Song Replication

One exercise I have read about in a couple of places, which I am just trying out for the first time this weekend, is to take a song you know “ish”, but not so well that you know every single lyric, and then try to write it yourself without looking at the actual lyric.

The logic is that as you go through the various decision points of songwriting, you will effectively have a master songwriter right there to mentor you through it, as after you have made your attempt you can look at what they did and have immediate feedback on the things you could have done better.

To take chess as an analogy, the way you become a grand master is to go through expert games and try to predict what moves are coming next, again then having direct feedback as to what a better move might have been, allowing you to really get inside the mind of the master. It is exactly the same at art-schools, where students will spend time replicating famous paintings.

Anyway, is this a developmental technique anybody has ever experimented with? I will report back with how I find it!

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I’ll have to give this a shot.

Something similar to this is what James Taylor has suggested for songwriters is to take a song that you like, and just continue on the same trajectory, as if it were part 2 of whatever they were talking about in the song. E.g when the ships come in by Bob dylan, you could discuss what happens once the ships land.

I have never tried this exact method, but I’ve done something similar. I took the I-vi-IV-V progression that so many popular rock songs from the 50’s were based on and wrote melodies and lyrics to it. Then compared it with the various songs from that period that I used as baselines. Doing it this way taught me to be more comfortable with simple, straightforward, and repetitive lyrics. That is still hard for me, but it does help find those areas and broad topics to work on by finding out what you like about the lyrics of those songs.

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