Songwriting - the Why and the How

A song is a unique construction. There is nothing like it.

We have the lyrics - the words – that speak to us and we each in our individual response learn from them. And then we have music – which is so mysterious that we don’t try and understand it. Music is magical.   What we do is weave the lyrics and music together in such a way that the seamless end result finds us taken on a journey – from when the song starts –to when it finishes -  and we are better for it.

 The third factor that falls into play here is called prosody. This is where the lyrics, the melody and chord sequence of the music and the rhythms of the various components – intros, verses, middle eights, choruses, outros, solos and codas provide a natural and pleasing union as they move along the song’s length in their various places / positions.   A song with clumsy prosody won’t work. More on that later.

And so there we have it as a starting point– the two points of creativity. Words and music.
WHERE DOES THIS PLACE US? What is the impact of songs in our lives.

The appreciation of song is universal. Every single person enjoys songs every day of their lives. In fact, it happens so regularly and in such a way that we don't think about it. But if it were to disappear from our lives, we would soon sense something was very wrong.

The performance and writing of songs, as a natural consequence, can provide huge benefits to many, many people. To witness a young student conquering their adversities through the craft of songwriting is a celebration.To hear a class of disadvantaged children playing a song they wrote in a ukulele orchestra is no less so. There is an empowerment. There is a beautiful distillation where a young person's value is realised.

Administrators and local authorities believed the same of sport.This was more than a hundred years ago. Fields were provided, clubs were put together and sporting leagues founded. Today this structure is sophisticated and rewards a large sector of society with a sports infrastructure, funding(sponsors, broadcasters, donors, government support, gaming societies and soon) and a professional career path for the masters.When it comes to music, we have the professional career path which augments the wide activities of those who brighten their life with song.

But unlike most sports, the base social activity for music is fragmented, disparate and too often relies on dogged determination and good luck for someone to flourish in the making of music. This has to change. And part of that process will be the Play It Strange Trust and its programmes.

Play It Strange formed because a number of people recognise the performance of song as an activity that stimulates the imagination, provides  an outlet for expression and skills young people in communication, presentation, teamwork, responsibility and commitment. Play it Strange trustees and staff look to see these following stages being realised:

·  Young people being aware of positive role models from the music industry through mentoring and participatory programmes;

·  Encouraging and facilitating young people to make, and experiment in, songwriting which will reflect NZ's unique characteristics, thereby encouraging creativity and innovation  in NZ music; and

·  Enabling young people to make a positive contribution to society through recording music and upskilling in the craft of the recording studio.

The time has come to assist those who show potential at a young age. The time has come to provide a platform for all young people to know and participate in the words and music they are all capable of making.


Be careful of being too literal.  Seek metaphors that make the journey the listener is have some colour, some imagination in the image and the response.  

Click the boxes to listen to the songs!

Go for EVOCATIVE lyrics 

Ask questions

“How many roads must a man walk down?”
Bob Dylan's “Blowing In The Wind”

“When Will I See You Again?”
Three Degrees

“Do you believe in magic? In a young girl’s eyes?”
Lovin’ Spoonful

Make the chorus the summation of the story/ The principal idea

“She loves you yeah yeah yeah”
The Beatles

“Christchurch – in Cashel St I wait. Together we will be.  One day one day”
Dance Exponents

“I Just Called To Say I Love You”
Stevie Wonder

About us

Come inside our world

Songwriting is a craft of the imagination and we believe that the creative environment surrounding songwriters should foster, expose and celebrate these songs. 

We run songwriting competitions with lyric, Maori language, Peace Song awards and others alongside. And we record at least 40 finalists each year in professional recording studios.

Songwriting, performance, and recording are the three pivots of our music evolution.

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NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice - read their fresh perspectives in our Songwriters Speak page

Songwriters Speak

2017 Play It Strange Album

Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition Finalists - songs are free to stream and download

2018 Deadlines

We've designed a poster with all key deadlines and dates for our competitions. Make sure to stick them in your calendar!

Further information about each competitions entry requirements can be found below in our "Competitions" section. 

