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A few days ago I wrote a post that offered a step-by-step for writing a song lyric. I hope you’ve tried that, but there’s another way to put your lyrics front-and-centre in your songwriting process, which is to make lyrics part of your initial song improvisations.
If you want to see this in action, there’s a great video of John Mayer giving what amounts to a masterclass on how this is done:
You’ll be struck by the ease with which Mayer can let the words happen, and I encourage you to give it a try. It requires good instrumental technique, of course, because you’ll want to feel free from knowing what your fingers are going to do next.
This is not a contrast to my suggestion of brainstorming titles and phrases as I suggested in “7 Steps For Writing a Well-Structured Song Lyric” because in fact the brainstorming of ideas and song titles can be inspired by this kind of on-the-spot lyric improvisation.
There are many benefits that come from improvising lyrics in this way:
- You get to hear how lyrics (particularly the rhythm of the words) and melody support each other.
- You can develop the mood of your song right away.
- You can test out words and phrases, keeping what works and tossing what doesn’t.
- You get a head start on creating useful word lists.
- You get a strong sense of direction — of what the song is going to be about — by seeing where your mind takes you.
As with any kind of improvisation — melody, chords, etc. — you generate a lot of stuff that’s weak, but you also stumble across phrases, ideas, hooks, and word/music interplay that you know will work.
And as a first step, it’s a great way to feel immediately creative.
Improvising music and words is a great daily activity. If you’re the kind of songwriter who finds it hard to write on a daily basis, improvising melodies and lyrics works well to take the pressure off and let your musical mind do its thing.
So turn on your digital recorder, start playing, and see what your musical mind comes up with!
In the pop music genres, the success of a song is often all about the success of the hook. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how to make your hook really stand out.