Improve Your Lyrics With These 3 Word-Creating Games

Any time you do play word games, your ability to write song lyrics improves.


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Singer & GuitaristAre you the kind of songwriter who finds the music-writing part of the activity quite easy, but the lyric-writing part painfully difficult? With music, it always amazes me how close a bad song is to becoming a good song; with just a few adjustments, you can take a song that seems to have little going for it and turn it into something you can be proud of. But lyrics — that’s a tougher one. Improving your lyric-writing skills takes constant work, and becoming better happens gradually.

You might think, therefore, that writing better lyrics is something that will automatically happen with age. But that’s certainly not to say that there’s nothing but aging that makes a good lyricist. There are things you can be doing, and they can be enjoyable.

Check out the following activities. They’ll open your mind and get you thinking creatively with words. Some are activities you can do on your own, while others are fun if you can find a fellow songwriter to do them with.

  1. Basic Rewording Exercise. Are your lyrics saying things in the best possible way? Sometimes it’s the 2nd, 3rd or 4th attempt at a rewrite that finally works. So try this: Take a line of lyric that you’ve written recently, and find 5 new ways to say the same thing. Some lyrics are what they are, and don’t really need rewording. But if your line is “Do you really miss me, or is that all in my mind?“, you might try some alternate rewordings: “Do you really miss me, or am I making that up?” “Do you really want me, or is it gone forever?” “Do you really need me, or is it time to go?”  Each rewording says something a little different. Same idea, but a from different angle. You may be pleasantly surprised that your first attempt is often not your best one.
  2. Trading lines (1- or 2-person activity). This works best as a 2-parson activity, but can be done by one. Set up a beat by slapping your knees, or set up a loop. Start the activity by creating a simple line of lyric. Your songwriting partner waits for 4 beats, then comes back with a line that either rhymes with it, or acts as a good “answer” to yours. You can do this yourself by creating a line, waiting 4 beats, then coming back with a second line that rhymes or answers. Example: You: “Hold my hand and never let me go.” Partner: “Never want to be the one who always says ‘No!'” You: “Life with you is so sublime.” Partner: “You always told me you’d be here all the time.” If you get stuck, simply repeat your line again, or repeat your partner’s line until something new emerges in your imagination. 80 bpm is a good starting tempo. A lot of what you’ll create will sound like junk, but the creative process will be a benefit.
  3. Words From Letters. This is something you can do sitting in a chair with pen and paper. Choose a word that’s at least 7-letters-long (“emotion”, “lovingly”, “hopeful”, “cherish”, etc.). Now try creating a sentence that uses words starting with each letter of the original word. For example, with the word “emotion”, you could create the sentence “Every moment on the inside offers nothing.” Why is this a good activity? It forces your brain into “thesaurus mode”. You’ll feel your lyrical brain almost spinning as you try to come up with a word that starts with the right letter, and also makes syntactical sense. Your sentences will be weird, but like the first activity, you’re forcing your brain to be creative.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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    • Definitely the “Trading Lines” game. It’s one you don’t even need another person for, just spit out a line, wait four beats, and spit out the next one. For me, any time you force your brain to create something quickly, you tap into a part of your mental abilities that needs that kind of activity.

      Thanks for writing.

  1. Pingback: Good article with some good ideas for refreshing your songwriting. | Between the Cracks

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