Music is a living, breathing art form that is in a constant state of flux in terms of what’s popular and what’s boring. Music reflects, impacts, and triggers feelings. It can prompt and stimulate memories. It can trigger ideas and can even promote healing.
Because the art of singing, songwriting, composing, and playing is such a vibrant, volatile living breathing art form, its life-force summons the call to refresh, revise, and revisit material. It stirs the impulse to evoke, explore, and experiment with new ideas and novel approaches. It thrives on finding creative ways to spin expression in a different direction.
The following is a practice that was developed primarily to help kick up ideas for songwriters, but it has applications for singers and musicians as well. It also can serve as a great group rehearsal activity or party game. Its goal is to trigger ideas for songs, as well as set the stage for new approaches to old material. The bottom line: it stimulates creativity.
Stimulate Interpretive Skills
By stimulating the creative process a singer can stretch their interpretive skills. It helps look at the deeper meaning in a phrase, the bigger picture of the overall lyric, and the relationship between the words and the music.
The basic framework for the exercise starts with free association and making lists. These can be written, or spoken and recorded. The lists are used to help create new material and to offer a broader perspective that includes sharper focus when selecting and learning new material.
Four Anchored + Four Countered
There are four anchored phrases to consider and four counter phrases to consider for the exercise. But, you can substitute anchored phrases to suit your needs. For now, we’ll use the following four simple anchored phrases: I remember, I hate, I miss, and I love.
You start with one simple phrase and let it play in your mind over and over until you get images and thoughts of things that are triggered by each phrase. Then you write these down or speak them into a recorder.
For example, with the anchor “I remember,” you might say: I remember…when my father died, or I remember my first kiss. Others might be: I hate it when people talk while I’m singing, or I hate my wardrobe. You want to keep these things going until you generate at least four thoughts per phrase. The same applies to your counter phrases. These are: I don’t remember, I don’t hate, I don’t miss, and I don’t love.
Notice that “I hate” and “I love” were purposely placed in the same group. That was done in this case to avoid the obvious, and to trigger variations on related emotions. Think about this, the phrase “I don’t hate” does not necessarily mean “I love.” You want phrases that have a potential emotional trigger implied. “I miss” and “I remember” are tied to memory or things longed for. These are emotional hot buttons. Notice as well that “I miss” and “I don’t remember” are not at all the same.
This exercise works best when a person serves as moderator or facilitator. They can continue to speak the phrase so that it echoes outside of what’s spinning its way through your senses, working it way into heart, and even getting on your nerves. Some people respond better to auditory cues.
The Common + The Surprising
After the exercise is finished, look for common themes and ideas that provides great subject matter for material, whether it’s something to write or suggests an existing song that needs to be considered for your song set. Share any surprising thoughts or feelings that your choices reveal to you. Share insights about others that were revealed by their choices.
This is a great exercise to repeat periodically to prime the senses, stimulates ideas, stir the spirit, and pull everybody together as a viable force of creative endeavor.
Never forget that you are a vital part of a greater creative collective. This exercise is a fun, simple, and potentially powerful way to engage others and stay creatively connected.