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Songwriting Exercises

Songwriting Exercises

Songwriting exercises help you do a couple of things: (1) practice your songwriting skills so over time the entire process comes more easily, and (2) have techniques in your tool bag to get you beyond the blank page.


Below you’ll find some quick drills to sharpen your skills, song prompts to get a full song started, and some longer exercises if you have more time in your day.


Quick Drills (1 Hour Or Less!)


1  Create (And Follow) Your Own Rules

Give yourself some rules, then write within those:

  • The song has to take place over the course of 30 years, but you can’t mention that fact
  • You can’t use a bridge or a pre-chorus ( V | V | V )
  • Only use three chords:  Bm   F#m   E   or   A   C   E
  • The song can only take place in a 15 minute window of time (my song following this rule below)




2  Rhyme Pattern Proxy

This one is great to use if you’re stuck on a song and works pretty quickly. The goal is to force you to find new words or ways to phrase what you’re trying to say. Have your rhyming dictionary ready!

  • Pick a song you like
  • Identify the rhyme pattern for each of its parts
  • Now take a song you’ve been working on (in progress) and use the new rhyme pattern
  • Change rhyme pattern as needed and the song dictates


3  Ghost Songs – Lyric

Good song starter if you’ve got nothing.

  • Pick a song you like
  • Write a new lyric for the entire song (each verse, chorus, bridge) as is
  • Now take the lyric and write new music (e.g., choose tempo, chords from a diff. song)
  • Take the new song and focus on it, rewriting as necessary


4  Ghost Songs – Music

Also a good song starter if you’ve got nothing.

  • Pick a song you like
  • Write new music for the entire song lyric (all parts)
  • Now take the lyric music and write new lyrics
  • Take the new song and focus on it, rewriting as necessary


5  Song Vamp

This is a great way to give a little twist to how you write, especially if you’re methodical about your lyrics.

  • Pick a song you like and write down the chord structure
  • Change chord pattern around (e.g., go backwards)
  • Pick a tempo using Drum Tracks 50-140bpm
  • Say whatever pops into your head and record it
  • Go back and refine your lyric and the chords


6  Auto-Generate Chords

Nice way to create some variety in your chords and get you out of common patterns or melodies you might use.

  • Switch up what you normally use for a chord progression by using an auto-chord generator
  • Easiest keys for guitarists: G major, C major, E minor, A minor
  • Choose a feel from the drop down
  • Choose your key
  • Play each one to see if you like it
  • Write some lyrics!


7  5 Tips To Skip The Blank Page


8  5 Songwriting Exercises Get Creativity Flowing


Song Prompts


1 Twist On A Cliche


2 Finding Like Objects


3 Noun + Verb


4 How Was Your Weekend?


5 Word Challenge


6 Write A Book


7 Song Plot Roulette


8 Common Object


9 Thinking Out Loud


10 Mystery Package


11 Confrontation



Longer Songwriting Exercises


Creating A Song Idea Habit!

  • Grab a notebook and start capturing interesting phrases you hear, thoughts you have and things that make you go hmmmm  . . .
  • Do it consistently for a week – book goes with you everywhere
  • In week 2, go back and write for 10 minutes about each of the phrases or hooks you wrote down
  • If you wrote down a song idea in week 1, then create the hook for the idea
  • To put your notebook into action see the full article Songwriting Notebook


1  What Makes A Song Tick?


2  Verb Power


3  Another Verb Power Exercise


4  Object Writing


5  Capturing External Details


6  First Line Starts


7  David Bowie’s Songwriting Exercise


8  Point of View (POV) Switch Exercise


Write The Songs
You've Always Wanted

Write The Songs

You've Always Wanted



For beginner, intermediate or advanced songwriters . . .

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