Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Step One: Writing Your Own Songs

Perhaps writing your own song is something that you've never thought about before.  Or maybe it is something you have thought about but quickly dismissed because you thought you weren't that talented, or creative, or fill in the blank with your own excuse.  The wonderful thing about songwriting is that anyone has the ability to do this!  It's not as hard as you might think.

Believe it or not, this is a skill that I teach my students over at St. Agatha School.  I teach guitar classes there every week, and in addition to playing guitar, I have my students sing and also write their own lyrics.  The easiest of exercises is something that the younger students absolutely LOVE!  Here's an example. 

The first exercise is choosing an existing song and simply adding or changes the lyrics.  I start with a song that all the kids know.  A good one for very young children is "Frere Jacques."  I use the english version, which is "Are You Sleeping Brother John."  The lyrics are:

Are you sleeping?  Are you sleeping?
Brother John, brother John.
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong.  Ding ding dong.

I will choose one person in class (and believe me, they ALL want to be chosen), and I ask that person to tell me something other than sleeping that brother John could be doing.  He could be drawing, playing, singing, skipping, or anything else they can dream up.  If they want to change the name of the person (John), we do that as well.  If we want to get really fancy, then we could change the rest of the lyrics to fit whatever we have decided that brother John is doing.  Here's what we might end up with:

Are you skipping?  Are you skipping?
Sister Sue?  Sister Sue?
Skipping in the morning, skipping in the morning
Skip skip hop.  Skip skip hop.

Another song that I have used in the past is "Mountain Dew."  The lyrics to a couple of the verses are:

My brother Bill had a still on the hill
He turned out a gallon to two
The buzzards in the sky get so drunk they can't fly
Just from sniffing that good ol' mountain dew.

My Auntie June had a brand new perfume
It had such a wonderful pew
But to her surprise when she had it analyzed
It was nothing but that good ol' mountain dew.

The first step is to think of a liquid other than mountain dew:  water, gas, oil, etc.  In this example, rhyming is important if you want to maintain the idea of the song.  Here's an example that a group of children helped me come up with:

My Grandpa Horn had a field full of corn
He watered it daily at two
But during a drought when the water ran out
He watered it with good ol' mountain dew.

Next, you could decide how you could substitute your chosen liquid for mountain dew, and then what the result would be. The idea is that mountain dew would be better than the liquid substituted.  Here's an example I wrote about my band members:

My mom's a beaut, so good looking and cute
Everyone always thinks she's my sis
She rolls back the years drinking quality beers
That are nothing but that good ol' mountain dew.

Zane is so rare with that head full of hair
It is wavy and thick all around
He says it's his genes but we all know he means
That it's nothing but that good ol' mountain dew.

Emily can sing, you should hear her voice ring
It echos through the hollers and the hills
But she's underage so she'd better not engage
In any of that good ol' mountain dew.

The main thing is not to be afraid to try!  Kids feel pretty free at doing this.  The younger, the better.  As kids get older, and also adults as well, they tend to think that anything they come up with is not very good.  Don't worry about how "good" your lyrics are.  Be creative.  Be free.  Take out a piece of paper and brainstorm.

This is just the beginning.  I plan on writing more later.  In the mean time, try this out and remember to have fun!

1 comment:

Vivien Tuma said...

Nice piece of writing. Thanks for posting. I think you have been clear, practical, and helpful. Thank you. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

Warmly,
Vivien