Transforming Musicians into Songwriters

5 Songwriting Exercises – Explained in 4 Minutes

5 Songwriting Exercises for specific songwriting skills to develop your craft and write better, more interesting songs your listeners will love!
5 Ideas for Songwriting Inspiration that always work

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Build Your Songwriting Craft With These 5 Songwriting Exercises 

You can use songwriting exercises to improve your songwriting skills and write better songs.

Here are 5 songwriting exercises to help you improve your songwriting craft and write better, more interesting songs

You can use exercises to strengthen your songwriting skills, just like you can develop your guitar skills by focusing on improving your fretting technique so you can learn a new chord, new riff or lighten up your pressure to play faster.

Below the 4 minute video lesson is a summary of all 5 exercises, each with a link to another article so you can explore the exercise further… and finally a list of specific exercises to get you started! 

Songwriting Exercise #1: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a Free Writing with a purpose. Your goal is get into a flow state and dump whatever is in your brain onto a page without distracting yourself by thinking about the quality of your ideas. Start with a theme or title idea as a writing prompt and write ideas as fast as you can think of them. Don’t edit anything yet. 

Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and put as many ideas on paper as you can before the timer runs out. Think a few words ahead of your pen. As you practice, you’ll be able to set the timer for longer. If you find yourself getting distracted set the timer for a shorter brainstorm.

Brainstorming can feel awkward if it’s new to you, that’s okay… it’s a skill you develop with practice. You’ll learn to generate ideas quickly and smash songwriter’s block, you’ll always be able to create new songwriting ideas.

Songwriting Exercise #2: Rhyme Find

Don’t settle for the first rhyme you think of… stretch yourself and practice your rhyming skills. Come up with at least a dozen alternatives before you try writing the line that rhymes.

There are many rhyming dictionaries available both in paper and online. Find one you like and use it, a dictionary is a useful tool.

My favourite rhyming dictionary is B-Rhymes: http://www.b-rhymes.com/

It’s also available as a phone app “b-rhymes” in the Apple app store and Google Play

Example: 40 words that rhyme with… Rhyme:

  • Climb, chime, dime, grime, lime, mime, slime, sublime, time, thyme,  
  • Brine, confine, decline, define, design, dine, enshrine, fine, line, lines, malign, mine, nine, pine, recline, shine, shrine, spine, stine, underline, undersigned 
  • Find, declined, defined, grind, hind, kind, rind, underlined, unkind

Songwriting Exercise #3: Imagery Imagining

Instead of choosing the first imagery you think of… work with it to find other options you could use. Brainstorm:

  • Metaphors/Similes
  • Sensations, and
  • Emotions – emotional language or emotions you can evoke

Musical Example: Exotic Bean

Check out how I use metaphors/similes, sensations and emotions in one of my songs: Exotic Bean, how I suffered from coffee withdrawal while travelling (includes the complete lyrics and my analysis to help you write better songs)…

Songwriting Exercise #4: Write a Story

  • Brainstorm a story topic/title
  • Brainstorm ideas for your story
  • Edit the ideas to choose the best ideas for the story
  • Put the ideas in order so they create a story with a beginning, middle and end
  • Bullet Points, simplify the story to 10-15 bullet points 
  • Choose where to put each bullet, in the:
    • Verse(s)
    • Pre-Chorus
    • Chorus
    • Bridge

Bonus: Write your story into song lyrics

Songwriting Exercise #5: Learn a New Song

Learning new songs:

  • Gets you excited about music
  • Gets you learning new things
  • Helps you understand songs from the inside

List songs you want to learn, Different lists for singing, playing and analyzing 

Bonus Songwriting Exercise: 

Go outside and live an interesting life, live things worth writing songs about 

Sky scene, "Don't compare yourself or your songs to others"

Songwriting Exercises: Action Steps

Actions Step 1: Try Brainstorming Every Day for a Week

You’ll get addicted, I promise! I practiced this every day for 2 months and the results were astonishing! 

5 minutes each time… Brainstorm titles each day, or choose a title and brainstorm song ideas, words, phrases, imagery, sensations, 

As you get used to it, try Brainstorming for longer, build your attention span by gradually adding a minute at a time. If you find your  attention wanders don’t add time until you’re comfortable.

Actions Step 2: Play “Rhyme Find”

1. Choose a set of rhyme words from a song you love and find another dozen rhymes

2. Choose a word to rhyme in a song you’re working on and write down as many rhymes as you can in 5 minutes (set a timer and go)

3. Check your answers with B-Rhymes.com, or

4. Download the app for your phone “b-rhymes” is available in the Apple app store and Google Play

Actions Step 3: Imagery Imagining

1. Choose an interesting example of imagery from a song you love and brainstorm new:

  • Metaphors & similes, 
  • Sensation Imagery, and
  • Emotional Imagery

2. Start a list of interesting imagery from songs you love

3. Start a list of your own interesting imagery you can use in your own songs

Actions Step 4: Write a Story into a Song

1. Start with a story topic/title, brainstorm if you don’t have an idea yet, then:

  • Brainstorm ideas for your story
  • Edit the ideas to choose the best ideas for the story
  • Put the ideas in order so they create a story with a beginning, middle and end
  • Bullet Points, simplify the story to 10-15 bullet points 
  • Choose where to put each bullet, in the:
    • Verse(s)
    • Pre-Chorus
    • Chorus
    • Bridge

Then: Write your story into song lyrics…

2. Choose a song you love and analyze the story… extract a story from the song. Label each section as you work through the song. Then summarize the story in the song in a sentence 

For example the story in Exotic Bean (the musical example above)

The first verse sets the story waking up in a new place needing a jolt of coffee.

The second verse describes the attempts to find coffee and why they didn’t work.

The pre-chorus links the problems in the verse with the needed solution in the chorus

The chorus describes my need for a decent cup of coffee and how it felt.

The solution to the problem is explained in the bridge where I decide to bring my own beans on the next trip.

The summarized story is: Exotic Bean is the story of my need for a decent cup of coffee, what it felt like, how I tried to solve it and how I will avoid this problem in the future. 

Actions Step 5: Learn a New Song

1. Start a list of songs you want to learn, include links to YouTube tutorials or Tab pages so you can click to them whenever you want

2. Create a playlist on your phone so you can listen to them and work on them when you’re on the go

3. Start learning them!

4. Record yourself on your phone (audio and/or video) playing and singing them 

Bonus Songwriting Articles

Learn How to Write a Song Chorus

Learn a simple repeatable songwriting process you can use to write the lyrics, melody and music for a song chorus. Click the link to enter your email address so I can send it to you!

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What’s your favourite songwriting exercise?

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Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

If you can play songs,
you can learn to write songs…

How to Write a Song Chorus:
Lyrics, Melody & Chords...

Learn a deliberate songwriting process for free...

How to Write a Song Chorus,
the lyrics, melody & chords