1. ACTIVE LISTENING—Think of two or three of your most cherished songs. These songs might tie back an important time or event in your life (a wedding, the loss of a loved one, etc.) Set aside some time where you can listen without distraction or interruption. Dig out that old LP or CD or call the song up on YouTube. Now find a relaxing spot to settle in and listen to one of your songs. Close your eyes and lose yourself in the music. When the song ends, take note of how you are feeling. Has your breathing changed? Have you teared up? Are you chuckling to yourself? Have you traveled back to a past moment in your life? Try to understand HOW that song brought these reactions and feelings to you.
2. SONGS AND SONGWRITING—For this exercise we will incorporate what Arlo Guthrie calls the “folk music process.” We could call it “co-writing” or to be frank, “stealing.” No worries, A.P. Carter (of the Carter family) did it all the time. You don’t have to play an instrument or be a musician to be a songwriter. The title of our project is: “MUSIC FOR HARD TIMES”. Without a doubt, we currently find ourselves living in what history will label an unprecedented time of crisis and upheaval. Take a few minutes to jot down some notes about our lives (and Your life) just now. Personal thoughts and feelings are great. Key words, phrases, headlines, musings—any source is fine—daydreaming, worrying, talks with friends or co-workers, watching the news. Don’t worry about organizing or rhyming or “PG rating.”
Now go back and listen to our rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Sing along a few times and get the melody and timing “in your head.” Then pull some words or phrases that you like from your jotted notes. See if you can sing them along with the melody of the song—start with just getting the first line of a verse. You can tweak by adding or subtracting a word, holding out a syllable, etc. You’ll note that “Circle” has four lines to a stanza with the second and fourth lines rhyming. As you come up with added lines, you can try to fit this rhyming pattern. You may need to find substitute final words for the rhyming lines—but NO rhymes is not a “deal breaker.” Once the four lines of the stanza are complete, congratulations—YOU ARE A SONGWRITER. Keep it up.
Extra Credit—Set your new song lyrics aside for a few days. Then, pull them out and see if you can sing them with a different melody than “Circle”—change the tempo, play with the phrasing and meter, change the “feel” of the song. Now you can credit yourself with creating both—“words and music.” Sing your song to a friend.