PDA

View Full Version : Ande's Lyric Writing Tips



ande
November 27th, 2007, 08:53 PM
thought I'd share these with y'all

ande

Ande's Lyric Writing Tips
By Ande Rasmussen http://www.SongWriterBlog.com
edited 11/23/07


01) You don't need to be able to sing, read music, or even write music to write songs. You need to believe that you can write songs. If you want to write songs, start writing.


02) No Rules
There are no rules, there are only tools. You'll find exceptions to everything below, but it's generally good to use them, unless you have a really good reason not to.


03) A song contains 3 things:
a. Lyrics: the words to the song
b. Vocal melody: the way you sing the words, the notes, stresses, and pauses and
c. Music: the notes, chords, and instrument sounds
that fit around and support the lyrics and melody


04) Study the songs you love.
Listen to them and write out the lyrics by hand. Learn to perform them. Write songs that are similar to them. Read songwriting books, go to songwriting conferences, join songwriting organizations and participate, attend meetings, volunteer. Participate on online communities.


05) Song Idea Radar
Have your song idea radar on at all times, always be looking for and listening for great song ideas, when you find one, capture it, write it down or record it. Capture as many as you can.


06) When a song idea arrives, let it flow, capture it, write down or record everything that arrives. Just get it out, donít edit in that moment, you can always go back later and edit. If you are cowriting and your cowriter is flowing, sometimes the best thing you can do is stay out of the way. When you have a strong idea you will think of many lines to go with it, your task is to edit them down to the strongest most effective lines that fit and sound the best.


07) Songwriting Journal
Start a songwriting journal and write down your ideas. Keep pen and paper handy where you can't bring your journal. When you have enough of a song going transfer it to your computer


08) Cowrite:
Consider cowriting, you're likely to write better songs faster. Plus youíll have another person who cares about the song and might share expenses. If you cowrite with an artist or producer you increase the chances of the song getting performed and recorded. Cowriting is kind of like dating, write with many people and you'll find a few favorites. Get the first one out of the way. Keep trying your best song might be the 5th, 9th, or 25th song you've cowritten. Learn how you cowrite best.


09) Keep a list of all the songs you've written,
the date you started,
who you wrote each one with,
the current status of the song.


10) Move People
Well written songs emotionally move listeners.
Well written lyrics emotionally move the readers.
Songs need to be universal this means many people can relate to the songís story or situation.
We write songs for our listeners.


11) Music is about theme, variation on theme, departure from theme, then return to the theme.
Song sections contrast, lyricists do this by:
a.) only using title words in the chorus
b.) using different line lengths, rhyme sounds and rhyme patterns in different sections


12) The Building Blocks of Songs
Song Structures or Forms
Lyrics have building blocks and structures.
The building blocks are:
Title, Verse, chorus, bridge and prechorus.
The title is name of the song, it's what the song is all about, the most repeated phrase in the chorus.
Verse provides the story and details about the song and leads to the title.
The chorus is summarizes the song and hammers home the title.
Bridges are a section between the last 2 choruses usually just 2 lines adding more details or a twist.
The prechorus, sometimes called channel, lift or climb is a section in some songs between the first verse and the chorus, and the second verse and the 2nd chorus.
The simplest structure or form is:
Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus or V C V C
Many songs have a bridge their form is V C V C B C
Songs that contain a prechorus or climb, the section between the verse and chorus, that section is called a climb or a lift
Have this structure is V Cl Ch V Cl Ch
There's several more song forms like
Verse Verse Bridge Verse, and
Verse Verse Bridge Verse Bridge Verse.
The form you choose depends on which one best serves the song idea.


13) Genuine Idea
Is the idea worthy of becoming a song?
Does it strike a chord?
Is it universal, will millions want to hear it and sing it over and over?


14) Keep It Conversational
Write a lyric the way you would say it. Lyrics are conversational, don't reverse word order for the sake of rhyme, only use words you'd use in a natural normal conversation. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Harlan Howard said, write songs so people who are half listening can half understand.


15) Titles
Every song has a title. Titles are the songs brand. The title is the most repeated phrase in the chorus. It's the phrase that sticks in people's heads. Find a word or phrase that DEMANDS ATTENTION
it usually summarizes the song.

if a chorus has 8 lines: here are 5 examples of where titles are often placed

1) x
2)
3)
4)
5) x
6)
7)
8)

1) x
2)
3) x
4)
5)
6)
7)
8) x

1) x
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8) x

1)
2)
3)
4) x
5)
6)
7)
8) x

1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8) x

Some songs don't have a chorus they just have a repeated hook line.
Some choruses donít have 8 lines


16) Prove the title.
The purpose of the verse is to lead the listener to the chorus, every line in the verse should be connected to and point to the title. Verses should build up to the chorus.


