Bowie wrote some of his hits! It doesn’t stack up to my favorite exercise, but it’s pretty fun.
Exercise 2: Beat the Clock
Okay onto the next one! This one is pretty self explanatory, but I do have a way of making it more fun. I’m calling this one Beat The Clock.
This is a timed songwriting exercise. If you’re struggling with writing songs slowly, this will help you think of things quicker and come up with song lyrics faster!
Now there are number of ways you can decide how much time to give yourself to write this song. You can simply choose a number like 20 minutes, or you can let fate decide with the roll of the dice!
Keep in mind the less time you have, the harder this gets, but sometimes, challenging yourself can lead to some great creations.
I use an online app to roll the dice!
First, adjust the number dice and the of number sides. Then, click roll and battabang you’re good to go.
And look at that! It even shows you how much the sum is in total! In the case below I would have 16 minutes to write a song!
I use exercise whenever I feel like writing lyrics is feeling too much like work. It really helps make things fun. But I don’t use nearly as much the last 3 exercises I’m going to tell you about.
Exercise 3: Songwriting Prompts
On to exercise number 3. Sometimes, while songwriting you just don’t feel inspired to write about anything. Well this exercise solves that problem!
This is a collection of songwriting prompts that can help you get inspired when you don’t know what to write about! They are available for free from my website!!
- Here are some examples:
I can pull straight from the deck and get these –
- Write a song about your hometown!
- Write a song about your biggest fear!
- Write a song about your favorite season!
Or I can combine prompts and get even more combinations like these:
- Write a song about about your worst enemy AND getting revenge!
- Write a song about your most embarrassing moment WITH your favorite food!
There are over 100 different prompts to get and 1000’s of possible combinations!
And it’s all available for free from my website! Click the button below to check it out!
Let’s move on to the two exercises I use the most.
Exercise 4: Theme Brainstorm
I use this exercise on almost every song that I work on! I call this one the theme brainstorm. This is the exercise I use most often. (But it still not my favorite!)
The way this exercise works is before I start writing any lyrics at all, I will take some time to brainstorm relevant ideas, feelings, words, or phrases. I like to make a bubble on the side of my lyric sheet to keep the parts separated, and then I just go to town! I try to write down any and all thoughts without excluding ideas. I want the ideas to flow! And I’ve found that this stream of conciousness flow has lead me to some really great lyrics.
After I’ve filled out the bubble, I’ll write my song by hand selecting some of the words that I wrote during the brainstorm. I’m not trying to use all of them, I’m just using the ones I like, but having a palette of words makes the writing process so much easier.
If I’m stuck on a word or phrase, I just go back and choose a different one.
I’ll use rhymezone to find rhymes and I’ll use thesarus to change up the words! It’s that easy!
This technique helps me stay focused and lets me write songs fast. If you flip through my lyric books, almost every song in here has this brainstrom bubble.
Exercise 5: Character Writing (My Favorite!⭐️)
Alright. Now on to my favorite songwriting exercise! I’m calling this one Character Writing.
One of the biggest blocks to you writing a song is yourself. Your ego gets in the way of putting pen to paper. If you wanted to, you could probably go write some hot garbage in 30 seconds, but deep down you know that you’d never show the world that song. You know deep down that it’s not good enough.
This exercise is all about shattering those pre-concieved notions and getting your ego out of the way of writing song. All you have to do is write a song as if you were somebody else.
It sounds wild, but for me, this is all that it takes for me push past writers block. When I picture myself writing as somebody else or for somebody else, all of the huge expectations I had for this song suddenly disappear!
Sometimes I’ll pretend I’m writing the cringiest pop song imaginable, sometimes I’ll pretend I’m writing old country song, Sometimes I’ll sing in accent! I’m trying to get out of my head with something that has low expectations! These are not the types of music I want to release, but writing in those styles and pretending to be someone else, can be really beneficial for improving at songwriting!
This will also help you blow past brain block. This will get those songwriting gears in motion once again. There’s no guarantee that the song you write will make your album or will ever be released by you, but it will absolutely improve your skills and on top of all that, it’s pretty fun to act as another person writing a song.
Give it a try! It really is my favorite exercise on this list!
Songwriting is tough. But the more songs that you can write, the better you get at it! If your stuck in your own head and halted by perfectionism, then you won’t improve!
Songwriting is complicated. But it doesn’t have to give you a headache. It can be a fun and creative process. Come check out these exercises if you’re ever feeling stuck or uninspired and share them with a friend who might need a little songwriting boost!
Thanks for reading! If you still need help, check out my Free Vocal Presets for Logic Pro X that will get your vocals sounding amazing in no time!!
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