A guide to help you write evocative lyrics capable of tugging at the heartstrings.
So. You want to know how to write good lyrics? First thing to do would be to whip out a dictionary and find a better adjective than good. Let’s face it. It’s not exactly a word that makes you feel anything, is it? That’s key. Word choice. Some words might mean the same thing, but then some have more impact than others. And that’s what you need to focus on when you’re trying to write a memorable lyric. Impact. With that said, there are many other, far more basic elements that you need to focus on as well.
A typical song is generally lyrically divided into three main parts. You have your verses, you have your chorus, and you have your bridge. First thing you’ll need to know is the vital role each of these parts play in a song.
Firstly, the verse. The verse is the part of the lyric where you will attempt to tell the story you are trying to tell with your lyric. It is basically the core of the song, and what you will need to use to convey whatever it is you are trying to say. The first verse is especially important to the song, as it is where you must hook the listener in by introducing the song concept.
Next, the chorus. The chorus is where you will attempt to wrap up the whole idea of the song into one section. IIf you have listen to songs that generally play on the radio, you’ll notice that it is in the chorus that the hook generally makes it’s appearance. The hook is what the whole song should be based around on. It should be memorable, it should be catchy. It needs to stick in the listener’s mind.
Lastly, the bridge. For the most part, the bridge is usually used to add a little twist to the song to make it that much more memorable. Obviously, this is neither necessary nor even required. Many songs do not even use bridges, others merely use it for continuation of thought, simply using it as a break so that the listener does not get bored of the continued rhyme scheme/syllable count of the verses.
Speaking of rhyme scheme and syllable count, that would bring me to the second part of the article..
People will tell you that rhyming is not important in a song. People will tell you that syllable count, really doesn’t matter. Both of these statements, however, have serious flaws.
As a standalone lyric, it may very well seem as though neither of these things are important. However, once you actually try and put a lyric to music, you will see exactly how important a consistent rhyme scheme and syllable count actually are. Without either of these, the song simply will not flow as well as those songs that you hear on the radio. Those clumsy pauses that you’ll be forced to insert, or the hurried phrasing from a mismatched syllable count, or the more than noticable awkwardness that will come from there being no rhyme where the listener would have come to expect it from having heard one being there before in a different part of the song, will cause need for an eventual rewrite. Obviously, slight differences are acceptable. For instance, if your first verse consists of a syllable count of ‘12,9,12,10’, then the next verse consisting of a syllable count of ‘13,9,11,10’ will not be such a radical change that it will be noticable. Just keep common sense in mind here, and there should not be a problem. On the other hand, rhyme scheme must remain constant throughout the song. If your first verse has an ABAB rhyme scheme, then the rest of your verses would also be best kept ABAB to prevent awkwardness.
Creating Images in Your Song
Another important thing to remember when writing a song is a well known phrase. ‘Show, don’t tell.’ It’s very easy to simply say something in a song, but when was the last time simply hearing someone sing the words ‘I love her/him/you/insert-appropriate-pronoun-here’ touching? Simply put, it’s not. What we as listeners want to hear is, not that you love her….but how. Why? What happened? Like the nosy buggers that we are, we want to know every detail, and it’s your job as the lyricist to give us exactly that. You have to think of the song as your blank canvas, and paint us every picture that we need to see to make us care about what you’re writing about. This doesn’t only apply to love songs, obviously. It applies to any kind of song you’d possibly want to write. Don’t tell us we should care. Show us why we should. By painting these evocative images in our minds, you capture an audience, hold them, manipulate their every bated breath.
And so there you have it. The basic ‘rules’ to songwriting. In reality, it’s difficult to actually say what is right and wrong in an area such as this, as there’s always some song or the other that goes against everything and still somehow manages to become a classic. Going by the old addage, rules are meant to be broken. But I do believe it’s quite safe to say that these are the complete basics of songwriting. Whatever you might choose to do with it is where true creativity will have it’s chance to shine.
Oh. I lied. There is one last rule that will always remain constant, no matter who you are, no matter what the case. Practice makes perfect. Songwriting will never come as easy to anybody at the beginning, you can bet that even the most prolific of songwriters of our generation, any past generation, and any future generation to come will not have gotten to where they did without having written tons of duds at first. Practice, practice, practice.