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Krylyn Peters Aug 16, 2010

Lessons From Lyrics Part 2

In Part 1 of Lessons from Lyrics, I talked about the power of thoughts, words, and lyrics. Here in Part 2, I’m going to share some examples of how I use lyrics in my songwriting therapy work. Here is an example:
Changing the words
One activity I use involves taking an existing song and just changing the words. This works well with familiar songs that most people are likely to know because they already know the melody. When I was an elementary school counselor, I used Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (aka the ABC song) quite a bit to write new lyrics for various lessons I was teaching. Following is an example of lyrics I wrote and sang to the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with incoming kindergartners:
Changes, changes all around
Places, faces, sights, and sounds
Talk to teacher, mom or dad
When I’m angry, scared, or sad
Changes, changes it’s okay
Happen each and every day

Changing the melody
Once you change lyrics while keeping the same melody, you can do the reverse – keep the lyrics and change the melody. This, I find, is a little more advanced because people often find it more challenging to create melodies than lyrics. I always start with an example to show people the possibilities. Again, it’s helpful to use a familiar song. And it’s also helpful to provide some direction as far as how the song could sound. For example, try singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a country song, or heavy metal, or a brooding folk song. You can also challenge people to sing it like their favorite singer would, which may help them identify with a certain genre of music or stylized vocal technique.

Continuing the story
Another great way to play around with lyrics is to take a song that tells a story. In group work, I hand out lyric sheets of a song that tell a good story. Then I break the larger group into smaller groups who each are tasked with writing a different part of the story, such as what happened before or after the story in the song or telling the story from a different perspective, such as from one of the other people in the story. Every time I use this activity, I’m amazed at what people come up with. Whenever possible (and if people are willing) I provide the karaoke version of the song we are working on so that they can actually sing their newly created verse of the song.

Ahhh, lyrics. They are powerful and provide infinite possibilities for healing. I’d love to hear how you use lyrics and also how it goes if you use any of the ideas I’ve listed here. You can post a comment here or send direct comments to me at

Krylyn Peters is a counselor and singer/songwriter who uses the power of music and sound for healing.

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