Songwriting Exercise: Using a Timer

Have you done timed object writing before and loved it? The advantage of using a timer is that it shuts off the inner critic. The goal is to get the main ideas across and defined, rather than ruminating endlessly on one line, and get it finished in a set amount of time. 

Here are a couple of new ideas to write songs a little faster and more often. There are a number of variations on songwriting exercises using a timer, and these particular ones are for keeping up the practice of songwriting. I say “practice” because these are designed to keep you writing and work on it most days, and practice does not have to be perfect.

Ten-Fifteen Minutes: 

The Goal: Flesh out a new song idea.

Both of these exercises can be paired with Structured Object Writing (LINK). Pairing any sort of object writing helps with timer exercises because you have a chance to think over the ideas before you start writing.

Thirty Minutes:

The Goal: Write every single day for thirty minutes, working slowly on a song or two at a time.

You can simply set a timer for thirty minutes for you to work on a song (no interruptions!). For example, you can tell yourself that at the end of the thirty minutes, you will have written one section of a song, or a verse/chorus.

This exercise can also be split into steps, depending on the day:

Day One: Do a musical or lyrical brainstorm (whichever you like to start with first). Try to experiment and think of 3-5 different ideas. Make sure to write them down or do a rough recording on your phone.

Day Two: Take one of your musical or lyrical ideas and expand on them. For lyrical ideas, you can think of the who, what, when, where, why of your song; you can outline the verse/chorus progressions; you can define the character and their motivations. For musical ideas, you can hum a few different melody ideas for each section. You can also just get to writing the sections.

Day Three onwards: Try to complete at least one section of your song until it is finished.

Sixty Minutes:

The Goal: Write one entire song in the time frame.

This exercise works great for anyone who has trouble writing an entire song (and finishing it) or doesn’t have a lot of time to write. The point of writing a song in sixty minutes is not to write a perfect song, but the backbone of a song, where your rhymes might be a little off (LINK), there might be a few filler lines or your melodies need a little work. You want to get the entire thing written so you can spend your time editing and re-writing as needed, not getting stuck on a blank page. 

This exercise really works well if you’ve done an object write or have a song idea already, but just need the extra push to write the song itself.

Step One: Make sure you have some water/tea/coffee, your writing materials, an instrument and whatever else you need. 

Step Two: Set your timer for sixty minutes and start with whatever section you like.

Step Three: Work through as much of the song as you can until the timer goes off. The goal is to write a whole song, but if you only get as far as a Verse and a Chorus, that’s great!

Step Four: Don’t forget to write the song down or do a rough recording of it at the end.

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