“How can I write good lyrics?”

The answer seems simple: write about something that inspires, touches and moves you. That’s the fundamental factor that will make things easier and allow you to write a great and heartfelt song.
But even then, how can we make sure our lyrics are not boring or predictable? After all, songwriters from all over the world have been writing songs for centuries…

A good way to achieve that is to find new ways to talk about “old stuff”.
If you’re going to talk about love, for example, you may want to find a better line than simply “I love you”, “your eyes are beautiful”, etc… John Mayer came up with “Your Body Is A Wonderland”, a sweet and interesting way to express his love towards his girlfriend. And that song won Mayer a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2003!

A great tool available in literacy to make our lines interesting is figures of speech, which is “figurative language in the form of a single word or phrase”. It usually takes longer to explain them than giving few examples, so here are a few of them that I like to use.

One of my favourite figure of speech is the metaphor. Do you remember from school what a simile is? Something like “You’re beautiful like a flower”? Right, the metaphor is the same thing but does not use “like” or “as”.  In this case, it would be “You’re a flower”.
An example may be “Love is a razor and I walked the line on that silver blade” from “The Evil That Men Do” by Iron Maiden. What better way to say that love hurts and the main character of the song is heartbroken?

Another popular figure of speech is the oxymoron, which puts together two contradictory elements, like Simon & Garfunkel’s famous song “The Sound Of Silence”. How can silence make any sound??

The number of figures of speech available to us songwriters is huge. Just have a look at some of them and get inspired: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure_of_speech
You may also find unusual and clever images to describe a specific situation or topic.Take “Hide And Seek” by Imogen Heap for example. Take the line that goes “The dust has only just begun to fall, crop circles in the carpet, sinking, feeling”. I remember my songwriting teacher saying that line refers to when Imogen broke up with her boyfriend, who then moved out from the house they used to live in. Those circles are the marks left by the furniture, which prevented the dust from falling on some portions of the floor. Now the furniture has been taken away and those circles are visible on the floor, which tells us somebody has moved out. WOW!

Good songs often picture images that strike people’s imagination.
Think of Mayer’s “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”, which gives a strong and vivid idea of what the relationship between the author and her girlfriend feels like.

And what about Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”?”We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl”… That line always made my imagination take over!

Let’s keep in mind that all these devices are just “spices” that you want to put on top of “good food”, that is a good story that moves you, to make it “tastier”. If the food is “bad”, as in if you don’t feel inspired or don’t know what to write about, just take the time to listen to and get inspired by a great song like the following, where all the elements we’ve seen today have been used:

Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (originally written by Leonard Cohen)

I first came across the band Goat on a compilation cd made for me and was totally in love with their song ‘Run to your Mama’, which is a heavily rhythmical and driving song that makes you move, shake and head bang and has a raw, passionate, aggressive punk vocal style from the two female singers….wailing chants almost… Goat are a Swedish band that wear masks and costumes during performances which make for a spectacular live show!

Their performative style is tribal and the smoke machine, costumes and dancing are theatrical. I saw them at Glastonbury this year and was blown away by their energy and originality- Like finding oneself in an anarchic tribal rock fire dance! They combine rhythms from world music (like Bhangra) and 70’s style rock guitar riffs exploding into experimental and exciting electric guitar solos. The rock guitarists are really the stars of this band… The repetitive and driving rhythm provides a solid foundation for the guitars to totally let rip! …And they do!! Nobody really knows who the band members are ( aside from Christian Johansson) and they remain masked in every performance. This not only brings mystery but disguises the musicians, reinforcing the collaborative spirit of this band rather than focussing on individuals!

A little more information…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat_(band)

If you would love to see them in action…

For reviews! …

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/sep/28/new-band-goat

Ah, my first blog, *gives one’s self a pat on the back*. For those of you who are reading and don’t know me, I’m Rebecca Devereux: a newbie to the wonderful team at Song Academy. I started in January, assisting at Tuesday’s school in Chelsea, and despite having written and studied song-writing from an early age, I feel I’ve learnt more in the last few weeks about what it takes to be a great songwriter than ever before. Over the next few weeks, I hope to record my findings and explore this creative practice through a series of blogs and interviews with current artists and songwriters in the industry; but first, I thought it might be interesting to explore my own process…

11.25 p.m. Jan 20th, 2015.

I can’t sleep. I sit staring at a blank page in my old, tatty ‘musical musings’ notepad. A brand new inky pen is perched neatly next to it and 88 untouched piano keys glare back at me. You see, song-writing has always been a therapeutic process for me. I had practically filled my tatty ‘musical musings’ notepad during my first term at university, in the midst of dealing with homesickness and many nights of disrupted sleep. Instead of lying in bed and allowing my mind to race, I would sit beside my Yamaha keyboard and scribble my thoughts into a miraculously organised poetical form. A melody would surface just as quickly as the lyrics had tumbled from my busy brain onto the blank page. In what seemed like no time at all, a new song had been born. My mind would begin to settle and I would very often fall asleep on the keys that were responsible for lulling me, very quickly, back to normality.

