Songwriting guru Sophie Garner reveals the simple exercise she uses in schools to kickstart the creative process.
It’s fair to say that Sophie Garner knows a thing or two about songwriting with children. Over the past 15 years, the vocal coach has taught songwriting to thousands of primary and secondary pupils and published two books on the subject.
“Songwriting is such a positive way to verbalise something that you can’t say in conversation,” Sophie says on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast.
“Especially if you’re angry. Children are often told at school that anger is a bad thing, but it’s just another emotion. Okay, we see some emotions as positive and some as negative, but they all have to be expressed. It’s okay to get a bit angry in your lyrics; it’s better than punching someone in the playground.”
It wasn’t until the first Covid lockdown, when much of her regular teaching work dried up, that Sophie found the time to sit down and distil her songwriting ideas.
“I got out all my journals and notebooks where I’d made my notes over the years and realised that I’d built this formula for songwriting,” she says. “I’ve used the same methodology with 4,000-plus kids in primary and secondary, and it’s a formula that works.”
Sophie drew on this knowledge to write The Creative Songwriting Journal and the follow-up If You Can’t Say It Sing It!.
So how do you get children started on their songwriting journey? On the podcast, Sophie shares a beginner exercise she uses in the classroom.
“First, I start by discussing whether a glass is half full or half empty and what that means,” she explains.
“I’ll then ask students to write down what in their life represents their glass overflowing – it’s all about finding the positives. We’ll spend a couple of minutes doing that, and then I’ll take a line from each person, put them together, and create a really simple chorus.
“So literally, in the moment, we’ve come up with a whole song, and then I will get them singing it.
“The reaction is so positive. They’re like, ‘She’s singing my song! That’s my line!’. Something as simple as that is incredible; it takes the mystery out of it, and they realise they can write songs.”
Check out the full interview with Sophie about songwriting with children, where she also discusses:
- Her work with people with brain injuries through the charity Headway.
- How songwriting can be a lifeline for young people struggling with mental health.