MAKING LYRICS STAND OUT

MAKING LYRICS STAND OUT

Marc Alan Barnette

A lot of reasons people get hung up on lyrics is because they are trying too hard to make a "statement" in each line. The result is usually very poetic lines that really don't mean a lot past a few words strung together. They don't sound conversational and actually end up sounding very contrived like many, many, other songs and poems out there. You should first think about your potential LISTENER and how you can make your lyrics convey what you want to them. Most people don't want to THINK deeply about lyrics, and are just trying to understand what is going on in the song without having some App to figure out what you are saying. It doesn't mean you "dumb things down" but it means that you work as hard as you can to be CLEAR. A few tips:

Visualize your SCENE.
You are writing a little mini movie. You are describing SOMETHING happening. Even if it is emotional,

HOW DID YOU GET THERE?
Who is in the scene?
Where is it taking place?
Why should people be interested in it?
Is it something that relates to them?

FIND YOUR CENTRAL MOST IMPORTANT THOUGHT.
What is this actually about?
If you were in a courtroom, what would you want people to take away from your case?
Another thing people do is CLOUD the ISSUE. You have to establish your premise and explain why you feel that way.

WATCH OUT FOR "SECOND VERSE HELL."
We often "write ourselves into a box" by either saying everything in the first verse and chorus. What to do "NEXT?"
Again, if you can "advance your story line, or do "backstory" you will see what the next scene is.

TRY TO KEEP IT SHORT AND EFFECTIVE.
Many people OVERWRITE, making it hard to follow the action. If you keep it into no more than three verses (two are better, making your third verse a "BRIDGE") is a good idea.

MAKE YOUR PATTERNS DIFFERENT.
Songs can get boring very quickly. Even in this day of similar patterns in the verse and chorus, there are usually production things, adapting the melody, building vocals into a singalong style" that make changes throughout the song. If you get too much of the same thing, people will tune you out quickly. The hardest thing we have to guard from these days are "GLOW SONGS." That is where people become bored, pick up their cell phones and start texting, playing games, checking messages, or doing other things. If you break your patterns up, you can avoid some of that. Make a VERSE SOUND LIKE A VERSE AND A CHORUS SOUND LIKE A CHORUS, BRIDGE LIKE A BRIDGE, ETC.

USE DYNAMICS
Songs need a beginning, middle and end. Support your hooks with musical rests, spaces where people can "breathe." Come down a bit in volume in your verses and kick it up in the choruses. Mix it up a bit. Keeps it more interesting for the listener.

STEP AWAY FROM THE SONG. You are not writing a book. Just a story. Go much beyond three and a half minutes, and you are going to find your audience gone. Frankly, in this day and age, people have about an EIGHT SECOND ATTENTION SPAN. So you don't have time to waste.

Keep it tight, and then FINISH IT. Most people write and write and all they are doing is repeating information. There is a time for that, say in the chorus, where you want people to sing along. That is the idea. But if you repeat the same information in the verse, the chorus, the second verse, so forth and so on, you end up with a five minute song that is only worth listening to a minute of.
There comes a time to WRAP IT UP. And remember LESS IS MORE. You don't have to SAY everything on your mind. That is why there are OTHER SONGS!!!

BUILD YOUR MELODIES
Make sure your song is easily hummable or singable. Again remember your audience.

REVIEW WITH FRESH EARS.
After you've written the song, tweaked it, put it down for a little bit and come back to it. Give your lyrics a "READ ALOUD" test.
When you are by yourself, read the song out like you would talk to a friend. It should have three, main qualities.

CONVERSATIONAL. (sounds like two people talking)
VISUAL (the LISTENER should SEE what is going on in their mind's eye)
MUSICAL INDENTIFIABLE. Make sure it is easy to sing along with.

STUDY GREAT SONGS.
Break down songs. Go to YOU TUBE and pull up your favorite songs and videos. What are they doing? What is the music moving to? How do they wrap it up? Why are you so attracted to that particular song or other songs? Are there patterns in music you like?

Start there and see where it takes you. Keep asking questions and if you need anything, I'm usually around.

by Marc Alan Barnette
www.marcalanbarnette.com

Marc Alan Barnette