Here’s a quote from hit songwriter-producer Desmond Child in M Magazine, “The most important thing going into a song is the lyric. The lyric is the script, and you can’t shoot a movie without a script. The score is actually the last part that comes into a movie, in the same way that the music on a record should help bring out the meaning of the lyrics.”
I love his comparison of lyric and movie script. While music truly does have the power to move us emotionally and physically, it’s the lyric that draws us into the song, paints a picture in the mind, makes us identify with the singer or with the people in a situation.
Not the same old story
Like a good movie script, a song has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I’m not suggesting that you should tell a story in your lyric the way a script does – I met you on Monday. We fell in love on Tuesday. Broke up on Wednesday. This doesn’t really work well for today’s listeners – and it’s not enough for movie-goers either.
The power of a movie script is not that it tells a story. The real power of a good script lies in its ability to draw viewers in emotionally, make them feel afraid when the lead character is in danger, happy when the hero falls in love, and sad when things fall apart. We don’t actually know these characters – they’re not even real – yet we care about them. What good is a story if you don’t care what happens to the people in it? Continue reading “How Is a Lyric Like a Movie Script?”
Let’s say you’ve just spent the afternoon writing a song and you feel you’ve got a good start on a first draft. The concept is strong, the structure feels right. Of course the lyric still needs work but you’re planning to go back and rewrite it.
But what about the melody? Will you go back and rewrite that, too? Or will you stick with the first idea that came to you?
Many times, a songwriter who wouldn’t dream of settling for a rough draft of a lyric, uses the first melody that comes along. Often these melodies are the result of old habits; they may sound dated and familiar. The writer might not even know that a melody can be rewritten, strengthened, and polished just like a lyric. To give your song the best chance for success, make sure your melody works hard to attract listeners and put your emotional message across!
=> Melody makes your song structure easy to follow
Listeners don’t like songs that seem to wander aimlessly. They like to know where they are and they like the feeling of structure that a good melody provides. To do that, create plenty of contrast between sections – verse, chorus, and bridge. Then the listener will know when they’re moving from one section to the next. Successful songs use some combination of these three techniques for adding contrast to a melody:
When NASA blasted a rocket into orbit, they did it in stages: The big lift-off, a second stage to get the payload into orbit and a third to fine tune the direction. So, what’s this got to do with writing lyrics? You can think of the lyric writing process in three stages:
- 1. Getting started. (Lift off)
- 2. Developing your idea. (Getting into orbit)
- 3. Rewriting (Fine tune it)
=> STAGE ONE: GETTING STARTED
Beginning the lyric writing process with a title can give you a central beacon that will keep your song lyric focused – very important if you want to keep listeners involved. Any short phrase you find emotionally intriguing – or simply an honest statement of how you feel – can work as a title. Make it something you want to write about.
Then make a list of questions the phrase suggests. These are the questions you’re going to answer in your song. Try questions like: What does this mean? Why do I need to say it? How does it feel? How did it happen? What do I think the consequences will be? Every phrase suggests different questions. And every songwriter will find different ones to ask. Continue reading “A Three-Stage Rocket to Lyric Writing”
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is a major hit song that’s a master class in songwriting for the Pop charts. Learn today’s hottest song structure for radio hits, plus ideas on how to write a great Pop lyric and build emotional energy into your melody. I’ll take you through this song step-by-step and show you simple exercises that will get you writing like the pro’s do!