Week 13: Write a One Hour Song Lyrics

Wait, we are writing a song in one hour? The first time I heard about this technique, it sounded impossible. But after one of our members, John Nicholson, broke it down for me into bite-sized chunks, it clicked.

This exercise does require an hour of uninterrupted time, which I realize is a stretch for some people, myself included. If you need to break it down into 15-20 minute chunks, please do so. You may not receive the benefit of an unbroken 1-hour stretch, but you can at least practice the different parts.

These are the instructions he gave me.


“...the less you are inspired the more you go to structure...”—John Nicholson
  1. Pick a standard song structure: VVCVVCBC (Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Verse 4, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus).
  2. Pick a standard rhyme scheme: XAXA. The first and third lines don't rhyme, second, and fourth do. This one is the simplest because you only have to rhyme two out of the four lines.
  3. Start your timer.
  4. Find a topic. Either use a proverb, an object, something from a free-write, or a business slogan. It's okay to get silly here. Example: "Sunshine": Write about my son. "Here's my little Mr. sunshine."
  5. Quickly craft a chorus idea. Don't be afraid to be repetitive.
  6. What kind of genre will it be? Example: Songwriter Ballad with the basic chords: C, A minor, F, G as the verse. Rearrange the chords in the chorus to: A minor, G, F, C.
  7. The chorus will write itself in a couple of minutes. What rhymes with "sunshine"? Fine—" every day he gets up and he's fine." Now you've got the 2nd and the fourth lines rhyming, all you have to do is come up with something, anything, for the first and 3rd lines.
  8. Sketch out the verses. When in doubt, start in the past and go to the future. Tell the story from beginning to end. At this point, you'll be sitting at about 10-15 minutes. Resist the urge to sound smart. You can also use the ol', Shane Adam's trick of putting BUT or THEREFORE between the verses to create a story.
  9. Create a melody. Take it to the keyboard, guitar, or DAW and come up with something simple.

The power of this exercise is that you keep continuity. The problem with coming back to songs days later is that you can lose your flow. It can be challenging to recreate the emotion you felt from the first day.

John said that sometimes his best stuff comes from a speed songs. He thinks that it's because it doesn't allow you to overthink things. Instead, what will often bubble up is directly from the subconscious, which for many, is the holy grail for creativity.

Give it a try and post your work in the group!

Provide links to websites with proverbs, and or provide daily proverb that everyone writes on.

Questions and Feedback

Is there any part of the lesson that could be more clear? What would make your experience better? Are there any benefits to this exercise that I am missing? Please leave feedback in the comments below. For more immediate assistance shoot me an email at rigel@100daysofsongwriting.com