20 Questions Songwriting Exercise

Aug 31, 2014 | Advanced, Exercises

One of the easiest ways to get your songwriting kicked off is to simply answer some questions. But once you start writing, you tend to stop asking questions – the 20 Questions Exercise solves this.

In your notebook, keep a list of questions and the corresponding answers. Write the answers in a few lines AFTER you’ve completed writing the questions.  Don’t answer while you’re questioning what’s happening, what things look like, etc.

Allow your curiosity to happen first!

This exercise is a great way to hone your observation skills and keep your inquisitive side engaged. Asking surprising questions leads to unique perspectives, so train your ability to “ask” as well.

Below is a phrase I got from a songwriting book on lyrics. While the author recommends 50 – 100 questions, I can’t sit still that long, and 20 gets the ball rolling just fine.

My questions from the phrase are below.

NOTE:  My question #20 is always the same regardless of the phrase I start with – “What does all of this remind you of in your life? A scene – an experience – i.e., the connection?”

 

20 QUESTIONS SONGWRITING EXERCISE PHRASE = “Little Red Schoolhouse”

1 – What year is it?

2 – How big is it and where is it located?

3 – It’s red, but what colour red?

4 – Is there a playground? If so, describe what’s on it.

5 – Are there windows, a chimney, bell, porch, what other features?

6 – Are there children outside? If yes, what do they look like? What are they doing?

7 – Are they all young children or a mix of years?

8 – How are they dressed? Are they happy or sad? Why?

9 – What season is it? Sleds or bicycles around?

10 – Is the teacher old or young? What’s she doing?

11 – Are there desks inside? If so, what do they look like in the room?

12 – Is it a one room schoolhouse?

13 – What do the tops of the desks look like, the chairs?

14 – Is there a chalkboard in the room? If so, what’s on it?

15 – Is it black or green? Coloured chalk or white?

16 – Are there pieces of paper on the wall? If so, what do they say?

17 – Is there a globe or map? Is there an animal in a cage?

18 – What do you hear in the room? Is it filled with children or are they outside?

19 – What do you smell in the room? Wood floors, kids’ lunches?

20 – What does all of this remind you of in your life? A scene – an experience – i.e., the connection?

MY NOTEBOOK: Initial Questions & Answers 1 – 5

notebook 20 questions songwriting exercise notebook-20-question-songwriting-exercise-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT STEPS

 

#1  Keep It Going

This is a great repository for a number of ideas! For example, one question could inspire an entire song and take you in a completely new direction. Don’t use it as a one-and-done exercise. Make it part of your day.

 

#2  Worst Case: Write Down A Phrase & Start The Questions

Write down two questions at a minimum. You can always come back to it on a rainy day. The goal is to give you a creative starting point. It’s not homework – it should be a “go to creativity tool” for you.

 

#3  Tie It Back To You!

Not sure if you’re a Linda Perry Project fan, but even if you’re not, the show has a great message – you need a personal connection. Inspiration comes from understanding something about yourself you didn’t know before: the aha moment of a bridge, or the discovery the process of a poem brings. Linda Perry’s a big believer in it, and for good reason.

If you’re not tying your perspective back to something personal, odds are you’ll end up feeling unfulfilled as a songwriter and your songs will lack the ability for others to connect as well. In the end – the journey is the discovery of you!

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