These word-creation games are fun, and help you by forcing you to create words and phrases very quickly.
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Many songwriters find lyrics hard to create, sometimes to the point that they choose to concentrate on the music and partner with a lyricist to do the “hard stuff.” But there are things you can do to improve your lyrical abilities, starting with reminding yourself how lyrics do not have to be clever or overly pithy. The best lyrics are the ones that convey universal emotions, creating imagery using very simple words and phrases.
The author Dorothea Brande (1893-1948) was an advocate of speedwriting as a way of stimulating the creative juices. Her advice to writers was to quite literally wake up writing every morning: as soon as your eyes open, grab a pen and start writing – anything. Don’t go back to read or critique what you’ve written, just write. She believed that spontaneous speedwriting stimulated the creative mind and made one a better writer. She is highly respected, and many still take that advice to heart.
In the spirit of forcing your brain to create words quickly and spontaneously, here are several lyric-writing games you can try. They’re fun, and meant to get the words to start flowing. So give these a try.
- Point and Say, Part 1. Take a book from your shelf, open it, point to a word, and create a line of lyric that starts with your chosen word (Hint: If the word you point to is a noun, add an article (a, the, that. etc.) if you need to.)
- Point and Say, Part 2. Choose a word as described in the first game. Now choose a second word, and create a line of lyric that starts with word #1 and ends with word #2.
- Quick Rhyme. Choose a random word from a book, then quickly say a word that rhymes. (If an exact rhyme isn’t forthcoming, try an approximate rhyme. Example: “degree” / “spree.”)
- Quick Synonyms. Choose a random word, then create a list of five words or phrases that are synonyms or approximate synonyms. Example: Your chosen word: “remember”. Your list: “recall, bring to mind, think of, recollect, reminisce” If you get stuck, don’t dwell on it: just move on to your next word.
It’s important not to get bogged down or to take the exercise too seriously. The point is that to develop lyrical abilities, you need to pull words from your mind sometimes very quickly, and this exercise will help.
For a fifth idea, here’s something I suggested in a past blog article: trading lines. This one requires a partner. You start by keeping a beat either by tapping your foot or slapping your knees. One of you starts the exercise by randomly creating a line of lyric, and the other needs to come up with something right away, without skipping a beat.
Example: You: “Hold on, baby, to what we’ve got.” Your partner: “I’m feeling the love, so I’ll give it a shot.” This exercise should produce gales of laughter as you discover how silly the mind can be when under pressure. But as with the other activities, your brain is forced to create words quickly, and that’s its benefit.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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