17) IMAGERY
Use imagery, don't tell me, show me with images, write with all of your senses, things you see, feel, hear, taste, and touch
Specifics are special.


18) Opening Lines
The opening line of the lyric should GRAB the listeners attention
Start with a bang. Drop the cat in the punch bowl! Splash
http://www.peoplestories.org/tips.asp
Establish who what when and where in the first few lines. Start in the middle of the action.


19) Avoid cliches, they are the kiss of death
Attempt to create expressions that people have never heard before but when they hear it they understand it. Sometimes a cliche is what you need to use to best convey the emotion.


20) Transition into the Chorus
The last line in each verse should seemlessly transition the listener into the chorus.


21) Be Concise
Each lyric line in a song needs to be concise.
Each syllable has to be sung. Whatís the simplest clearest way to write each line? Cut the fat, leave the meat.


22) Some words don't sing well
don't use them.
Avoid adverbs, find the verb.
One and two syllable words are the backbone of lyrics


23) Matching
Verse 1 and 2 should have the same rhyme scheme
Syllable stresses should match, Syllable counts should be close, if not exact.
When you compare each line of verse 1 and 2, they should have close to the same number of syllables and you should be able to sing the same melody on each line ie when you compare V1 L1 with V2 L2


24) Avoid puns and being overly clever
A song should generate a real emotion in the listener rather than make the reader or listener say, "My my my you are so clever." It's fun to write funny songs but novelty songs can be tough to place.


25) Nothing New
There's nothing new under the sun, strive to have something new and special about your lyric


26) Bits and Pieces
Songs rarely arrive fully baked. They usually arrive in bits and pieces. It's up to you to put the lyric together. Writing lyrics can be like solving puzzles.


27) Great songs are Rewritten.
You can keep tweaking the song you're writing. At some point have the courage to say, this song is done, but remember just because you say it's done doesn't mean that it is. Great songs are CoRewritten


28) Make the singer Look good.
Lyrics need to make the singer look good, but not too good.


29) POV
Think about which POV would best expresses the songís situation and emotion:
a. I / We / Me / Us
b. You
c. He She They


30) Write What You Know
Write with authority, don't contrive. Write about things you've experienced.


31) Rhyming
You donít have to use perfect rhymes, like rock and block,
you can rhyme the vowel sound without worrying about the end consonants
imperfect rhymes sound similar to each other like swim and win,
imperfect rhymes give writers a larger word palette
Use online rhyme dictionaries like RhymeZone.


32) When you find a song idea youíre considering writing:
Google the title to see if itís ever been written before, put quotation marks around the phrase
You can also do a title searches on ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
Just because there already is a song with the title you're thinking about writing doesn't mean you should stop. Go ahead and write the song.


33) Donít steal song ideas from people you know and those who know you. The songwriting community is small, word will get out. Guard your reputation. Be prepared, pleasant, real and fun. Be the kind of person people want to write with again and again. Likeability and personality play an important role in your success at building your songwriting team.


34) Critiquing
You have to become your own toughest critic. Every line and note must shine. One of the best things to do is to write a lyric, then set it aside for a few days, weeks or months so you can approach it later from a fresh perspective. Build a team of excellent writers who will be tough critiquers of your work. Though we crave compliments, we need to write stronger songs. Consider getting professional critiques. It is not sensible to critique songs in one genre with the criteria of another.
IE critiquing a pop song using country lyric writing guidelines. It's all someone's opinion. Songwriters tend to be tougher on songs than fans and listeners.


35) Melody is King
A well written lyric can inspire a great melody, but a great melody is what makes a great song. There are many wonderful songs where you can barely make out the lyrics. Marc Alan Barnette wrote: "A weak lyric can be rescued by a strong melody, it never goes the other way around." Simplicity is critical. Make your choruses jump out, make them clear simple catchy and singable.


36) Songwriting can be a Pandoraís box, if you start you might not be able to stop.


37) That's all for now but Iíll probably write more later

I hope this helps you write better songs, Let me know if it does. So now I challenge you to write a lyric.

Ande Rasmussen

Jackson
December 6th, 2007, 09:27 AM
Try some lyrics around this hook.

