Extreme Songwriting Experiment: 12 Songs in 12 Hours

Some people are driven to do extreme things.

On Sunday I was working on setting lyrics to music for a client, and I wrote the music to three songs in one day, which was a record for me.

This reminded me a while back I had seen the ‘Song a Day’ YouTube Chanel by Jonathan Mann.

I considered for a moment writing a song a day for a year, but that had already been done before, so I thought I’d try something different.

Why not try writing the music to 12 songs in 12 hours?

I needed lyrics that would be easily set to music, so I chose William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, the songs of Innocence from the first half of the collection in particular.

songs of innocenceI read that Blake composed melodies to these poems, but never wrote them down. In any event, they have a predictible meter and rhyme structure, which is exactly what you want if you’re planning on setting lyrics to music in a hurry.

I decided I would write the chords above the lyrics of each song, and record a ‘scratch vocal’ version of it with a simple piano arrangement (closed position keyboard style of course) and vocals sung all the way through. This is the sort of quick and dirty recording I would give to a client after I wrote the song so he/she could start learning the song ASAP.

I had the day off Monday, so I started around noon, and I was done before 11:00 pm.


‘Veni, vidi, vici.’

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.  I did intentionally choose the shorter poems, which helped.

The thing that surprised me is that I didn’t run out of musical ideas or write the same music over and over.

Maybe if I’m up for a real challenge I’ll try writing 24 songs in 24 hours.

Normally I wouldn’t post ‘scratch vocal’ recordings here, since they are pretty rough sounding, but they will serve as evidence that it is possible to write a lot of music in a short period of time, if you set your mind to it.

The Shepherd Lyrics & Chords

THE ECHOING GREEN lyrics & Chords

The Lamb Lyric & Chords

THE BLOSSOM Lyrics & Chords



LAUGHING SONG Lyrics & Chords

THE DIVINE IMAGE Lyrics & Chords

Spring Lyrics & Chords

INFANT JOY Lyrics & Chords

NURSE’S SONG Lyrics & Chords


Recording of Student’s Lyrics Set to Music

In my last entry I posted the melody we composed collaboratively at the second workshop for the music theatre students at Thousand Islands Secondary School, based on the lyrics to William Blake’s “The Tyger”. This poem was presented as an example of lyrics featuring a consistent meter and which would be ideal for setting to music in a short period of time, which we were able to do in a matter of minutes.

In the first workshop I played for the first time a piano arrangement of lyrics written by one of the students, which I had worked on during the weekend before. I had promised to do a live demonstration of setting lyrics to music in the class, but the meter of these lyrics was a little too irregular to work out the timing of the words “live” in class. I liked the lyrics a lot so I took the time to set them to music on my own.

For today, I made a quick ‘scratch vocal’ recording of the song, which is posted below with the lyrics.

This helps illustrates the process of setting lyrics to music for a client. Once I’m given a copy of the lyrics, I compose the melody first, then add the chords. I then meet with the client to perform the music and get his/her feedback. Once the music has been approved or after changes have been implemented, I record what is called a ‘scratch vocal’ track, which is just a bare bones recording of the vocals and accompaniment on piano or guitar. When I was working at Parks Alberta, the interpreters (the employees who would write and perform the musicals I wrote the music for) would have to be ready to perform their musical productions within 2-3 weeks after the music was first heard, so this recording would help them learn the words early on. It is also helpful to record the song early on to work out the timing of the vocal melody.

So here’s the song:

“HOW A SECRET SPREADS” (lyrics by Noah)


I told Sarah And Rebecca

And Sarah’s kept it so I know

But Rebecca, (she’s a gossip)

And soon enough she let your secret go.

She told the barber,

And the baker,

And that surly old hat-maker

And his friend from across the pond

He told the chemist

And the medic

And the man who lives above Jeannette

The one whose face is unnaturally oblong

– Mary! I told you not to tell anyone!

Are those the only people who know?

Mary – Umm

He told his plumber

Then his sister

And the burly man that kissed her

And the girl that never wears the same hat twice

She told her dentist

And her handyman

But no one really quite as grand

As the girl that told it to the bishop’s wife

  Since the lyrics are a work in progress, the next stage would be to adapt the final version for piano and vocals. Then a draft of a recorded version (featuring whatever other instruments were decided upon) would be prepared for the client to hear. The key of the song may be adjusted at this point to suit the singer, then the final instrumental version would be produced. Once it was completed, a ‘guide vocal’ version would be prepared for the singer to learn the song. In this case, with luck the song will be featured as a part of  a musical that the class will perform, which would be a lot of fun I imagine.

Until next time,


William Blake’s “The Tyger” Dance Remix!

I’m happy to announce I did a couple workshops last week for the music theatre students at Thousand Islands Secondary School here in Brockville. I brought in my iMac and piano keyboard to show the students how I go about creating music. Using music commissioned by Parks Alberta as examples, we learned how to set lyrics to music, adapt a piano arrangement for orchestra, and how to produce a brief musical idea into a dance music track. The students were awesome, and I had a blast teaching and performing my music.

During the second workshop we applied what we learned about setting lyrics to music and wrote an original melody for William Blake’s “The Tyger” as a class.

This weekend I was working on setting lyrics to music for a client, and after I finished, as promised, I took the original melody to William Blake’s “The Tyger” we composed last week and did a quick instrumental dance remix.

Here’s the melody we came up with for piano:

And here’s the dance remix I did this evening:

If you want to follow along with the words, here’s the lyrics of the song written and illustrated by William Blake himself (click on image to enlarge):

"The Tyger" by William Blake (poem)

I was planning on posting an mp3 of a piano arrangement I did for a student’s original lyrics but the recording wasn’t up to snuff according to my ears so I’ll have to redo it and post it another time.

Thanks again to Sam Crosby and Shawn for their support, encouragement, and assistance! And thanks to the students for being eager and willing participants. I’m happy to answer any questions about the workshop and I can be reached by email at brynecarruthers(at)gmail.com.

Have a good evening.