Online entry forms are now available for each competition.

Download the PDF and print it out, stick it up at school and hand it out to friends, get the word out there!

Download and Print

Different by May Zeng

Winner of the 2017 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 

Director/Producer: Mareea Vegas / DOP: Kent Belcher / Art dept: Alex Matthews / Editor: Zac Blair /
Post production: Henry Williamson @ Thievery Studio / Hair: Luci Hare / Makeup: Tiveshni Naidoo / Clothing: Thanks to Lela Jacobs
Special thanks to NZ On Air for their Special Tracks grant which covered the recording and film making.


Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition


The National Secondary School Songwriting Competition is the flagship programme of the Play It Strange Trust.

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Peace Song Competition


This competition seeks songs with the lyrics embodying a focus on Peace. N.B. We are unable to offer the Hiroshima Exchange prizes this year.

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Who Loves Who Competition


The Winner and all Finalists have been announced.
For all secondary school students in NZ.
The competition is judged based on the originality of the cover you choose to rearrange and sing, written and performed by a kiwi artist.
Supported by a Music Grant from Recorded Music NZ.

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Strange Art


Play It Strange presents a Cover Art competition to celebrate all creatives at New Zealand Secondary Schools. 

This competition seeks an Album Artwork for the front cover of the 2018 Play It Strange Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition.

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What we do

We do all sorts of cool projects

Play It Strange has worked for over 10 years, striving to provide secondary students with a platform they can use to pursue their musical adventures. We've held concerts, workshops and competitions, all with the intentions to provide the right environment from which students can gain confidence, self-belief and an impetus for a career path they would like to follow.

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Songwriting is now an NCEA achievement standard

Songwriting will be offered as Level 3 NCEA achievement standard beginning 2017 - a victory!

Get Involved

Strange Friends

Patrons, Strange Friend Stars and our Strange Friends are a crucial and valuable community that support us.

We would love you to come on board.
All donations are tax deductible.

If you are interested in becoming a Platinum Patron or Strange Friends Star or indeed support Play It Strange in any way please give us a call, we would love to catch up and talk.

Email Us(09) 377 7919

Songwriting at University of Waikato

University of Waikato have completed their first Songwriting paper

University of Waikato summer paper ‘Introduction To SONGWRITING’ has just finished.
Students have finalised the tracking of their two songs and the results are very cool.

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I Know This To Be True was conceived and assembled by Geoff Blackwell of PQ Blackwell, and Ric Salizzo. It is a book about truth, beauty and wisdom. "Sixty New Zealanders in the middle of interesting lives talk about what really matters, truth and beauty, and the things they hold dear to their hearts."

Royalties from the book sales will be forwarded to PLAY IT STRANGE to further their website and school programmes.

I Know This To Be True is an incredible collection of New Zealanders discussing what it is that is important to them. PQ Blackwell have generously donated all profits from book sales to Play It Strange. We cannot thank them enough for their support of Play It Strange, and we are so grateful to be part of such a rich, inspiring project.

The book is available for purchase from any good book store in New Zealand and online. Go and get one and enjoy!

Listen to more of our songs here 

The songs on our Bandcamp are free to stream and download. Go crazy. They are there for your listening.


See what our Alumni are up to

Play It Strange songwriters that have had their songs recorded for the annual CD are making cool inroads out into the world. Their career paths were fuelled from their time at school during which they sent their songs into our competitions and triumphed.

Here we have a selection of those who hit the ground running when they left school. With songwriting, performance and recording experience they were capable and poised for action.

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Happy customers and clients

CUSTOMERS: Those philanthropic institutions, individuals, grants bodies and funding agencies. We applaud their generosity in supporting us and their focus on the benefits we bring to the society around us.

CLIENTS: The songwriters and performers that bring their imaginative craft and performing skills to bear and we are all rewarded. From the secondary school songwriting competitions to the recording sessions for the top 40 songs.

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We Are One

A Concert for Autism

Watch Seven Sharp's story on our WE ARE ONE - Concert for Autism here

Photo GalleryNZ Musician Magazine Review