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Writing Lyrics

The most powerful song lyrics are the lyrics that touch you. I mean you, personally. Listening to music can be an intensely personal experience and you may feel that the artist is singing to you alone. At other times, a song can unify twenty thousand people (at a concert or a church for instance) and everyone feels the same thing at the same time and sings the same words together. What is common between these two situations is that you were “feeling” the song.

"I stay true to myself and my style, and I am always pushing myself to be aware of that and be original". - Aaliyah

Powerful stuff - Think about this for a minute, think of the power of music to change the way people think, the way people feel. Written with passion and purpose, a good song can change people’s lives! This should be the goal then when writing your words, to connect with your audience on a deep level.

There is nothing sugary or pop star about this process. The best songs hit you hard and deep, I’m not saying that your songs all need to be serious love songs, but you do need to get through to people. Some of the best songs are light and humorous, or present a common situation in a clever or funny new way. That’s how you get “hooked” into feeling the song.

"Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music". - Paul McCartney

Word pictures - Forming visual images with your words is an extremely effective story telling tool. Almost every memory development course uses visual images to help subjects remember important details, think of how much more memorable your song could be if you “paint a picture” for your listener. If your listener has a parade of images marching across their mind every time they hear your song, chances are that they will remember it and want to hear it again. Once you can instill a mental image of what your song sounds like, it becomes a feeling that is linked to your song. This is the emotional connection with your audience that you are looking for. Write what you feel and paint the picture for the listener. If you try to “write a hit song” you probably won’t, write what you are feeling, your viewpoint will connect with people and you will touch a nerve.

"I write music all the time. When I talk about having writer's block, it's more to do with lyrics than anything else". - Sarah McLachlan

A great hook - At the heart of a great song is a great hook. Most of the time this is a slightly different view on a common problem. Look around and think of an interesting or new way to say things that have been said already. Try to avoid the obvious clichés, or at least put a spin on it. The verse can be used to set up the hook at the end of the verse or in the choruses. It doesn’t hurt to have a few hooks in your song, but the main hook (in the chorus) should reflect the central theme or the title of your song.

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius". - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Try to tell the story from your point of view; this automatically makes it personal and more intimate. Write from the singer’s perspective and you will connect with your listener. Spotlight important ideas in your lyrics by placing them in the “power positions” in your songs. The start or end of the chorus, end of the verse, end of the bridge, or anywhere the music focuses on the vocal line. These are the positions where your lyrics WILL be heard. The main theme of the song needs to be re-enforced at these places of power in the song. People rarely hear a song from start to finish in an environment where they can give a song their undivided attention. You have to fight for the listener’s attention, over and over, so that even if they don’t hear every detail, they have a good idea of what your song is trying to say.

by Jeff Muller - from the book Write Hit Songs and Get Paid

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