"I'm gettin' back with my better half,
cause my better half wasn't half bad."

Jackson

ande
December 6th, 2007, 11:30 AM
that's cute idea
maybe tweak it to

"I wanna get back with my ex better half
cause that better half wasn't half bad"
she was the best of rest that I've had
"I wanna get back with my ex better half
cause that better half wasn't half bad"

I added EX cause if she's already your better half
you don't need to get back with her

I love funny country song titles
I saw this title in the austin chronicle

"I'm in getting hammered
while she's out getting nailed"

the funny thing is a lot of non songwriters have the impression that country songs need to have some clever song title based on opposites
like

she got the gold mine and I got the shaft

If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me

but if you look at the billboard top 40 or 100 country songs on any given week there's usually very few songs like that on the charts. Which means very few songs like that get recorded by artists or cut.

They're called novelty songs

most songs on the country charts are about life situations and stories millions of people can relate to, that make the signer look good

I sometimes write novelty songs but usually target honest emotions and life situations

your idea would be fun to write
why don't you give it a shot

ande


Try some lyrics around this hook.

"I'm gettin' back with my better half,
cause my better half wasn't half bad."

Jackson

Jackson
July 22nd, 2008, 09:20 PM
Thanks for your response, which I just read for
the first time. Behind on my reading and you can tell.

Peter Cruise
July 23rd, 2008, 12:50 AM
My true love cracks mirrors
when smiling at me,
My children, they are terrors
always laughing at me
My boss sees only errors
checking up on only me,
My rowboat has no damn oars
leaking steadily, oh row is me,
...........................
hee hee hee

ande
August 3rd, 2008, 11:09 AM
you're welcome
good luck with your lyric writing

ande


Thanks for your response, which I just read for
the first time. Behind on my reading and you can tell.

The Fortness
August 3rd, 2008, 04:32 PM
I was going to write a song about being really, really orange but that kind of goes against rule 22.

Then I was going to be very vague about giving explicit instructions to obfuscate, but that broke a bevy of rules, so maybe I'll just turn on my ipod.

jim thornton
August 19th, 2008, 12:37 AM
I was listening to This American Life on NPR last night, and the show did a bunch of stories on heartbreak. One of the best pieces was by a woman who got dumped, found consolation in broken hearted love songs, and ends up trying to write one. She also ends up talking to Phil Collins, who comes off incredibly likable and smart.

Ande, if you haven't heard this, I think you and your fellow song writers would find it really cool. You can get the podcast for free on iTunes. Really neat radio story.

One more thing: I am also a writer, though of magazine stories, not song lyrics. Nevertheless, so much of your advice seems to apply to my world, too. You are an excellent explainer. I suppose you will also get more readers on the USMS swimming forum for swimming faster tips, but please know that your lyric tips are every bit as interesting and well put.

ande
August 20th, 2008, 12:19 PM
Hey Jim,

was it this one?
http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=339
I'll check it out
NPR does some great stuff

Thank you for saying that I'm an "excellent explainer."
I think the lyric writing tips could bleed over into other forms of writing.
We want to write compeeling words that GRABS readers / listeners attention. Which can be challenging in our A.D.D. instant gratification world. It's nice when critics say a writers prose has a lyrical quality.

Thanks Again,

Ande

PS I also write an ezine for songwriters, called IFS
you can find it at www.SongwriterBlog.com
click Messages
to read the message archive. In most issues I find and piece together info that I think might help IFS readers but I also dive in and write portions of each issue. I dig helping and encouraging people to get closer to their dreams.

here's a few break Up, heart ache, and Heart break songs I cowrote:

Eventually
Male Piano Vocal (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=12739)
female vocal (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=61657)
male pop (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=12740)

blue holiday (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=34592)

Vividly (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=14748)

Suddenly (http://www.songramp.com/mod/mps/viewtrack.php?trackid=14237)




I was listening to This American Life on NPR last night, and the show did a bunch of stories on heartbreak. One of the best pieces was by a woman who got dumped, found consolation in broken hearted love songs, and ends up trying to write one. She also ends up talking to Phil Collins, who comes off incredibly likable and smart.

Ande, if you haven't heard this, I think you and your fellow song writers would find it really cool. You can get the podcast for free on iTunes. Really neat radio story.

