2 Hour Songwriting Exercise

Jun 3, 2020 | Exercises

Whether you aspire to write songs in Nashville, or just write great songs, the 2 Hour Songwriting Exercise could be one of the best ways to ramp up your “finished song” skills quickly and grow your songwriting catalogue.

Yes, you’ll end up with some stinkers – but that’s OK!

One of the biggest issues songwriters face is “getting stuck” and not being able to complete the song they were initially inspired to write.

Simple things end up creating a halt to the creative flow, and you get stuck on the second verse, or you get stuck on a line trying to figure out the perfect rhyme, or you just get stuck because you know where the idea goes next, but not how to say it in a lyrical way.

You go from “inspired” to “frustrated” within the first 15 minutes.

The 2 Hour Exercise will help you:

  1. Write more songs
  2. Write them with a consistent process

This exercise is going to help you consistently complete a song in just two hours.

Once you’ve gotten good at it, you can actually sit in a room with any co-writer, at any level and contribute on their pace, even if they’re an advanced or pro songwriter

This is an exercise you can employ every time you write a song and eventually make it part of your songwriting process.

Below you’ll find a video version of the lesson, as well as the outline.

Have fun!

Video Lesson: 2 Hour Songwriting Exercise

 

2 Hour Songwriting Exercise Outline
  • Goal: get down the page. That’s it – not “are these new songs Grammy winners”!
  • What you’ll need to start:
    • A timer (something quiet to keep track of your 2 hours)
    • A recording device (can be as simple as a voice memo on your phone)
    • A song idea, hook or outline ready to go that you feel good about writing, i.e., you connect with it. Or, to challenge yourself, go with a song prompt.
  • Decide what you’re going to write about: story idea, first line, hook, or overall theme.
  • Once you’ve decided on what you’re writing, go ahead and start the timer. Do not start the timer until you feel good about the theme – i.e., you’ve got a connection to it!
  • You’re going to keep writing for two hours – no breaks or leaving the room.
  • The #1 thing to remember: keep going down the page.
  • Yes, write well, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.  You can always go back and edit later, and you should.
  • Consider this Draft #1.

 

Tips To Get Down The Page
  • Before you start, give yourself a time or a tolerance limit.

For me, if I start getting frustrated or feel “stuck,” I jot down what I was going for in long form – and move on.

  • During a co-write, if you’re in the room with someone who seems dug in on an idea you don’t agree with, push back, but don’t get into a debate.

Time spent debating will kill the momentum, and eliminate all creativity.  You’ve gone from right brain (creative thinking) to left brain (logic thinking), and while that’s good for the storyline of the song, spending too much time there on a tangent will make it harder to get down the page.

  • If you’re not sure what a line should be, but you’re clear on the intention, write down the sentence.

For example, if you want to say someone is walking to the front of a car, then just say that. You can figure out the more poetic version during your edits later.

  • If you’re not sure what an end rhyme should be, pick a non rhyming word, and circle it, noting the rhyme sound you need.
  • Don’t get hung up on the story.

You can get so far in the weeds because you’re trying to describe so much detail, that you lose sight of what the song is about.

  • Outline the story before you start.  Give yourself a framework or story arc.
  • You can jot it down quickly:

Verse 1 = set the relationship, Verse 2 = conflict, Chorus = lost love but survivor

  • Pick someplace to write where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Commit to getting down the page even if you have to write

“Chorus is the big idea from the song, probably 3 lines about feeling free from whatever happened in verse and ends with hook – “it’s Independence Day.”

 

Set Yourself Up For Success

Give yourself permission to actually get down the page with an okay version of a song.

And then give yourself permission to go back and make changes, edit and completely rewrite the song if you want to – it’s your prerogative.

Don’t judge whether your new songs good or not.  If you got down the page, you’ve met the goal!

Remember – precious stones aren’t pulled from the ground looking like they do on a ring or a pendant.  Mining them is the first achievement.  Polishing and cutting the final part of the process.

Are there songs written in 20 minutes in one final version. Sure – but they’re rare and they usually come after a hundred or so that didn’t.

Do the work and one will show up for you!

 

My 2 Hour Songwriting Exercise Songs

 

Get a PDF: 2 Hour Song Exercise

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