I always found it funny, if unsurprising, that my most inspired moments and creative ‘splurges’ often occurred at my most difficult times. Emotionally fuelled events in my day-to-day life were often followed by a mad rush to find my nearest piano, paper, pen and recording device. On reflection, I must have known the lyrical content of my songs would relate to a listening audience—I was not the first to face these life troubles and I certainly wouldn’t be the last—yet they were rarely, if ever, publicly performed. It felt like the equivalent of reciting my personal diary to a room full of strangers, it just didn’t feel right. I was scared of being judged. I felt as vulnerable as an insect under a giant magnifying glass.

Eager to perform and test my wavering nerves, I began practising song-writing with stricter boundaries and make-believe content. Instead of writing songs that struck a personal chord, I would create fictional characters, fictional lives, fictional highs and fictional lows. A blues song about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. A folk song about a sparrow who struggles to take its first flight. A jazz tune about the man who lives on the moon and, most recently, an acoustic tune about a Tyrannosaurus rex who plays a ukulele… seriously. It certainly made it a lot easier for me to perform, knowing that I wasn’t inviting people in to peek inside the story of my life, but in terms of my connection with the audience, I felt that something was missing. I felt like I had lost a bond of some sort, a trust, a sincerity.

12.04am. Jan 20th, 2015.

I look down at my notepad. Still empty. The unused pen is looking rather sorry for itself now. I think back to my first few sessions assisting at the academy: the freedom of the children’s writing, and their natural ability to balance their own life experiences, likes and dislikes with intriguing, fictional, interesting stories. Using song-writing as a form of self-expression, to a degree, seemed to be a rather instinctive process for them. Whether they write a fictional lyric, or detail a personal life event, the sincerity of their songs is reflected in the imagery and melodic and harmonic content that seems most natural to them. I’m so proud to be mentoring these young creative minds, and feel as though I am learning just as much from them as they are from me. Suddenly, I find myself scribbling and the empty page is soon full. Personal stories and symbolic imagery weave together like colourful tapestry. A new song is born, and now it’s time to sleep…

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What you will need: A pen & paper

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What you will need: Paper and a pen as usual, and lots of creativity.

MISSION

Your mission this half-term week is to write your own new lyrics to the tunes of popular short songs that we all know. The tricky part is to make your new lyrics fit with the rhythm of the melody. Just substitute your new words for the original words of the song but remember to keep the original tune.

The themes and ideas are for you to decide – anything goes, but try and make them as different from the original words as possible. Please post your ideas as I’d love to see what you come up with.

Tuesday:

Row, row, row your boat

Gently Down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

Wednesday:

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!

One for the master, one for the dame,

And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

Thursday:

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines

Ding dang dong, ding dang dong.

Friday:

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.

Saturday:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,

See how they run, see how they run,

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a thing in your life,

As three blind mice?

Sunday:

It’s raining; it’s pouring.

The old man is snoring.

He went to bed and bumped his head,

And he couldn’t get up in the morning.

* See if you can sing all your new short songs through in one go as if they were the different sections in one song. Make up your own structure – decide which short song will be the Chorus and which will be the Verses. Maybe you could even make one into a Bridge or Pre-Chorus? See what works best for you, or you could try the structure out-lined below:

Verse 1

Pre-Chorus/Bridge

Chorus

Verse 2

Pre-Chorus/Bridge

Chorus

Instrumental/Middle 8/Bridge

Chorus

Note: Some people call the names of the different sections different things but they all make sense.

What you will need: paper and a pen

MISSION

Write a limerick a day.

What is a limerick? A limerick is a short and funny nonsense poem. There are 5 lines in total. Lines 1 and 2 must rhyme, lines 3 and 4 must rhyme and the 5th line must rhyme with lines 1 and 2. The poem has a strong sense of rhythm like the lyrics in a song. I have written an example limerick below to show you how it goes.

There was an old man from Bahrain
Who flew up to France on a plane
But he sat on a pin
And cried what a sin
So next time he flew down to Spain

I will provide you with the first line of the limerick for each day of this week . I want to see how bizarre and comical you can make them sound. Upload yours in the comment section below to show-off and compare your creative and crazy limerick lyrics.

Monday: There was a mad man called Liar

Tuesday: I met a pink pig from the farm

Wednesday: I have many of sweets that are red

Thursday: The roof-tops are covered in honey

Friday: There was a young girl at the church

Saturday: There was a young boy made of candy

Sunday: See if you can make a different tune up for each limerick and sing them to your friends and family.

Have fun and come back for another fun activity next week.