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8 Step Lyric Writing Exercise

I’ve been developing an exercise to help me with improving lyrics and I wanted to post it here because I’ve been surprised by some of the results it’s produced so far. My intention was to get better at making the best choices during the songwriting process so that the lyrics would be the best they could be and that I wasn’t just settling for the first idea that fit. I found myself falling into patterns when I wrote and I wanted to find a way to easily find the best choices during the writing process and then repeat it enough so that it would be a natural part of the writing process.

I combined information from 3 songwriting books by Sheila Davis with NLP informational chunking and sequencing along with questions to arrive at the 8 steps. The idea is that you simply answer all the questions and at the end you have a solid framework for your lyrics before you get all the words you’ll end up with. Then you write the song. This may morph into something more down the line, but here they are so far. Let me know what you think!

1)How are you feeling? (every song is about one emotion)

2) What is the best phrase to use to sum up this feeling? (Make it memorable and original-this is your title)

3) What is the best plot type to use?  There are 3 options: 1) Attitudinal –straight out telling your feelings, 2) Situational – your feelings are framed within the context of a specific situation, or 3) Story – the lyrics tell a story about specific events and have a beginning middle and end.

What is the plot? (What is happening?)

4) What is the best time frame to use? (When is it happening?) Your choices are: 1) Past, 2) Present, 3) Future, or 4) Moving

5) What is the best setting to use? (Where is it happening?) Your choices are: 1) None, 2) A particular place, 3) An undefined ‘here”,  4) Scenes change, or 5) A moving vehicle

6) What is the best viewpoint to use? (Who is talking about whom?) Your choices are: 1) First person; “I” statements,2) Second person; “you” statements, 3) Third person; “he, she or they” statements or 4) Camera eye; as if viewed from a non personal perspective.

7) What is the best voice to use? Your choices are: 1) Thinking (are the words thoughts inside someone’s head?) or 2) Talking (are the words an actual conversation between 2 or more people?)

8) What are the best sensory details to include that would show it NOT tell it/explain it? You can include details from any or all of the 5 senses. This may be a good order to think of them in and maybe write them in moving from far to close contact:

1) What would be seen?

2) What would be heard?

3) What would be smelled?

4) What would be felt?

5) What would be tasted?

Using the American Guitar Academy X-Factor principle where you repeat a skill correctly 50 times to master it, my personal goal is to run these 8 steps and complete a set of lyrics 50 times. I’ve written 16 so far and the songs have been much different (and I think, better) than anything I’ve written in the past. If you try this out please let me know you’re experience and any suggestions or ideas. Thanks!

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