So you’ve written a few lyrics for some songs, and you’re feeling epic.
Awesome, that’s great to hear.
But there’s that little voice in your head telling you that your lyrics are lacking in something, but the voice refuses to tell you what it is.
It sucks, but together we can find out what that something could be and how we can change it to make your lyrics far superior!
Here are 5 different tools you can use to make your lyrics really gel with your listeners.
5. Use sensory and emotive words
One of the most powerful tools you can use to your advantage in your lyrics, is the human ability to sense EVERYTHING.
From the feel of our clothes, silky smooth to our body; to the smell of a beautiful perfume, very pleasing to our noses… to the opposite end of the spectrum; we can smell moldy rotten food and hear people shouting and screaming in the streets.
Our senses provoke positive and negative emotions.
They work so well together.
If you’ve got a lyrical phrase you like and you want to improve it, then add a sensory or emotive action to it, or following it on the next line.
What does it feel like? What does it smell like? What can you see? What sounds do you hear?
If you want people to understand your lyrics you have to make them feel like they were there to, to witness everything.
For example: It’s fine saying, ‘the sun is shining and I feel happy’. But explaining that your in the middle of a meadow, you can smell the flowers and feel the breeze on your skin, you feel at peace and it makes you happy. It adds so much more context to the scenario, and paints a clearer picture.
Portraying this scenario in your lyrics will make the listener feel like they’re there with you. They’re no longer at home in their bedroom with leftover takeaway from last night and a stack of dirty laundry on the floor, no, they’re with you in the meadow.
So now they’re in a dream world with you, where will you take them? What will you make them witness? How will you make them feel? Who will you make them see?
Which leads me onto your story database.
4. Story database
We are suckers for stories.
It is the best way to get a point across by turning it into a little story.
A story for your lyrics doesn’t have to be long. It only needs to be enough for you to be inspired to expand on it further, to give it proper structure.
Everytime a scenario comes into your head, regardless of how remedial it may be; jot it down.
It could be something as simple as someone carelessly littering the street or a tree you walk past everyday suddenly gets chopped down. Or you could be more elaborate and go into specific events in your past such as going to your first job, going on a dreadful date, or buying your first property.
Then when you’re ready to be creative and write away, choose a story and bring it to life.
The best way to expand your story ready for lyrical use is to create 4 parts to the story.
- Part 1 – Most likely your first verse which will introduce the scenario to warm up the listener for what may come.
- Part 2 – Most likely your chorus which will stress the main pivotal part of the situation. It has to be important as a chorus will be repeated several times.
- Part 3 – Most likely your second verse which may add an additional stressor to the situation, or perhaps adds another character or another perspective.
- Part 4 – Most likely your bridge which will be the revelation or the climax. The point at which it all may change.
- Verse 1: As a child you’d climb this tree and you were so high you felt like you could touch the clouds.
- Chorus: Now you’re older you return home to find the tree has gone, you feel like you’ve lost a piece of your past.
- Verse 2: You’re full of regret and wish you’d spent more time at home with your family, and treasured your childhood memories.
- Bridge: To commemorate the tree, you’ve planted one in your garden and hope it grows into a tall, strong and beautiful tree.
Your story should bring all the sensory and emotive words together.
Our next tool on the list ties in with your story, and what NOT to do.
3. Have a few tricks up your sleeve
Don’t give the game away too early on. They say ‘always keep a few extra tricks up your sleeve’, and the same can be said about your lyric writing.
If the listener already knows everything about the story by the end of the first chorus, then why would they stick around to listen to the rest?
From the example shown above, it would be daft for me to start off the first verse by saying ‘they chopped down the tree which I used to climb as a child therefore I planted one in my garden…`
I have just crammed everything into the first verse and given the ending away. Why would anyone stick around?
Don’t do the same in your lyrics.
Keep your revelation or a plot twist until the bridge or even in your final chorus so the listener is constantly on the edge of their seat waiting and wanting to know how it ends.
If you’ve found that verse 1 gives away the entire story and your verse 2 is just ‘fluff’ then there are a few things you could do:
- Shorten your 1st verse and move some of it to your 2nd verse instead
- Perhaps your 1st verse should be your 2nd verse?
- Maybe bring in a different character in verse 2?
- Maybe use a different perspective in verse 2?
As you progress through the song, you need to ensure your story stays interesting and you learn something new in each part.
2. Use common phrases/cliches to craft original lyric lines
There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I love you’ or ‘you broke my heart’ in your songs. But stringing together line after line of unoriginal and overused phrasing kind of destroys your individuality.
Are you really being creative? Are you even trying?
If your goal is to write something generic, or to write an easy song for children, then that’s perfectly fine. But for me, I’ll get back to the drawing board and come up with a different way of saying ‘I love you.’
You can’t avoid cliches, it’s almost impossible to, however I think it’s important to understand if the cliche is intentional because it works so well in this part of the song, or if it’s just you really can’t be bothered to think of something else.
A good practice is to think of metaphors that you can replace with these cliches. Here’s an example:
I want you
Very generic and cliche, however here’s an alternative:
You’re my medicine or you’re the life I breathe
They both express a need for something or someone, but the second options are less cliche and, well, more interesting.
1. Focus on a memorable chorus
Your chorus is your most powerful weapon!
There’s a good reason why the majority of The Beatles songs are memorable. Their choruses are simple, concise, repetitive and catchy.
You know if you’ve got a great chorus if by the second time round the listeners can already sing along.
A memorable chorus that I’m fond of is Snow Patrol ‘Chasing Cars,’ their chorus is short and sweet, and when the chorus hits that second time you know the lyrics:
“If I lay hereSnow Patrol – Chasing Cars
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
Simple but effective.
Now this might frighten new songwriters who may think that every line they write has to be technical, full of emotion or subliminal messages, dripping in metaphors, or written in a way that would definitely earn you that grammy award.
Your chorus has a different purpose to the rest of the song, it’s your boat on the ocean. Your verses may be the crew, and the bridge a treasure chest. But without the boat, well, you’d just be pirates lost at sea.
If you’ve got a line in your lyrics so far that is really catchy, utilize it, put it in your chorus and repeat it twice.
It’s your turn
Okay, let’s summarize our 5 lyric writing ideas in this post.
- Use sensory and emotive words – Make the listener experience everything in the song, from what you see to what you can feel.
- Story database – Your song is a story and it take the listener on a journey.
- Have a few tricks up your sleeve – Leave plot twists or dramatic changes until the end; don’t give the game away too early on in the song.
- Use cliches to write new original lyric lines – Cliches are overused and can be boring, but you can still use them to craft new lyric lines with the same meaning but in a more unique way.
- Focus on a memorable chorus – Your most powerful tool to captivate your listeners and turn them into fans.
Good luck, and get creating! Bye!