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Let's get into some ADVANCED Challenge Songwriting Strategies!

Wanna release your 5/5 songs? Then you'll want to take some time to ensure they feel authentic to you and don't sound like challenge songs. In today's lesson, I'll show you how to pull your songs away from the influence of the prompt while you're writing. (psst—you can use these strategies for any song prompt, even beyond the 5/5!)

Watch the video below, and download today's Lesson Materials below the video player. 

Lesson Materials:

Cheatsheet! Making your songs less Prompt-dependent

This is your cheatsheet to writing your best challenge songs yet. Download this, print it out, and place it beside you while you work on writing your challenge songs.


Advanced 5/5 Songwriting: Techniques for writing your most individual and authentic challenge songs.

If you’ve done a 5/5 before, then you know the lay of the land: Everyone gets the prompt each day, we all write our songs, and share them when we’re done.

And it’s a blast! Your inner critic takes a backseat and you just write. Maybe you felt the floodgates opening. Maybe you wrote all 5 songs in less than a week, something you though you could never do.

Your challenge wins are HUGE! You should be SO proud of yourself. You allowed your inner songwriter to come out and just write. No pressure. That is a huge hill to climb. And you’ve proved to yourself that it’s something you can conquer whenever you need to. (Challenge week or not!)

You’ve beat the block. So now, let’s level up this next challenge for you. You can use this challenge to help you reach some of your big, dreamy goals. You’ve proved you can beat the block. Now let’s make the challenge work for your goals.

Maybe you want to:

  • Play shows full of your original material
  • Release an album that feels like it’s truly yours, not just prompt songs
  • Have a backlog of singles you feel reflect your artist voice

Here are some ways you can make the most of these songs prompts during the challenge. Here’s how to find ideas from the challenge prompts that are uniquely your own, without so much “prompt” influence.

1. Recognize the low hanging fruit, and look beyond it.

When you read the prompt for the first time, what is the first idea that comes to you?

This first idea may be really exciting.

But keep looking for other ideas.

Keep going. Reach higher in the canopy. Just out of sight.

What other juicy idea is this starting point leading you toward?

The reason I encourage you to reach higher, is because that very first idea that you see is usually the most obvious idea.

And likely, other songwriters are seeing it, too.

These “low hanging fruit” ideas are going to show up in a lot of songs in the challenge.

And no tea no shade to that. Any song written is a song that teaches us. That works good magic on us.

But if you’re aiming at releasing your material, then I encourage you to reach farther and find the shiny juicy idea that didn’t emerge right away.

2. Don’t use part of the prompt in your title unless you greatly re-invent it.

One of the inspiring things about his challenge is seeing how different writers use the same prompt.

Inevitably, with the same starting prompt, we often see writers doing similar things with their songs.

One of those usual patterns of challenge songs is using part of the prompt as the title or hook.

A great way to make your songs unique and separate from the prompt, is to not rely on the prompt for this critical element of your song.

A hook, if you’re not familiar, is a 1-2 line expression of your song’s concept. It’s catchy as hell. There are multiple hooks in a song, with usually one main hook that’s the most memorable. That’s big hook is often the title.

Some examples of hooks:

  • “It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero” - Anti-Hero, Taylor Swift
  • “I can buy myself flowers” - Flowers, Miley Cyrus
  • “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.” - I Like It, I Love It, Tim McGraw

It’s easy to think of a hook based on the words presented in the prompt. I encourage you to not rely on the prompt to write your hook for you.

When you sit down to find an initial idea from the prompt, consider how you can express that idea, without relying on the actual wording of the prompt in your song. Look for synonyms, or move on to another idea.

3. Be less dependent on the actual words of the prompt.

We want your songs to sound like you, and less like they came from a song prompt that many, many other songwriters are writing to.

One major way to do that is to not use any of the prompt words in your song!

Yes, you read that correctly.

But what about word sets? Isn’t that the point of those prompts?

You’re correct. Word set prompts encourage you to think outside of your typical go to vocabulary by using a set of 5-10 prescribed words in your song.

You can take this concept even further.

When you get a Word Set prompt for the day, take that prompt and shake it up before you even start writing.

You can come up with an entirely different set of 10 words to work with. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Write a list of words that rhyme with all 10 words
  • Come up with the opposite word for each of these 10 words
  • Come up with synonyms for each of these words

In general, for any prompt, avoid using the exact wording of the prompt in your song.

Remember, the goal is to remove the influence of the prompt on the song. So it can stand alone without feeling close to the hundreds of other songs that will be written from this same prompt!

4. Make it apply to you!

While a prompt can take you in any direction, a sure fire way to create a song that feels authentic (and is unique!) is to take the prompt as a starting place to tell part of your life’s story.

What does the prompt bring up in you?

Remember, you don’t have to keep the integrity of the prompt. Just the integrity if your song. Write the best song you can. The prompt is just a stepping stone to help you get to that song!

5. Bonus tip: Change pronouns to change perspectives!