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May, 2012

"Songwriting Tips for Lyrics"

by Webmaster

There is a songwriting tips page on Colorado Sandstorm Music. A new one is added each week. Some of the tips refer to lyrics, some to music, some to attitude, some to general knowledge, some to inspiration.

Since I have been overwhelmed with an abundance of opportunities right now, and some of those may turn into a future column (or 3), I'm short of time.

So, I'll use some of the songwriting tips for lyrics here this month. Next month's column will be on songwriting tips for music.

"Read a lot." — Chuck Cannon

"Read all Hank Williams lyrics." — Chuck Cannon

"The only way you develop a language is by using it a lot." — Chuck Cannon

"Learn to write simply." — Chuck Cannon

"Hard rhymes help people remember your song." — Chuck Cannon

"Hard rhymes are important. ... Hard rhymes are a tool, not a rule. ... I'm not going to sacrifice what I mean to say on the altar of hard rhymes." — Chuck Cannon

"Be careful asking questions in a song. You can't answer them. It's confusing to the listener to switch characters." — Rob Hatch

"Don't change the timing to get the rhyme." — Rob Hatch

"Someone once told me, 'Don't build a bridge over a puddle.'" — Rob Hatch

"Sheryl Crow said, 'The verse is for me. The chorus is for them.'" — Danny Myrick

"There's a saying in Nashville, 'Paint it; don't say it.'" — Danny Myrick

"A good song should tell a story in as few words as possible.  Self-editing includes the elimination of unnecessary words, lines, verses.  If you don't know how to do that, check out 'Not Quite What I Was Planning' a collection of 6-word memoirs by Smith Magazine, and Ridley Scott's global film making competition, 'Tell It Your Way,' which limits films to 3 minutes and 6 lines of dialog." — Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Sandy Reay

"Part of what you write in lyrics is what you don't write." — Steve Seskin

"If you use the same chorus in a song, it should get deeper each time you repeat it." — Steve Seskin

"You write a song because you have something to say that's worth saying." — Steve Seskin

"What I've written in a song almost always tells me what to write next." — Steve Seskin

"When you are 'finished' with a good first-draft of your song, always do a tense check. Make sure that your song is consistently in present, past or future tense. If the tense changes, make sure that the change is appropriate and that the shift is not confusing or awkward. If the tense is not critical to the meaning of the song, keep in mind that present tense conveys more immediacy than past tense and can help to put the listener 'in' your song." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Don't overlook your song's point of view. Plan A should always be to write your song either in first ('I') or second ('you') person. This puts your song directly in the head of the listener and lets them identify with the people in the song. Third-person ('he' or 'she') is much more abstract and requires the listener to imagine another person or even two other people, disconnected both from them and from your 'voice'." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Doodle. Write random lists of words or ideas or phrases that pop into your head. This keeps the creative brain pipes flowing, kind of like leaving the water running a trickle to keep plumbing form freezing. Later, the words, ideas or pictures might trigger an idea for a song. I find this to be particularly productive in sensory-rich environments, like a public place. Places that are good 'people-watching' locations can be very stimulating creatively. You may not be able to write in this environment, but your brain will be going a mile a minute. Don't waste the energy." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Keep it simple. We are writing popular (we hope!) songs, not great American novels. When songs get too complex, especially lyrically, the listener finds it harder to relate to your song and understand what you are saying." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"This is profoundly true if you are trying to write 'hit' songs, but it also applies even to you 'true artists.' Simpler songs have more impact and a longer life than complicated songs." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"NEVER take yourself or your song too seriously. You see, creativity lurks in a mysterious region of the brain known as the 'Songwriter's Ganglion.' This is a one-celled structure located immediately between the reptilian brain and the Three Stooges brain. So keep it simple, keep it fun and keep it at least a little bit stupid and you'll be fine." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Keep your lyrics conversational. One of the items on your 'so-you-think-you're-finished' checklist should be 'Would this person really say that if we were talking in real life?'" — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Harlan Howard said famously that a great song is three chords and the truth. Personally, I don't care if you use one chord or twenty chords, as long as it works, but you damned well better tell the truth. Stilted, unnatural, grandiose, convoluted or pretentious language rings false. It exposes the artifice of the song. This is the problem I have with Country music's penchant for overly 'clever' hooks. Far too often, there is not enough song there, just some guy's idea of a clever twist on words and barely enough song to deliver it." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Keep things simple, direct, honest and clear. Stick to your message and resist the urge to play too many semantical tricks." — Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Think like a painter. Develop your palette. Some songwriters fall into ruts, always crafting songs out of the same limited set of parts. Try to spice up your lyrics with words that convey emotion, or color or movement. Look for adjectives that don't necessarily fit the noun, but add to the meaning of your song. For example, instead of 'blue neon,' say 'lonely neon.'" —— Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Read. Read about aongwriting and music. Read 'This is Your Brain on Music,' Pat Pattison's 'Writing Better Lyrics,' '88 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them: Concrete Ways to Improve Your Songwriting and Make Your Songs More Marketable,' '101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them: How to Craft and Sell Your Songs,' songwriting books by Sheila Davis and Jason Blume, 'FutureHit.DNA' by Jay Frank. and Bob Lefsetz' blog." — unknown

"Even when there's not a joke or a hook, the first line has to be good and snap 'em to attention. Songs ain't novels. You don't have 30 pages to slowly wrap somebody in. They're more like short stories or poems. If the first line hasn't grabbed them, you won't get to the second line. Once you've developed an audience, you may have some luxury and trust, so you don't have to knock 'em over the head with line one." — Dan Bern, quoted by J. Poet in "Dan Bern: Just Getting Started," Sing Out! Autumn '11 / Winter '12

"Read articles, blogs, books, columns, comics, e-zines, magazines, etc. that feature word play. Google puns, shaggy dog stories, double entendres, spoonerisms, oxymorons, malapropisms, mnemonics, Tom Swifties, redundancies, ambiguities and paraprosdokians. Play with words. It may add creative adjectives and images to your song. It may even give you the hook for your song." — Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Sandy Reay

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