View single post by Donna
 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2012 03:48 am
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Joined: Mon Sep 1st, 2008
Location: Delft, Netherlands
Posts: 373
Seth, good for you, posting your first lyrical thoughts. That’s usually the hardest step for a beginner. :) Writing lyrics is a demanding craft like any other, and generally calls for a lot of revising. ‘The art of writing is in the re-writing’.

To begin with, without a chorus, you don’t actually have a lyric yet. ;) A chorus - the most important part of a song - is necessary in order for a reviewer to assess how well the lyric hangs together - how well the sections fit with each other to tell a story clearly and to have a strong emotional impact on the reader/listener.

Basically, verses set up the story, provide information; the chorus supports and sums up the theme as simply and infectiously as possible. The function of a bridge (if the writer decides to use one) is to pull the story forward, with a new element to provide interest and an extra emotional layer. It can shift the mood a little, add fresh meaning to what's gone before.

You'll find heaps of information on the functions of lyric sections and structure simply by googling.

Below are a few random comments that I hope will be useful when you’re finishing your first draft of the complete lyric. ;)

It’s important to present your lyric in a structured manner, with each verse having the same number of lines and metering, along with a consistent rhyme scheme.

Be sure to label sections, e.g. Verse/Pre-chorus/Chorus/Bridge, etc.

Avoid cliches, e.g. ‘heart’/’apart’. Always look for new, original ways to express a thought. This keeps listeners alert and listening. Avoid old-fashioned words like ‘thrive’ simply to force a rhyme.

In general, avoid rhyming couplets throughout a lyric. I note here your verses are all rhyming couplets. Therefore, be sure that the rhyming pattern in your chorus is different. Also make sure the the chorus has a different metering pattern, and that it’s not the same length as the verses. A rule of thumb is that if verses are long, the chorus is short, and vice versa. This kind of contrast contributes to the dynamics of a song.

Make sure you have a clear theme, a clear focus, so that the reader/listener knows exactly what message you want to convey. Who are the characters? What’s the plot? What are the who, where, when, why, etc? For instance, why is the singer unhappy? What emotions is he/she feeling? What specific thing(s) happened that caused them? Listeners need tangible details to help them identify with and sympathise with the singer. What people - or things - did the singer lose?

Country lyrics in particular need to be rich in specific details, and to sound conversational.

If you’re a beginning lyricist, books I strongly recommend are ‘Songwriting for Dummies’ by Peterik, Austin, & Bickford’ and ‘Lyrics: Writing Better Words for Your Songs’ by Rikky Rooksby. Also, anything by Pat Pattison (e.g. 'Writing Better Lyrics') or Sheila Davis. Pattison has a series of excellent videos online.

Matter of fact, Pat Pattison will be conducting a free 6-week online course in songwriting beginning March 1st. Check out this site.
You'll be provided with an informative handbook (pdf file) that you can download.

Again, Google will bring up all kinds of useful, relevant information about structure and language.

Take a selection of your favourite songs and study how the authors set up the story, the kind of language and structure they use.

In fact, a very useful exercise is to take an existing lyric, and write your own lyric, following exactly the structure, rhyming, and metering, etc. (If you put music to it, you'd of course need to make the music quite different.)

Invest in a good thesaurus and rhyming dictionary. These will be invaluable. A good online rhyming dictionary is

In general, don’t refer back to the song itself (unless it’s about the song). It can be distracting, and take a listener out of the mood.

How about if you take what you have and do the following: determine what message you want to give the listener (what emotion you want her/him to feel), then restructure the lyric, label the sections, and write a chorus (which will have the title/hook in it). A simple structure would be Verse/Verse/Chorus/Verse/Bridge/Chorus, for example.

This will make it easier for folks to give your work a proper critique. :)


Last edited on Tue Dec 4th, 2012 04:39 am by Donna

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