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20 Questions Songwriting Exercise

20 Questions Songwriting Exercise

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?”



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
















#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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