The River's Badge

Friday, February 4, 2011

Okay, Lyric-Only Writers, You Can Flog Me Now




I've said some harsh, I guess you could say, things about lyric-only writers in previous blogs. However, I still stand by my statement: Lyrics are not songs. I think I said, unless you can strum them on a guitar, or plink them out on a keyboard, they're not songs. True!

I will, though, say that just sitting and writing lyrics is not as easy as it seems at first glance.

Not that hard, but not necessarily easy.

What brings me to this enlightenment? Simply, it's February, and that means it's time for FAWM, or more specifically, February Album Writing Month.

If you're familiar with my blog, FAWM means, in essence, write 14 songs in 28 days.

I still shudder in horror when I think about FAWM, 2010. Okay, horror isn't quite the right word. More like shudder in "exhaustion". I pushed myself really, really hard last year, to accomplish FAWM's goal, and I did it!

This year, however, I just didn't feel that I had the stamina to do what I did in 2010; yet I couldn't bring myself to NOT participate in FAWM (Once you've done it, you're hooked; really.)

So, the compromise? Write 14 lyrics.

I'm still part of the FAWM community; still an active participant; just not with the crushing commitment of not only writing the songs, but recording stupid demos of them as well.

So, all is good, right?

Sort of.

I find that I, in essence, do write the songs, at least in my head, while I conjure up the lyrics. It's the only way I know. And yea, I've got the chord progressions rattling around up there, too.

I, frankly, don't know how someone who doesn't know music can write a coherent lyric. It's not a matter of doing syllable counts, for God's sake. I mean, when you sing it, it's going to be totally different anyway. I wonder if lyric-only writers get bogged down in the minutia of making sure each line is exactly the same length as the one before it. Nobody sings that way!

So, okay, this does sound condescending, and I don't mean it to. But, on the other hand, since I've done, let's see, six lyrics now (and it's only February 4), I'm really itching to pick up the guitar and play the damn things. Having something echoing in your head is all well and good, but it's the same as fantasizing that Johnny Depp is going to swashbuckle on your doorstep and sweep you away (is "swashbuckle" a verb?) It's not reality; it's a fantasy.

Lyrics are NOT songs. You need a MELODY. You need somebody to SING them.

But anyway, if you want to know how to write songs, I did find this:

Have you ever wanted to write a song? (YES!) And maybe have it recorded by a famous singer? (SURE!) Maybe it could even hit the "top ten" chart? (WHY NOT?)

While this actually happens to some lyricists and songwriters, the chances are slim for a person to reach that height of success. But, what the heck! If you have an idea for a song, you might as well write it down and organize it into a song. Even if it never enters the front door of a recording studio, you will still have the bragging rights to your family and friends that you are a lyricist! (WOO-HOO!)

There is no set way to write the lyrics to a song, but there are a few basics that you will need to know in order to reach your goal. In this article, you will learn about organizing your own personal thoughts and turning them into song lyrics.

The first step is to write down who your audience is (NO ONE!). You will need to keep this in mind while writing the lyrics so you can target them (THE NON-EXISTENT AUDIENCE). After all, if you were writing a song for children you would certainly avoid adult material of any kind (HMMM....DEPENDS).

Next, write down the subject of the song ("JOHN BOUGHT A TRACTOR"), the idea or the message you want to convey ("I'M WRITING A SONG!), and the story the song will tell. The subject of the song might be falling in love; the message might be that there is someone for everyone; the story might tell of a man and a woman who meet and fall madly in love with each other (OKAY!).

This is a good time to write down the words to the chorus of the song. The chorus is a bridge or connection from one verse to the next (WELL, TECHNICALLY A "BRIDGE" IS A "BRIDGE", AND A CHORUS IS SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM A "BRIDGE", BUT WHY QUIBBLE, I GUESS?). It must make sense to sing the words of the chorus in between the verses. From the chorus, you will also need to make-up a catchy title for your song ("JOHN BOUGHT A TRACTOR").

The next step is to write a rough draft of the first verse of your song. This verse should draw attention to your song and make your audience want to listen. Don't worry about it being perfect at this point; you will refine all the verses and the chorus later (BELIEVE ME!).

Now, of course, you will need to write the second verse (UNLESS YOU WANT A REALLY SHORT SONG!). In this part you will need to continue to tell the story and explain what the action is. Don't be too detailed; this is a three minute song, not an opera (HOWEVER, DON'T BE TOO VAGUE, OR NO ONE WILL HAVE A CLUE WHAT IN THE HELL YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT; BELIEVE ME; I KNOW).

Next comes the third verse (SERIOUSLY? I'M FINE WITH TWO, THANK YOU). Tell more about your story here, and add relevant information to your story (SORT OF A LAUNDRY LIST, IF YOU WILL). You really want to enhance the story line from verses one and two, because the next verse will close the song (NEXT VERSE?? FOUR VERSES?? WHAT IS THIS, AMERICAN PIE??).

It's time to close the song (THANK GOD!) by writing the fourth verse and bring it all together like the last chapter of a book (I, PERSONALLY, WOULD SKIP THE FOURTH VERSE; AND THE THIRD, FOR THAT MATTER).

Finally, read over your lyrics and change your sentences into lines. After you have lines, you will need to go back and change the ending words so they will rhyme (OH, COME ON). Do this with the chorus too. Every lyric should be of relatively-equal length so the song will glide along and not be choppy (AND BE ROTE; LIKE A ROBOT).

After you have completed writing your song, you may decide to write the music for it too (YOU MAY!). Or, if composing is not your thing, you could work with someone who does compose and complete your song! (GOOD LUCK THERE, PAL!)


So, there you have it. How to write a lyric; all FOUR verses of it! You can thank me later.

Meanwhile, I guess, against my wishes, I'm going to have to take the acoustic out of mothballs, and whip up a few of my 2011 lyrics, or else I'm just going to be really mad at myself. And I've probably got enough people mad at me already; I don't need to pile on.

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