A good song song lyric will require you to set the stage first, and then grab the listener’s heart. In that order.
Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle, and solve your songwriting problems TODAY.
For many songwriters, crafting a good lyric is the toughest part of the songwriting process. One easy way to solve this is to simply partner up with someone who has expertise with words. But I really think it’s time well-spent to try improving your lyric-writing skills. It’s very possible, of course, to write great music before lyrics are ever added, but there’s a benefit to developing a lyric at the same time that other song elements – melody, chords, rhythms, etc. – are written: lyrics can help you strengthen your song’s structure.
When we talk about song structure, we’re talking about the various sections of the song: intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, and so on. There’s one important way we know that a song’s structure is working. When we want to keep listening to a song, that’s a direct result of strong song structure.
How do song lyrics strengthen the form of a song? Check out these tips:
- Save emotional phrases for the chorus. If you start a song by telling people how you feel about something, an audience can’t connect. They need a story, or at least some sort of background.
- Use a verse to set the stage. The verse’s main job is to describe – to set the stage.
- In a song bridge, move back and forth between statement-type and emotion-filled lyrics. In other words, a bridge is a great place to either make a statement and then immediately give a response to it, or to simply heighten the emotional level of your song. Kelly Clarkson’s “(Stronger) What Doesn’t Kill You” is a good example.
- Good song lyrics are not necessarily good poetry. It’s far more important to use common, everyday words in your lyrics. These are the kinds of words that will connect easily to an audience and generate an emotion.
- Strengthen melodic structure by placing emotional words higher in pitch than others. One of the easiest ways to do this is to say your lyric, putting lots of expression in the way you read it. You’ll notice that important words get placed high in your voice. Transfer that vocal gesture into your melody by making sure those same emotion-filled words get placed in the upper range.
Just because it may take you weeks or even months to work out your song lyrics, that’s no reason to believe that you’re a bad lyricist. Some of the world’s best lyricists take a long time to get their words working exactly the way they want. It’s time well spent.
By far the most common problem relating to lyrics is a failure to connect to the emotions of the audience. And the chief cause of that is trying to create an emotional response without a story or situation being clearly established. In that regard, expect to spend far longer on a verse lyric than the chorus.
Follow Gary on Twitter