Start Here: Sensory Based Description Course

If you want to become a better songwriter, you need to practice. This website aims to devise short exercises to isolate and practice particular skills at the heart of this craft. Think of it as a songwriting gym; if you can get into the habit of turning up for ten minutes each day and exercising a particular muscle, then there is no way you can’t get fitter as a songwriter. The only thing that really matters is consistency.

Trying to get into the habit by yourself is hard. We are social beings and work at our best when we have a support network of like-minded people providing us with encouragement, inspiration, and most importantly, feedback. For all its flaws the internet has made it the best time in history to find and connect with like-minded people. This little corner is for songwriters who want to get better at songwriting.

This first set of exercises roughly traces the structure of Pat Pattison’s fantastic book, ‘Songwriting Without Boundaries’. Pat has become somewhat of a guru in the world of lyric writing as a result of his clear teaching and effective practice techniques. At the heart of his philosophy is the importance of sensory-based description, the most fundamental part of engaging our reader or listener.

Instructions

  • Turn up each day. Bookmark this page. Set the time and the place and try to develop it into a habit.
  • Work for 10-15 minutes on just one exercise. If you do more work than this or you try to cram in five exercises in one day you will find far more resistance toward turning up the next day. Little and often is crucial.
  • Please read other people’s writing and take a few moments to give credit where it is due and provide feedback you think may be useful.
  • Hopefully they will return the favour and all boats will rise with the tide!
  • Enjoy the process! Getting better at things is one of life’s greatest satisfactions.

Exercises

If you would like to be sequentially emailed these exercises, starting at exercise 1 and receiving one each weekday, please sign up here.

Plain Object Writing

The first two weeks are plain and simple object writing. Each day an object will be posted for you to write about.

Day 1: “What” Writing - Sky
Day 2: “What” Writing - Bathroom Mirror
Day 3: “What” Writing - Umbrella
Day 4: “What” Writing - Bouquet
Day 5: “What” Writing - Movie Theatre
Day 6: “Who” Writing - Waitress
Day 7: “Who” Writing - Priest
Day 8: “Who” Writing - Cyclist
Day 9: “When” Writing - Graduation
Day 10: “When” Writing - Six in the Morning
Day 11: “When” Writing - Loved One’s Funeral
Day 12: “Where” Writing - Park Bench in the City
Day 13: “Where” Writing - Hotel Bar
Day 14: “Where” Writing - Canoe on the River

Metaphor from Word Collisions

The next four weeks become more metaphorical. There are a series of exercises designed to map the language from one domain onto a different domain to see the world in new and even more engaging ways.

Day 15 - Adjective Noun Collisions 1
Day 16 - Adjective Noun Collision 2
Day 17 - Adjective Noun Collision 3
Day 18 - Noun Verb Collisions 1
Day 19 - Noun Verb Collisions 2
Day 20 - Noun Verb Collisions 3
Day 21 - Noun Noun Collisions 1
Day 22 - Noun Noun Collisions 2
Day 23 - Noun Noun Collisions 3
Day 24 - Noun Noun Collisions 4

Metaphor through Linking Qualities

Day 25 - Linking from Target - Policeman
Day 26 - Linking from Target - Teacher
Day 27 - Linking from Target - Traffic
Day 28 - Linking from Target - Handshake
Day 29 - Linking from Source - Deep-Sea Diver
Day 30 - Linking from Source - Guitar Solo
Day 31 - Linking from Source - Magnifying Glass
Day 32 - Linking from Source - Afternoon Nap
Day 33 - Linking Both Ways - Broken Glass
Day 34 - Linking Both Ways - Sleeping Late
Day 35 - Linking Both Ways - Vacation
Day 36 - Linking Both Ways - Falling in Love

Object Writing in Rhythm and Rhyme

The final week deals with metric forms specific to songwriters. We apply the same object writing techniques but are constrained to a particular form each day.

Day 37 - Tetrameter Lines - Sunset
Day 38 - Tetrameter Lines - Art Museum
Day 39 - Tetrameter Couplets - Train
Day 40 - Tetrameter Couplets - Broken Glass

Post Book Exercises

Writing from Pictures
Day 1 - Full Color Photogragh
Day 2 - Semi-Realistic Painting
Day 3 - Black and White Photogragh
Day 4 - Abstract Painting of Objects
Day 5 - Fully Abstract Painting

Word Ladders
Day 1 - Noun-Verb List 1
Day 2 - Noun-Verb Pairing 1
Day 3 - Noun-Verb List 2
Day 4 - Noun-Verb Pairing 2

Writing to an Instrumental - Michelangelo Technique
Day 1 - Freewriting/Brainstorming
Day 2 - Story Line
Day 3 - Capturing Your Senses
Note: Days 4 - 8 use the same instrumental and will result in a full song
Day 4 - Mood, Primary Image, and Theme
Day 5 - Building a Boneyard
Day 6 - Story Line
Day 7 - Capturing Your Senses
Day(s) 8 - Creating a Full Song

Brainstorming - Resulting in Complete Song
Day 1 - Mind Mapping Association Origin
Day 2 - Mind Mapping Association Tier 2, Word 1
Day 3 - Mind Mapping Association Tier 2, Word 2
Day 4 - Mind Mapping Association Brain Dump
Day 5 - Creating Random Lines from Mind Mapping
Day 6 - Organizing those Lines
Day 6.A (Optional) - Using Short Story to Guide
Day 7 - Compiling and Editing Lines to Form Full Lyrics
Day 8 - Creating Simple Music for Those Lines and Finishing Song