How To Turn Everyday Conversations Into Great Songs Using The Talk-Sing Method

How To Turn Conversations Into Great Songs using the Talk-Sing Method

Early in my songwriting career, I was driving to a co-writing session with Hall of Fame songwriter Rory Bourke. Traffic was extremely slow that day. I rushed into the writing room and frantically said, “I’m so sorry that I’m late.” Immediately, Rory sang what I had just said: “I’m so sorry … that I’m … late.” Having just met Bourke, I wasn’t sure if he was serious, joking, or messing with me. I chuckled, but when he continued to repeat little things I said throughout the co-writing session and at lunch that day, I got a little annoyed. However, over the next few weeks, I found myself doing the same thing in everyday life. Without realizing it, I was turning everyday conversations into songs, and thus was born the Talk-Sing Method!

I’d hear an actor say something in a movie and immediately, without thinking, sing back the phrase. A friend would say something in conversation and I’d repeat it back with a melody. It was as if I had caught a melody disease.

Over time, I started to notice it became easier and easier to conjure new melodies while songwriting. Singing what I or someone else said was teaching me how to turn words into melodies in a seamless way — an instinctual way. I was shortening the distance between lyrical thought and the melody of a song, striking closer to the emotion of the words. This talk-sing method had become a part of me.

How To Turn Conversations Into Great Songs Using the Talk-Sing Method

Developing your aurelect

In my book, Mastering Melody Writing, I discuss a popular question I get from students: “How do you know which notes to choose when writing a melody?” It’s a fair question for sure, but comes from a place of desiring to intellectually understand an instinctual process.

In reality, when writing a song, I hear the notes far more quickly than I can think them. My voice is following my ear — to be specific, the instincts of my ear.

Intellectually, we can learn techniques for writing melody. While it’s crucial to expand our mental understanding of melody, in order to take melody writing to the next level of composition, we must turn off our intellect and trust our aurelect.

In aurelect moments, we are not intellectually thinking about melody; we are hearing it and immediately singing it. The talk-sing method teaches us to compose without the intellect. We are following where the ear takes us. Similarly, we can use this same process to turn everyday conversations into great songs.

Does by-passing the brain when composing melody work?

I’ll answer that with a story. Thankfully, some of my biggest hits have come from talking about life and relationships in a writing session. For instance, one day I climbed on a tour bus in Kentucky to write for the first time with recording artist Darius Rucker. He asked how I was doing that day. I told him that I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and was second-guessing that decision. He said, “Man, we’ve all done that. I still think about a girl from second grade sometimes.” I looked at him and said, “Really?” He shot back, “Don’t think I don’t!”

I had my guitar in my hands and immediately sang the words …

Don’t think I don’t think about it
Don’t think I don’t have regrets

As soon as those words and melody fell out, we knew we had the seed of something great.  After 45 minutes, we had a chorus and were halfway to writing our first No. 1 song together.

Don’t think I don’t think about it
Don’t think I don’t have regrets
Don’t think it don’t get to me
Between the work and the hurt and the whiskey
Don’t think I don’t wonder ‘bout
Coulda been, shoulda been all worked out
I know what I felt and I know what I said
Don’t think I don’t think about it

Using the Talk-Sing Method, we took an everyday conversation and turned it into a great song. (Of course, I realize now as I’m writing these words that I owe my buddy Rory Bourke a big thank you — and maybe a nice bottle of wine — for teaching me this valuable technique!)

Practicing the Talk-Sing Method

I encourage you to practice the talk-sing method with phrases you hear on TV, on the radio or in everyday conversation. Do it until it becomes second nature to you. This will help train you to intuitively fit phrases into melody and rhythm. No thinking or filtering — just sing. For this melody muscle builder, remember there is no wrong way to sing a line. It’s all about shortening the lag time between thinking words and breathing musical emotion into them. So, sing away!

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.

