International Songwriters Association (ISA) Songs And Songwriting Writing Song Lyrics
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ISA Writing Song Lyrics

This is one of a series of short and very simplified articles, designed to improve your understanding of the songwriting business. If you know little or nothing about the industry, might we suggest that you first click on the Songwriting The Basics button at the top of this page, and continue on from there?

And remember, if having read this or any other article, you have a query, simply email us HERE and we will be more than happy to respond.

ISA Writing Lyrics

Although there is no "proper" way to write song lyrics, there are some basic elements that most songs have in common. Lynne May discusses five of those elements: Hook, Slant, Chorus, Verses, and Bridge.

The hook is a very good place to begin. The hook is a part of the song which is intended to "hook" the ears of your listeners.This is such an important part of the song that some publishers insist upon hearing the hook before they will even consider the rest of the song.

The hook is a very useful starting point because it can become the title as well as the main message of the . Your first task, then, is to decide on a "theme" or message for your song and then come up with a catchy phrase which conveys that message. Think of the songs that nearly everyone remembers: like "Dream On" or "Stairway to Heaven" or even "Three Blind Mice" (reportedly the most famous song in the world).

Your hook phrase should be singable, memorable, and convey your message in the fewest words possible.

Once you come up with a good hook, you are ready to roll!

In other words, what perspective on your subject do you wish to convey? One thing which will help you here is to decide upon your target audience. Is this song aimed at children, at jazz lovers, at headbangers? The answer to this question will go a long way in determining the type of language that you will use to write your lyrics.

Whose perspective will convey your message; the "wronged lover"?, Or the wrongdoer?, The parent of a wayward child or the child him/herself?. Which player in your drama will be telling the story?

Will your song be in first person--"I woke up this morning...." or third person--"She woke up this morning...."? Once you have decided what you want to say, who will be saying it, and to whom it will be said, you are ready for the next step.

This is the next logical step since the chorus contains the "hook". The chorus should be relatively short--eight measures and four vocal lines is a good choice. Be sure to start or end the chorus with the hook. You might even want to put it both places--just be sure that there is enough variety in between to avoid listener boredom.

The chorus should be "singable" for the average listener. People like to sing along and they remember a song more if they can sing along. Make the words easy to remember and be sure that they effectively convey your main message.

This is the point in writing-song-lyrics where your story begins. Think of your song as a drama. The first verse should give the listeners enough information to keep them interested, but not so much as to bore them. The most successful verse lyrics will make the listener relate to the words--the lyrics apply to their lives.

Sometimes it helps to think of your verses as reasons for your message in the chorus or evidence that your chorus message is true.

Each verse should progressively lead the listener further toward the chorus.

he Bridge is an optional section which most often comes between two choruses and is a kind of break from the rest of the song. It should take your message to a different level or offer a new perspective to support your main theme. The purpose of the bridge is to build the tension leading up to the climax of the song or to lead a song to its conclusion. It also must lead your listener back into the chorus.

The bridge often has a different rhythm and a different combination of instruments. . A songwriter needs to listen to a lot of songs from different genres to get a feel for the bridge. One good way to become familiar with bridges is to do a lyric search for some of your favorite songs. The parts of the songs are usually labeled. Note carefully the section that is labeled "bridge". Play the song and listen for the ways in which the bridge is different from but still relates to the rest of the song.

Lynne May has owned and operated May Music Studio in Gig Harbor, Washington, for twenty years. The studio offers private lessons in guitar, piano, and drums.

Additionally, students participate in monthly band sessions where they are matched with others of their approximate age and playing level. These bands prepare songs to perform at the annual Outdoor Concert and Cookout, held on the stage on the studio property.

Prior to establishing May Music Studio, Lynne was a performing musician nationwide for fifteen years. Visit her website below.

Lynne May Studio

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