Writing Lyrics The Easy Way
This module is not meant to overwhelm you at all. There is a lot of information in it and I want you to know that trying to use all of these ideas in one go, in one song could send you a little bit crazy.
I would recommend that you try introducing one or two ideas at a time into your songs, and then build up your ability gradually to include the ideas into your song lyrics with ease.
There are some exercises in this module for you to do as well.
There are certain literary devices that you can use when writing the lyrics to your songs.
I am eternally grateful to the scholars over the years who have analyzed language, its form and structure and so on.
When you go into any language in this way, you will find natural rhythms that occur, and this is what works so fantastically with music.
They can work together and create songs where your words and music feel like they could never be separated. These are always strong songs and have a slightly magical feel to them.
One last thing before we start….this is very important. I want you to understand that if you use any of these techniques and tips in this module even ONCE, your mind will have absorbed the information and you will always have it to hand. It is a strange and bizarre thing, I know, but just practicing their use once has opened that pathway in your brain.
Obviously the more times you practice the more easily you will write using these techniques, but you don’t have to sit down every time and think, oh I must use assonance and alliteration on this line and I must use an idiom somewhere in my song. Just practice writing a few out of context of a song, and you will find they will come out in the flow. :)
Using opposites in a song is an excellent technique that can create a winner.
All of me - John Legend & Toby Gad
Hot N Cold - Katy Perry, Dr. Luke & Max Martin
You do not have to do the whole song using opposites though, you could just do a one liner.
I made one up:
You turn me on when the lights are off...
or...you turn me off when the lights are on.
Again, it has a rhythm to it which music loves.
You turn me on when the lights are off...
C G G C
You turn me on when the light are off...
G C Am C
Such a great way to connect with your audience, even add a bit of humour, or just get your listener thinking.
e.g. In the song You know I'm no good by Amy Winehouse, listen to the last line of the first verse.
I actually had to look up the word Tanqueray when I first heard this song, as I didn't know it was a type of gin.....you see it got me thinking!
Another example of a song using a proper noun is:
Dear John by Taylor Swift...well the Proper noun is in the title!
Here is a very famous example of alliteration:
Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran
Alliteration is when the first letter or sound of a word is repeated in the words that are next to or closely connected.
As you can see from the example, around does not begin with an 'r' and neither does 'the'. However the overall sound is one with a lot of r's.
Alliterations do not have to be as long as the example though. Just two or three words is great.
Here is an example of alliteration in the title of a song.
Waiting on the World - John Mayer.
He also uses alliteration throughout the song as well. It’s almost as if he wanted to write a song full of them!!! :)
Alliterations give rhythm to your lyrics which as you know is great for writing your melodies.
Figures of Speech
Using the following figures of speech in your songs is really where you will be able to feel the rhythms and write excellent melodies to partner your lyrics. I had a student once who told me that people weren't writing songs using these anymore....like it was only done in the distant past.
She went on to say that in all her cowriting sessions, no one was using these techniques. I had a little chuckle (inwardly of course) knowing that she wasn't yet writing with people who are writing hit songs of either today or yesterday.
Anyway, songwriters are using figures of speech in their songwriting as you will see from the examples below.
Here we go, sharpen your pencils!
Antimetabole: when a phrase is repeated, but in reverse order.
e.g. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail (And this is my Mother's favourite!)
First line of the pre chorus - Cool for the Summer - Demi Lovato, Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ali Payami, & Alexander Kronlund.
Assonance: where the vowel sounds are the same and placed next to, or near each other in a sentence.
e.g. The light shone on you
First line, third and fourth words - Your Song - Elton John & Bernie Taupin.
Epanadiplosis: when a word at the beginning of a sentence is then repeated at the end.
e.g. The king is dead, long live the king (which is also similar to a line from the Coldplay song Viva La Vida)
Last line of the chorus - All you need is love - John Lennon & Paul McCartney.
Epistrophe: when a word is repeated at the end of successive sentences.
e.g. I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
Absolutely brilliant for creating your main hook in a song.
Single Ladies - Beyonce, The-Dream, Tricky Stewart & Kuk Harrell. Throughout the chorus.
Epizeuxis: Another one for repetition, see how well it fits with music? So this one repeats words in immediate succession.
The chorus of Follow the yellow brick road. The wizard of Oz - Harold Arlen and YipHarburg
Polyptoton: uses repetition of words derived from the same root that are not the same.
e.g. I bled until I had no more blood in me
Second and third words of the chorus of Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
Zeugma: I love this one, as we only have a short amount of time to say something in a song, and this when you use one word to join two thoughts.
e.g. He left in a taxi and a hurry
e.g. Last line of the second verse, Honky Tonk Woman - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
There are some more figures of speech that are not rhythmical but are also excellent devices to use in your lyrics
Hyperbole: an exaggerated statement not to be taken literally.
e.g. I'm going to die if he doesn't call me
Irony: Using language that normally means the opposite, usually to create humour.
e.g. I love my day job about as much as I like clearing the snow off the driveway
Metaphors: A comparison made between two things that are not alike but do have something in common.
e.g. Your voice is music to my ears
Simile: A comparison made showing similarities between two different things.
e.g. I am silly as an ass
Adages: A proverb or sentence that is true.
e.g. The pen is mightier than the sword
Idioms: Phrases that don't literally mean what the words would have you think.
e.g. You wear your heart on your sleeve
Oxymorons: opposite meaning of words joined in one sentence to create an effect.
e.g. My life with you is bitter sweet
Using idioms and adages are very common devices and also very brilliant :)....also, using half an idiom or adage is very cool and will make you sound rather clever.
It is also a great way to pick up the pace of a song as you can quickly move on to a new thought, leaving the listener to catch up.
e.g. Titanium - Sia Furler, David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort & Nick Van de Wall
In the second verse, she uses the first part of a famous adage, but she doesn't end it with the rest… 'but words will never hurt me'....she just leaves it hanging there and moves on to her next thought.
Idioms in song titles are a magical way to get the listener interested even before a note has been sung!
e.g. Thinking out Loud - Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge
Here is an adage in a song acting as bookends.
When you cry - Glen Campbell & Julian Raymond
e.g. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone
Check out the song, it’s a brilliant piece of writing.
How about taking part of an adage, and changing it up!!
e.g. The pen may well be mightier than the sword, but right now the sword feels like a really good idea
Or: The pen may well be mightier than the sword - But the word won't fix this
Here is an example of a song that shows some of the techniques and ideas that I've mentioned so far, in just the first verse!.... written by the amazing artist Prince.
Raspberry Beret - Prince
Line one - assonance
Line two - proper noun
Line three - assonance
Line four - Irony
Line five - opposites
Line six - like this line...take the initial letter of each word. BDTTDB. It's a mirror. BDT/TDB
Line seven - epizeuxis
Line eight - opposites and humour
Here is an exercise for you to do to get used to using these devices in your songs so that they become second nature to you, using the ABAB rhyming system if you like.
Write a line with a proper noun e.g. I played my Gibson for what seemed like ages
Write the next line using opposites - going up and down the fret
Add another 2 literary devices in your next 2 lines.
My fingers bled red ink on my pages ( assonance, metaphor)
I wish we'd never met (alliteration)
There are so many more literary devices out there for you to research and adapt into your songs.
Make your lyrics dance off the page into the music.
Just go on line and type in 'literary devices' and you will see how many more ways there are to create winning lyrics.
Lyrics than can turn ears your way, that can enrich people's lives as well as your own songs.
Be clever, be creative and be brilliant. Xx (name that device!)
Watch the video here