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Basics of Songwriting Part 3 – Song Lyrics
The basics of songwriting can be categorized into 4 parts. Song structure, chord progression, lyrics and melody. This command is not an ingrained way of writing a poem. For me, each song came about in different ways, some processes more than others. Sometimes the melody gets stuck in my head. Sometimes I think about a line that leads the way to becoming a whole song.
This is part three of ‘Songwriting Basics’.
There are many songwriters who can write great melodies and have the song structure and chord progressions tie together beautifully, but their lyrics bring the song down to several levels. So remember that songs are not just musical notes, but words that are sung.
First, what are considered bad texts? Bad texts are a set of words and phrases that do not contain variety and do not evoke emotion in the listener. Bad texts are also words and phrases that are overworked. Some of them turn into clichés. How are clichés created? They repeat themselves over and over and start to have less and less power each time they repeat. Then when one hears these cheesy lyrics, one cringes inside, sometimes without even realizing they’re cringing.
Why do you think people don’t listen to the Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls anymore? I’m sure there are a few people who still listen to the Backstreet Boys, but for the most part people don’t listen to them not only because of the evolution of the music but also because of the lyrics. Here’s an example by the Backstreet Boys from a song called ‘Everybody’.
Section from “All”
Am I original?
Am I the only one?
Yes Am I sexual?
Am I all you need?
You better rock your body now
Please tell me you see cheese in the song. Yes. Songs that use excessive and cheesy words and lyrics can be off-putting. It really depends on what you want to do with your song. If you want to create a song that will make people laugh, you can fill it with cheesy lyrics.
What separates really good songs from just good songs is creativity, be it melodic or lyrical. So be creative with your texts.
Think of new ways to say certain things whether it’s using certain words or phrases. For example, what could you say instead of “You are the love of my life”?
You are a ray of sunlight that broke through the clouds
You are a daisy in a field of dandelions
What are the words that can represent “time”?
So there are many ways you can say certain words and phrases that feel overused.
An exercise you can do is find a poem that you think is cheesy and copy it. Find new ways to convey lyrics.
If you find it difficult to perform the exercise, explore the five senses: hearing sight, touch, smell and taste. For example, you can create vivid images that lead listeners through a story that they can walk through, smell, and feel.
Let’s say the song is about love. If love was a smell, what would it smell like? How would that sound? What would that look like physically? Have fun finding new ways to say phrases that have been sung over and over again.
Another way to create creative texts is to use literary devices to create a sense of rhythm. For many songwriters, there seems to be a lot of focus on the rhyming words at the end of each line. There are ways you can twist the way you rhyme the ends of each line by using devices like half-rhymes, half-rhymes, and imperfect rhymes. While rhyming at the end adds tremendous weight to lyrics, it’s not the only way to make lyrics flow. You can use assonance, alliteration and other ways of rhyming that may appear in your texts or in other words, internal rhyming. Listen to rap and you can hear a lot of these other rhyming devices. The clarity in the rhyme schemes comes from the fact that rap’s focus is more on rhythm than melody.
Rhyming schemes that can be used to complete rhyming
Half rhymes are when two words have matching consonants at the end. An example of this is ‘hand’ and ‘bending’.
A half rhyme is a rhyme in which one of the words has an added syllable. Here are examples: ‘ran’ and ‘banner’.
I actually use it regularly because it helps when I can’t find the perfect rhyme and also fall in love with a word that just happens to fit as a half-rhyme. This is one of the techniques I use with half rhymes. The rhyming syllable fits into the melody, and then I add an extra note to the melody to make the extra syllable fit into the song.
An imperfect rhyme is a rhyme in which one word has a stressed syllable that rhymes and the other word is unstressed. And an example of that is ‘thing’ and ‘climbing’. You can hear the ‘ing’ for ‘thing’ is stressed and the ‘ing’ for ‘climbing’ is unstressed.
I use a similar technique as I do with half rhymes. But instead of matching the rhyming syllables, I match the stressed parts of the words. So if I had used the words ‘thing’ and ‘climbing’, I would have had ‘thing’ and ‘climbing’ fit at the end of my tune whether it was a tune I wrote before writing the lyrics or a tune that made it fit into the set already written texts. Then I add an ‘ing’ to the ‘climbing’ and add an extra note that goes in a descending direction melodically.
Rhyming schemes that can be used for internal rhyming
Alliteration occurs when initial consonants match. For example, ‘Mother made my morning wonderful!’ Can you hear how the use of alliteration gives the line a sense of flow?
Assonance is when words have matching vowels. ‘Who chased the moose?’ This gives the line a sense of community.
Actions you can take to improve your writing
Instead of knowing ways to improve and be creative with your writing, start doing something about it now. What things can you do today? Take a creative writing course and incorporate what you learn into your songwriting. Do some creative writing exercises. You can easily find writing exercises on the Internet. Do it and have fun with it.
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