Words matter. Carefully crafted lyrics separate the good songs from the great. While music on its own can convey moods and ideas in a general sense, lyrics can express those ideas in a more focused way and strengthen the connection between listener and song.
This week I got two judges’ evaluation forms for a couple of songs I entered in The Great American Songwriting Contest last fall. Even though I didn’t win (there were 1,600 entries, so it was a fat chance from the get go), I got valuable feedback on how I can improve my songwriting.
In reviewing my critiques, I’ve noticed a theme involving lyrics . . .
- Focus on using lyrics to capture the audience’s attention and draw them into the song from the beginning.
- State the premise of your song and develop a storyline with the lyrics to make it easier for the audience to relate to and follow throughout the song.
- Craft unique lyrics that stand out in the audience’s mind. Even if the lyrics tell a common story or theme, choose words and phrases that leave an impression.
Lyrics are definitely a challenge for me. When I compose a song, I usually write music first with an idea of a mood or general theme I want to convey. Then I try to put words to the music in a way that fits into the rhythm and flow of the melody line, and it feels like juggling. . .
Do the lyrics rhyme? (but not in a cheesy way) Do they convey my meaning? Do they have the number of syllables that fit with the melody line? Do they have appropriate consonant/vowel sounds that fit with the melody? Can I use alliteration? Or perhaps a metaphor? And these kinds of questions go on and on and on and on. Maybe it’s more like juggling while riding a unicycle.
What do you think about lyrics? Do lyrics matter a lot to you as a listener? What are some of your favorite lyrics?