17 thoughts on “How To Turn Everyday Conversations Into Great Songs Using The Talk-Sing Method

  1. Great advice Clay. I often hear the melody as I write my lyrics. I attribute it in part to elementary school orchestra. Learning to feel the music. Thanks for all your inspiration….B

  2. Thank you Clay if you are a lyricist would you suggest humming the melody and using a program ( do you know any good ones) to make the melody into sheet music for a collaborator as although I don’t playing instruments ( currently teaching myself keyboard) I always hear a melody with the words

  3. Thank you ST… when I was old enough to correctly interpret motive in others, my entire life’s purpose began… & that blessing has never ceased nor failed! My journey began oddly the moment my 13yr old brother pushed me, his 4yr old baby brother, into a closet telling me “I was a sicko’… because that was also the day I’d learned to whistle! Within minutes of that bully incident, I walked to my mother who was mopping our kitchen floor, whilst listening & singing to a favorite Italian opera…when she stopped & leaned the mop handle in a corner… asking, “ what’s wrong honey?” …to which I responded… “I think I’m a sicko’! Immediately she lifted her soft lime green cardigan sleeve from her wrist & felt my forehead, quizzing me with her “Big Beautiful, San Francisco Bay Green Eyes” coming face to face with her littlest mighty man, asking“ …”what are you feeling?”… to which I said… “I HEAR MUSIC IN THE MUSIC!!” As she kissed my forehead & held me in her loving tenderness, she whispered… “ Oh honey, your not sick’!” …and she bought me a guitar… “I am evermore grateful for you Love, Guidance, & Wisdom Mama! I LOVE YOU💕💐✨”

  4. Thanks Clay – this is helpful, practical. I wasn’t expecting to work on songs today. Read your post and have started 3 new ideas, including a potential opening:

    When the sudden conversation sings
    The songwriting angel gets her wings

  5. Yes Clay , I can use this Singing Talking Lines because I Am A Singer who always Relates a Word from any Conversation to a Song line All my life anyway . Great Stuff , Lucky to Have found Songtown !! Angus Jr

  6. If you use a conversation (or phrase from a movie/book), at what point does it become plagiarism?

  7. Intrinsic in conversation is Rhythm, often Rhyme, the pitch levels, note durations of Melody.
    People accent syllables, ‘hit’ some words harder or longer than others, and they express themselves in ways that may be unique to them, their linguistic style.
    There are levels of emotion.
    There is exposition of the story, and getting to the point, the gist of the story. A Song does that, exposition in the Verse, getting to the point in the Chorus.
    And there is Melody.
    Listening for it can be educational and transformative of how you write Lyric and Melody.
    My cousin was telling about a girl who obviously knew him but he didn’t recognize her. He said he finally asked her, “Where do you know me from?”
    Not, ‘Where do I know YOU from?’ but “Where do you know me from?” That subtle difference, and perhaps his Virginia drawl, perked up my ears and I started listening for other unique uses of language.
    Possibly most vital in this advice is Melody, the notes to which the words are ‘spoken’ and can be the notes to which the Lyric is sung, breaking the goes-up/comes-down rut Melody that makes a Song boringly predictable.
    In spoken conversation there is…or can be…everything that a Song does, conveying word meanings, telling the story, while delivering the words with Rhythm, Rhyme, pitch variations, note durations, accents of beat, and the little phrases that succinctly sum up the gist of what folks are trying to say.
    As in “Hotel California”, “We are programmed to receive.”, prepare yourself to receive.

  8. Great words, Clay.
    I have to admit I had a similar experience when a few years back after attending a songwriter session the words of Live Like You Were Dying came to me and I even wrote them down. Keep in mind this is about a year before I even heard Tim McGraw singing it.
    So the lesson is: One you have a good conversation line: DO SOMETHING about it.

  9. Thank you for the great insight. I have no problem finding or hearing lines and texting them to myself. This is a great next step in helping those lines turn into songs. Much appreciated.

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