How to Use Songwriting in Teambuilding

By Torie Robinette, April 10, 2018

Teambuilding exercises get stale (we’re looking at you, trust falls and scavenger hunts), which can make them an ineffective attendee nightmare. Billy Kirsch, award-winning composer and president of Kidbilly Music, shares a new idea: using songwriting to bond a group, whether in a conference or office setting. Follow this six-step guide to crafting a catchy ditty while bringing people closer together.

1. Break the ice.

Music plays a role in everyone’s life, Kirsch points out. Its ability to bridge gaps across culture, age and experiences is what makes music an unbeatable starting point for getting to know someone on a sincere, emotional level.

> Start the activity by having each person in the group share a favorite song. If you’re working in a larger setting, ask a few volunteers to share. You’ll be amazed by the level of overlap among preferences.

2. Pick a melody.

A song’s melody acts as its blueprint. Unless someone can suggest an original melody, choose a song most, if not all, of the group already knows. Kirsch warns it’s not likely the team will agree on one song, so you’ll have to agree on a method for selecting the song.

> Determine the song by drawing from a collection of individual votes. Or, with group approval, have the facilitator designate one person to suggest a song.

> Listen to the song first with words and several times without words so the construct becomes familiar.

3. Find your challenge.

To find your song’s message, pinpoint a challenge the team faces. Working through something teamwide will ensure everyone has buy-in and also promote engagement. For example, if your company or association has revised its mission statement, but the employees haven’t fully embraced it yet, that team might write a song that deconstructs the new mission statement.

> Poll the group on the most common team challenge or have the facilitator select someone at random to pose one.

> Boil down your challenge into a concise point and write it somewhere visible to the entire group. It’s helpful to have a whiteboard in the room to collect ideas.

4. Talk it out.

Tackle your challenge and hone your song’s message by breaking it down. Call on team members to share their own interpretations. This practice places value on individual input.

> Ask each team member (or, for a larger group, several designated members) to define the challenge or relate to it in their own (brief) words.

> Have the facilitator capture each theme in writing.

5. Build your song.

Harness your team’s creativity to turn your themes into hum-worthy lyrics. Open the process to the floor. With everyone chiming in, you’ll spark collaboration.

> Look for ways to organize your themes chronologically. For ideas on setting the flow, look to the song you selected at the start.

> Convert your words into lyrics by tying them together via rhyme schemes or metaphors.

> To design the refrain and song title, select the lyrics that best summarize your challenge.

> Work lyrics into your predetermined melody.

6. Perform together.

Performing your song as a team brings your message together and ignites camaraderie.

> Consider incorporating musical instruments to encourage additional teamwork.

> If possible, record your song to share later.

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