Songwriting Exercises: #1 Lyric Practice

Using songwriting exercises is an effective tool to improve a songwriter’s skill in a particular area of the songwriting craft. Whether it’s an exercise in rhyming, lyric writing, or writing a melody, songwriting exercises prepare the songwriter to craft better songs.

This songwriting exercise is designed to give you lyric writing practice. You will be replacing an existing lyric with one of your own. This type of exercise is especially helpful when a songwriter is experiencing a bout of songwriter’s block (read my article, “How to Overcome Songwriter’s Block“).

Because of copyright rules, this songwriting exercise will use a public domain song as well as a lyric I came up with. I will give you some “starter” lines to help you along the process. Let’s get started.

OK, the first song that you will be replacing the lyrics to is “Jesus Loves Me”. The idea is to come up with a title of your own, replace the original lyric with your own lyric while at the same time keeping the same emphasis of syllables as in the original song. You can either keep it somewhat related to the original or completely different.

Here’s a lyric I came up with and sing in a video message to each of my grandkids on the day they are born. I’ve been blessed to sing it twice so far and will again, God willing, in a few more months.

Jesus loves you, you should know
For the bible tells you so
To our Savior, you belong
You are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves you
Yes, Jesus loves you
Yes, Jesus loves you
The bible tells you so

(here I say, “And (child’s name)”…

Grandpa loves you, you should know
I can’t wait to watch you grow
In my prayers, you’ll always be
Welcome to our family

Yes, Jesus loves you
Yes, Grandpa loves you
Yes, we all love you
I wanted you to know

Now, as you read through my lyric, sing it to the melody of the song. Notice how the syllable count of each line matches the original lyric as well as which syllable has the emphasis placed on it. That’s the idea of this songwriting exercise.

For example.. in the original: JEsus, and mine: GRANDpa
original: LITtle ones mine: IN my prayers

One other point about this songwriting exercise is to not only keep syllables and emphasis the same as the original but also to have your lyric make sense with the message you’re writing about. In my lyric, I kept the general theme “Love” throughout the song.

You give it a try. You can pick a song for this exercise, or here’s a little prompt to get you going. Use the same melody of, “Jesus Loves Me” and work from the title, “I Write Lyrics“. Note the theme of the title is writing lyrics. So, maybe something like:

I write lyrics day and night
I don’t quit until they’re right

When I came up with “day and night” I needed to find an ending word for the second line that rhymed with “night” so I would typically think of those words or look some up in a rhyming dictionary and start brainstorming what I could come up with. Tight, might, sight, bright, etc.

Try replacing “day and night” with ” every day”. I write lyrics every day…. now you find words that rhyme with “day”, pick one and create a second lyric line that uses that word you picked as the last word in line 2 while at the same time matches the syllable count and emphasis placement.

Then from that point continue writing the song with the same rhyme pattern as the original. If you’re unsure of how to use rhyme patterns you can check out my article, “Types of Rhymes in Songs

This songwriting exercise of replacing lyrics with your own is a great way of writing without putting pressure on yourself to come up with a Grammy-winning song. It helps exercise those songwriting synapses in your mind so when inspiration does strike with a completely new song you’ll have the experience to fill in the blanks and write your own song.

if you’re interested in reading more about this technique, I wrote an article, “Lyric Meter” where I use a famous Beatles song and replace the lyrics to that.

I hope this article gets you inspired to write more song lyrics. Practice makes perfect!.

Ronnie Lee Hurst

Hello! I've been a singer/songwriter for years and have a passion for crafting a new song. I also want to help teach the craft to new songwriters coming along.

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