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Song Writing Project:

What does it mean to write creatively? A good lyric needs to
create images in the mind of the audience. By using
common, everyday words, you want to be able to conjure up
images and impressions, allowing your audience to
experience emotions and reactions that keep pulling them
back to your songs.

Everyone will compose original lyrics to perform in the last

week of March. Your song does not have to be complete but
you must be able to present a REHEARSED section of your

You may work alone or in a group with no more than 4


The final goal is to create an original song, rehearse it and

present it. Everyone in the group must have a role in the

YOU must keep your lyrics and bring them to class every week.
I will not keep the lyrics for you.

How To Begin?

1. Decide on Group members (4 at most). You must keep

the same group members each week!
2. Week 1:
Finish Lesson 1 Worksheet
Decide on the theme of your song.
3. Group


Song Title or Theme: ________________________________________________

Lesson 1:


1. Write four words or phrases that might cause a listener
to think of the following given words. NOTE: The words you
come up with are not necessarily synonyms. Think of them
rather as words that conjur up the same sort of "feeling,"
words that might exist in the same line in the lyric:
HEART: 1. feeling 2. warm 3. the door to my soul 4. my
being 5. touch my life 6. You're all I need [etc...]

PAIN: _________________________, _______________________,

__________________________, _________________________

HELP ME: _________________________, _____________________,

_______________________________, ________________________

THE ROAD: _______________________, ______________________,

____________________________, ____________________________

MYSTERY: _________________________, ______________________,

___________________________________, ______________________
2. In this exercise, you're given a line from a song.
Write a rhyming line that could answer the given line.

"Like a river that don't know where it's flowing"
"Answer": "I took a wrong turn and I just kept going."

i) "With everything you do, what matters most to me,"

Answering line:


ii) "It came out of a stormy sky,"

Answering line:


iii) "Nothing ventured, nothing gained,"

Answering line:


iv) "This country that I love, the people that I meet,"

Answering line:


v) "You know I love you, but I'm afraid,"

Answering line: _



Song Title or Theme: ________________________________________________

Lesson 2:

I walked long the winding road
Thinking about my life...
There's nothing wrong with that as a lyric. And as
unremarkable as it is, it really depends on what your melody
is, and what you really want to focus on. But you could try
something more creative:

My mind wandered like the road
As I thought about my life...
It's not possible to say if the second example is a better
lyric, because good lyrics need to be judged along with the
other two major components, melody and chords. But it's a
slightly more creative way of saying the same thing.


Though being creative is very important, there is a point at
which songwriters can become too creative, where every
thought seems to require an innovative way of phrasing. So
be careful - there's no need to be overly creative. Going
overboard with descriptive language has the effect of pulling
focus from the more important emotions.
Sometimes, when I am writing text (whether song or prose)
the best editing I do is when I remove unnecessary words. It
results in a shorter text, but something far clearer and far
more succinct.
Here are some great examples of concise, clear, creative
lyrics. They use a mixture of great emotional descriptions
and clear everyday language:
What if I got it wrong
And no poet or song
Could put right what I got wrong
Or make you feel I belong
(Coldplay, "What If?" from "X&Y")
You fill up my senses like a night in the forest (John Denver,
"Annie's Song")

All for you I give it all

Cause when I'm thinking of you
When I'm flying above the world
How I wish I was drowning in you
(Dave Matthews, "Up and Away", from "Some Devil")


1. Phrase Rewording.
The following lyric examples are, generally speaking, a bit too wordy, and not
very creative. Take each sample and rewrite them into something clearer and
more concise. Don't worry about beats, phrasing, rhyming. Just come up
with creative ways of saying the same thing.

Under the sky that was lit by the moon.
POSSIBLE REWORDING: Under the moonlit sky

a) Stay with me for the rest of my life.

POSSIBLE REWORDING: ________________________________________


b) I'm descending into a life that is too complicated for me to figure out.

POSSIBLE REWORDING: ________________________________________

c) I'm trying to tell you that I love you very much.

POSSIBLE REWORDING: ________________________________________

d) My job is keeping me from focusing on you.

POSSIBLE REWORDING: ________________________________________


e) The ocean waves made me think of my life with you.

