IntroductionISA • Writing Lyrics
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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
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
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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