One more thing: I am also a writer, though of magazine stories, not song lyrics. Nevertheless, so much of your advice seems to apply to my world, too. You are an excellent explainer. I suppose you will also get more readers on the USMS swimming forum for swimming faster tips, but please know that your lyric tips are every bit as interesting and well put.

jim thornton
August 20th, 2008, 07:34 PM
Ande,

That was indeed the episode I was referring to. On NPR, they mentioned that there was a contest for muscians to do their rendition of the woman's song, and thanks to your link, I was able to listen to these. Really amazing to me, a song writing ignoramus, to not only see how a song is constructed but once written, how incredibly varied different performers' interpretations can be.

I also listened to the songs you've written, including Eventually (all three versions, again, very varied interpretations of the same basic melody and identical words), Blue Holiday, Vividly, and Suddenly. All of these were really well done. I think most people on this forum think of you, first and foremost, as a great swimmer. But if they listen to your songs, I think it will be obvious to most that swimming is your hobby!

My favorite was probably Blue Holiday--really like that bluesy feel. But they were all really nice.

One of the things that you point out in your post, Ande, and which the NPR lady also discovered when she tried to write a heartbreak song, is that simple and honest almost always beats clever. Anyhow, I wonder if you have heard this one Johnny Cash love song, which for me almost defines the genre. It's really short and was almost never published. You can read the story and heart the song at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5508775

In any event, keep up the good work.

ande
August 25th, 2008, 04:28 PM
thank you jim,

I've written many more songs
I haven't made much money from it but it's challenging and rewarding
I basically took my approach to swimming and applied it to songwriting.

Glad you liked Blue Holiday
the singer on that one is Halie Loren
Right now she's working on a jazz blues album and I have her demoing 3 more of my songs

One of my songwriting teachers calls being overly clever, CLEEVER
It's a trap new writers fall into
when they focus on the words and the rhymes rather than being honest and direct
I've written songs with CLEEVER lines

It's also important to Write what you know.
If a writer writes on a topic they know nothing about they might be contriving, making stuff up.

think of great songs like

"I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt
or
"What a Wonderful World"
or
"Yesterday"
or
what ever you feel are timeless truly amazing songs

simple lyrics simple unique timeless melodies
universal themes that millions can relate to

the song makes listeners feel something
effective songs often act as a trigger to remind the listener about an emotion or situation in their life

the best sign for listeners that a song is awesome is
it makes them have an involuntary physical reaction
tears, goosebumps, toe tapping, laughing, ...

also if the melody and lyrics get STUCK in their heads
listen to Kylie Minogue's "I Can't Get You Off of my Mind"
it's hypnotic

I'll check out that Johnny Cash story

ande



Ande,

That was indeed the episode I was referring to. On NPR, they mentioned that there was a contest for muscians to do their rendition of the woman's song, and thanks to your link, I was able to listen to these. Really amazing to me, a song writing ignoramus, to not only see how a song is constructed but once written, how incredibly varied different performers' interpretations can be.

I also listened to the songs you've written, including
Eventually (all three versions, again, very varied interpretations of the same basic melody and identical words), Blue Holiday, Vividly, and Suddenly. All of these were really well done. I think most people on this forum think of you, first and foremost, as a great swimmer. But if they listen to your songs, I think it will be obvious to most that swimming is your hobby!

My favorite was probably Blue Holiday--really like that bluesy feel. But they were all really nice.

One of the things that you point out in your post, Ande, and which the NPR lady also discovered when she tried to write a heartbreak song, is that simple and honest almost always beats clever.

Anyhow, I wonder if you have heard this one Johnny Cash love song, which for me almost defines the genre. It's really short and was almost never published. You can read the story and heart the song at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5508775

In any event, keep up the good work.

Jackson
September 15th, 2008, 08:07 PM
Ande,

Hope you come out in MER/BAC deal.


Jackson (Merrill retiree)

ande
September 15th, 2008, 08:21 PM
hey jackson
thanks
I don't write about anything related to M L on the web
keep it separate but feel free to tell me about your self and what you did at M L

Jackson
September 16th, 2008, 04:19 PM
Financial Adviser 27.5 yrs. Ironically, 6.5 yrs
@ bank now part of B of A.
Good luck.

Jackson

ande
October 10th, 2010, 11:03 AM
here's another place you can find them with comments from other songwriters
Ande's Lyric Writing Tips on JPFolks (http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/537816/page/1#Post537816)

ande

orca1946
October 11th, 2010, 03:59 PM
I'm all alone and blue cuz the water's too warm for you !!