Songwriting Exercises: 11 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Skill

Songwriting Exercises: 11 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Skill Songwriting Exercises: 11 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Skill

Music is a muscle. The more we exercise our abilities, the easier it is to write a powerhouse song. Even your favorite artists were novice musicians at some point in time and had to put in considerable hours to make the classics we love today.

Luckily, this means that anyone can become a songwriter with a little bit of guidance and a lot of practice. We've put together a list of 11 fantastic songwriting exercises to stretch your skillset so that you can become a better musician. Use these strategies whenever you feel stumped at a session, or simply want to challenge yourself to write something new.

How Do I Become a Songwriter?

Learning how to write a song is likely easier than you think. In its simplest form, songs are just a combination of lyrics and sound. If you can put words together and play an instrument or program a digital audio workstation to make sounds, you have everything you need to become a songwriter. Natural talent and knowledge of music theory can certainly make it easier for you to pick up basic songwriting skills, but the truth is that anyone can learn to write a basic song.

Professionally speaking, becoming a songwriter is much more nuanced. Songwriters earn a considerably small portion of royalties in comparison to composers or main artists, so making a living on professional songwriting is possible, but challenging.

In most cases, songwriters work their way up to their profession by hustling their way into rooms with underground artists, building up to larger names and labels as they increase their credibility as craftspeople.

11 Songwriting Exercises to Take Your Music to the Next Level

Are you struggling to put pen to paper? Here are 11 songwriting exercises you can use to practice the art of songwriting, especially when you're not feeling particularly inspired:

Switch Up Your Method

If you typically write acoustically and then move to record into your DAW, go the other direction. Start by making a beat or laying down foundational chord progressions in your workstation and then write live instrumentation or vocals. Inverting your process can also help you see music in a different light and lead you to an entirely new track.

Use a Random Word Generator

Sometimes free word association is exactly what you need to inspire your next track. You can use online tools like this one to help you spark inspiration with various topics and themes. There's also no shame in utilizing resources like, either! Anything that can help you complete a song in full is fair game.

Write a Response to another Song or Story

Some of the greatest songs are written as responses to others. For instance, Miley Cyrus' Flowers was written as a pseudo-response to Bruno Mars' When I Was Your Man . Comb through your library and imagine that the speaker is singing directly to you. Pen your imaginary response as your real lyrics.

Remove a Major Element

One great exercise whether you're writing lyrics or the composition of the song is to remove a major element and experiment with working around that removal.

For instance, if you're producing, perhaps you opt to change up the drum or bass parts completely. If you're writing lyrics, maybe you take out the chorus and experiment with more ideas. Exhausting your options in different directions can help you reveal the final format of your song, especially if you find yourself becoming lost in the middle of the process.

Take On the Persona of Your Favorite Character

Many artists naturally default to writing from the first person perspective. This method is often effective, since writing from the heart can drum up some real emotions that will translate through lyrics. However, this can be equally limiting since we may feel we need to experience more in our lives to generate more great ideas.

Instead, take this opportunity to write in the perspective of your favorite book or movie character. Creating separation between yourself and the song might be exactly what you need to let the creativity flow.

Study Your Favorite Tracks and Steal Like An Artist

All of your favorite artists know how to reference their favorite musicians, but then put it in their own perspective to create something unique. The next time you feel yourself getting stuck, pick out your latest favorite song and listen for one element that you can extract inspiration from. Maybe it's the chord progression, the rhyme structure, or a loose idea of the subject matter. Use your favorite songs for inspiration, but use different melodies, rhythmic structure, etc. to truly make it an original song.

Set a Timer

Creative constraints often make amazing opportunities to switch up your process and create a brand new song. Challenge yourself to write an entire song within the span of 10 or 15 minutes, setting a timer on your phone or computer to hold yourself to it.

It's unreasonable to expect that you'll always write lyrics you'll want to keep within this limited timeframe, but having the pressure of the time might just help you distill your best ideas more efficiently. This exercise can easily serve as a seedling for your next track.

Try Writing a Stream of Consciousness

Too often we get bogged down by self-critical thoughts or distractions that take us away from the task at hand of writing a song. Instead of being concerned about writing the perfect lyrics or chord progressions, allow yourself to brainstorm without thinking about how the finished track is "supposed" to sound or how it may be perceived.

I personally love using my voice memos app to capture this exercise. I hit record, and let ideas come out as they come to me. There is inevitably a lot of gibberish I simply won't use, but I occasionally find an improvised melody or lyrical gems this way which can be incredibly rewarding.

Write the Melody or the Lyrics First

Oftentimes, we try to write a song from beginning to end, starting at the first verse and making our way all the way through the outro. Let yourself venture outside of this rigid formation every once in a while.

For example, maybe you start with the melody of the chorus first, or perhaps you work on writing lyrics before connecting anything to sound. You can also experiment with starting from a different part of the song - maybe you write the pre chorus or second verse first if that's what feels right to you at any given moment.

Collaborate with Friends

We often forget that our favorite song was likely written by multiple people. This simple exercise provides valuable practice of collaborating with other artists, which is an essential skill for any singer songwriter. You don't have to cowrite on an entire song, either - even just a few phrases can help give you a much needed shift in perspective.

Practice Object Writing

Object writing is the process of describing a particular object using the senses to evoke an emotional response. Take time to describe even the most mundane objects with as many specific descriptors as possible. You'd be surprised just how many ideas you can get just by focusing on any one subject. Sensory language can also help your listeners become more immersed within a particular scene.

Songwriting Exercises FAQs

Ready to take your songwriting to the next level? Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to guide you on your journey.

How do you practice songwriting?

You practice songwriting by well, writing songs. Of course, finding inspiration is not always so simple, so we've put together several songwriting exercises to guide you through the process.

How can I teach myself songwriting?

You can teach yourself songwriting by emulating your favorite artists and developing your craft with various songwriting exercises and plenty of practice. Like any other skill, you have to consistently put in time and effort to master the craft.

How can I improve my songwriting workflow?

You can improve your songwriting workflow by staying open to different methodologies and optimizing while you learn more. We provide several songwriting exercises above to help send you down the right path.

What is the 80 20 rule in songwriting?

The 80 20 rule, or a paraphrased version of the Pareto principle states that 80% of your success will come from 20% of your efforts. You never know which of your songs will fall into the latter category.

Each songwriting exercise is designed to help you improve your songwriting skills, but you'll only see progress if you put in the work consistently. Remember that behind every hit song, there are hundreds of substandard practice demos. Use these exercises to start writing and improve your song structure and lyrical skills in the process.

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