POSSIBLE REWORDINGS: ________________________________________


2. Finish the Thought

The following phrases are the first line of a pair of phrases that complete a
thought. Write a second phrase to complete the following thoughts.
In journeys of the heart and mind, you're the one I knew I'd find.

a) I walked the walk of every man,


b) You're my every day and night,


c) Open hands are hard to find,


d) Come into my eyes


e) I want you, need you, in my life


3. Start the Thought

The following phrases are the last line of a pair of phrases that complete a
thought. Write a first phrase to start the following thoughts.

a) ___________________________________, and held your hand in mine.

b) ___________________________________, tomorrow will soon be

c) ___________________________________, with my mind falling down,

like rain.

d) ___________________________________, ease the pain of letting go.

e) ___________________________________, what is wrong with me



Song Title or Theme: ________________________________________________

Lesson 3:
A familiar lyric is one in which the songwriter has succeeded in pulling the
listener into an imaginary world that feels completely real. The singer feels
that the song is describing a situation that they've either encountered before,
or could easily encounter in their future. Being familiar is being real.
Familiar text means that you try to word things using common every day
language. In most languages, there is a "written way" of communicating, and
an "oral way." And the way we write things is not necessarily the way we say
things. Written text can sometimes have a formality that oral text doesn't
have or need.
When you write lyrics, you may want to write them like they are poetry, and
this can be good especially if you, as the writer, wish to maintain a certain
emotional distance from the listener. But if you really want to snag the
listener, and make them feel that the song could also be about them, you'll
want to use more familiar, informal, emotion-driven text.
Compare these examples of formal, sometimes stiff, text versus informal,
familiar text:
1. FORMAL: When I arise...
INFORMAL: When I wake up in the morning...
2. FORMAL: My heart sings for your heart...
INFORMAL: I love you!
3. FORMAL: It hurts me to know...
INFORMAL: It tears me up...
4. FORMAL: It amused me...
INFORMAL: I laughed...
5. FORMAL: I hope that you understand...
INFORMAL: I need you to see...
Keep in mind that all the examples of so-called formal text are actually
possible lines from songs that can work very well. But if you want to get to
the grass-roots listener, opt for the informal rather than the formal.


If all you do is constantly tell your listener how you're feeling about
something, you're going to leave the listener feeling empty. It's not enough
to write songs about your emotions. You need to tell them a story, something
that they can relate to. In very important ways, the listener needs to feel
that your story is their story.
Do lyrics need to rhyme? Not always, but often. Rhyming is part of infusing a
sense of form into the song. Form is vital. Form is what demonstrates a
beginning, middle and end to your song. You can read more about lyrics and
form in "The Essential Secrets of Songwriting."


1. Take the following "formal" text fragments, and write them in a
more familiar way. NOTE: They don't have to rhyme... You're just looking
for ways to loosen up some rather stiff language. Feel free to take what
you're given below and write two or three lines if necessary.
1. FORMAL: I hope that you understand...
INFORMAL: I need you to see...

i) I'm going through a difficult time: ____________________________

ii) I got on the bus: ___________________________________

iii) You and I get along so well: _______________________________

iv) My troubled mind kept me from sleeping: _____________________

v) The task is complete: _______________________________

vi) The turmoil was distracting: ______________________________

vii) Trust in me: ______________________________

viii) Alcohol is not the answer: _______________________________

ix) I miss the good times: ___________________________________

x) I'm exhausted: ______________________________

2. Write four-line lyrics that gets the following ideas across:

i) I'm trying to do my work, but I am distracted by the things you said to me
last evening. Frankly, it's taking up all my time trying to sort out the issues
in my life.




ii) I know you are feeling depressed, but you need to focus on the fact that
better days are coming.





iii) I want to be a successful businessperson, and I know that that means I

may have to abandon the things in my life that I love.




iv) Who cares if I've got lots of work to do - I want to just sit back and
daydream about the nice times we've had together.



Lesson 4:

Beautiful melodies are all about shape, but there is more to it. Good melodies
make great use of repetition, but repeating endlessly will bore your audience.
Good melodies work hand in hand with the chords that support it, and so a
problem with a melody could just as easily be a problem with the chords. So
as you can see, getting a melody to work can be a tricky proposition. Let's
start to take a look at how you can make your melodies work better for you.


In truth, the best melodies are ones that click with all other aspects of a
song. It is impossible to answer the question, actually. And just as with
writing lyrics, it's a good thing that it's impossible to answer, because as
soon as we think we have created a beautiful melody, we want to create
another one!
And sometimes what we're after is not a beautiful melody, but rather a
melody that works.


Try the following melody exercises. These won't result in songs... they're
meant more as ways of getting you to look at melody writing in a fresh,
creative way.
Take a song that you've written, and compare the melodies of the verse and
chorus. The activities below will be addressed in more detail in Lesson 5. But
it's good to get familiar with your own music; answer the following
 Try to determine the lowest and highest notes of the verse. Now
determine the lowest and highest notes of the chorus. Compare the
two. In general, a verse should be pitched lower than a chorus.
 Is your verse melody the same, or almost the same, as your chorus
melody? If so, the lyrics and instrumental accompaniment need to
intensify for the chorus.
 Melody notes that leap upward usually indicate an emotional
intensification. Find the place in your verse and in your chorus that
feature the biggest upward leap. The lyrics at that moment should
reflect an intensifying of emotion.