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Lyric Writing 101: Part Four - Articles Surfing
This is Part four of my Lyric Writing guide. Here you will find general writing tips to apply to your lyric. Includes information on drafts, hooks and re-writing.
As I have stated in other parts of this guide, I cannot tell you word for word how to write lyrics. Everyone has their own writing style and methods that work for them. Experiment with your writing and find what works for you. What you will find in this section is some general tips that you may find helpful in the writing process. These tips can be applied to any writing style, whether you write the melody and lyric together or do each separately. By combining this guide with the Hints and Tips sections of other Parts in this series you will be well on your way to writing lyrics.
It doesn't really matter where in the lyric you start. Some start at the first verse and continue from there, others come up with a chorus or hook and work around that. There are even some people who start anywhere in the piece and work from there. Personally, I've written a couple of lyrics from the last verse back to the first and found that they work perfectly. Whatever you feel comfortable with and works for you is fine.
What is a Hook?
A hook is generally a catchy or repetitive section of a song. This can occur in both the melody and the lyric of a song. Lyrical hooks generally come into play as the chorus of a song but they can occur in other places of the song. Another type of lyrical hook that is not always used is the first line. It can be an opportunity to grab the listeners' attention, introduce the subject and help establish the mood of the song.
One of my favourite hooks is taken from Eminem's ‘Lose Yourself' from the 8 Mile soundtrack. You notice that the hook not only applies to the song but also gives ties into the theme of the movie.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo
Keep it simple. A hook doesn't have to be complex to work. Songs written by The Beatles are a perfect example of this. In Paul McCartney's song “Band on the Run” he simply sang this phrase four times in a row, and it is still a popular song today. Look towards established bands like this and take note how they make use of hooks.
* -- * Don't focus so much on the hook that other parts of your lyric suffer. A hook is basically a starting point of your song, something that ties your lyric together. Every part of the song has to be worked together to make it as strong as possible.
How do you know when a lyric is completed? As with how to go about the writing process, there are many views on how a lyric is finished. Some believe that there is somewhat special about a first draft – that it's the purest expression of what you have in mind. Others just keep writing until they have the number of verses and choruses they need, then stop.
It may be in your best interest to write more than what is needed, and pick out the “best bits” for the final version. Don't ignore a weak verse, play around with it or completely rework it, if you just settle for second best, it will be noticeable to the listener and can draw away from the intended impact of the piece. As with any form of writing, editing plays a major part in arriving to the final draft.
* -- * Don't discard unused portions of your lyric; you may be able to adapt them to a different project. Just because they didn't work or fit into this particular piece doesn't mean that it won't work with another one. The first verse of my piece Never There [ http://www2.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/738776 ] actually started off as a verse in my piece Forsaken [ http://www2.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/716277 ].
Take A Break
After you have written your lyric, take a break and leave it alone for a day or two. This is especially important if you have spent a long time working on it. This will help you when you re-evaluate the lyric. Chances are you may still be happy with it but there is also the opportunity to see areas that may benefit from re-writing. Don't get distressed if this occurs. By distancing yourself from the lyric you are able to see the piece with “fresh eyes” and edit accordingly, making the lyric stronger.
Rewriting is an important part of the writing process; don't fall into the trap of refusing to edit your work. As writers we use many excuses [both consciously and unconsciously] to avoid editing. We all would like to believe that our work is perfect the moment we put down the pen. The truth of the matter is it is very rare for the final draft of a piece to be exactly the same as the first draft. Sometimes it can be as simple as giving the finished lyric a quick polish, other times, it may need a bit of reworking to make the lyric look and sound its best.
Read the lyric out aloud, dismiss all music from it. Is there some part or phrase that catches on the tongue or sounds awkward? If it reads awkward then it will transfer the same when adding music to it. Speak them aloud several times; you should be able to hear what works and what doesn't. You should be able to notice some of the inconsistencies straight away. Once you identify these weaknesses, you can set to work at strengthening your lyric. You want your lyric to be the best it can be, don't be tempted to settle for something that sounds ‘okay' or ‘works'. Have a break and go back to it when you feel more refreshed.
When you have done as much as you can by yourself, get a second opinion from a friend or band member – it's possible that they can pick up something you have missed, or even help you with a part you're stuck with.
It is possible to rework a piece several times before going back to one of the first rewrites you did [I've done this myself on several occasions]. This can be rather frustrating sometimes, especially if you have spent a long time trying to rework the lyric. Don't look at this too negatively, all it means is that you have looked at the alternatives, analysed them and discovered which works the best. You would not have known this unless you edited the lyric in the first place.
In upcoming articles for this series I will cover hints and tips for writing in specific genres – keep your eyes open for them.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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