Some Songs Don’t Come from Diaries

Here’s the deal, guys. People think you have to have some deep emotional traumatic experience to write a good song. And sure, lots of angsty ballads are born from tear-stained diary pages, but not all songs have to be that complex. In fact, I find that sometimes the best songwriting exercises are writing about things that have no real significance whatsoever.

For example, here’s a prompt to get you started.

Write a chorus of a song incorporating numbers 1 through 10. You don’t have to use all the numbers, but write as many of them into your chorus as possible.

Here’s my attempt:

You’re the only one
I can call at half past ten
and I can hold onto
through all the could’ve and should’ve beens
But you left at a quarter to 5
baby, what were you yelling for?
Didn’t break the walls round my heart didn’t tear me apart
didn’t realize what this was
until I walked out my door your car not there anymore
you gave up on us
you gave up on us

Notice not all the numbers are in numerical form. But using the words “onto” and “for” give the illusion that I am continuing on with the numbers theme.

An example of this in popular culture would be “New Rules” by Dua Lipa. The chorus goes:

“One: Don’t pick up the phone
You know he’s only callin’ ’cause he’s drunk and alone
Two: Don’t let him in
You have to kick him out again
Three: Don’t be his friend
You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the mornin’
And if you’re under him, you ain’t gettin’ over him”

This attempt at using numbers to tie together a chorus is much more structured than my attempt. It’s in list format, and the numbers are all ‘numerical’ and aren’t slipped in through the usage of other like-sounding words.

Here’s one more try by me to create a different sounding chorus using numbers 1-10 as an inspiration:

I see
All the things
I couldn’t see before
You walked out my door
trust me
when I say
going my own way
i’ve never felt so insecure
don’t wanna try anymore
take me back
come back

This one is different because the numbers themselves don’t appear in the lyrics. Instead they influence the number of words in each line. It goes 1-2-3-4-5 / 1-2-3-4-5 / 4-3-2-1. There was no inspiration behind this chorus whatsoever besides thinking of words that would fit this numerical pattern.

Other ideas to base choruses on?

  • Colors!
  • Seasons!
  • Night/Day/Morning/Evening
  • One particular emotion
  • Months
  • etc.

If you get stuck and hit writers’ block while songwriting, simply pick a category and use it to influence a chorus or two. It may not be the best song you’ve ever written, but it’ll usually be enough to get ideas flowing once again!

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