Writing good lyrics is really tough!

kbold

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Interestingly, The Writer's Block seems to be tucked away in the corner here. It has only 92 threads and less than 3000 posts. Hmmm.
It's about quality here, rather than quantity.

But the point of this post is that after a lifetime of listening to the best and even the worst lyrics ever written, I should be able to write songs with great lyrics.
I find there's often a momentum factor .... if I have a theme to build upon, ideas/words/melody/tempo develop easily and quickly (but not always).
Other times the immovable (writers) block gives me no joy.
So .... as well as the combination of skills required to create a song, the starting point for me is the theme or story of the song.

Yes, I know it's subjective and that one person's 'good lyrics' may be another person's 'crap' lyrics.
Good lyrics don't necessarily make a good song ... so many factors in play. Poorly constructed or tepid melody often makes a bad or boring song (IMO) irrespective of the lyrics. (I perish the thought of writing a boring song.)
Many songs tend to have infantile, lame or overly-repetitive lyrics, yet the song is popular. Often due to a catchy melody or hook.

It's something you have to work on. The more songs you write, the more crappy songs you have in your arsenal ... but some of them may be gems. As you say, one persons ..................
 

chulaivet1966

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I have a couple more 'rough' tunes that I've recorded. I'll try to put them up here in the next few days. Actually, I was very self-conscious about putting my songs 'out there'. However, I started following this forum. Members were sharing their songs and lyrics with other members here. I said to myself 'what the hell",

Cool....I'll give 'em a spin.
If there's some specific aspect you want us to listen for let us know.

Oh boy...I hear you.
Song writing is such a personal endeavor and throwing them out there for the world to scrutinize takes some courage.
I agonized over every one of them as to whether they were worthy of my peers ears.
I still have to talk myself into saying...."what the hell" and just do it!
I have about 20 on my s/c page and about 10 or so on a soundcloud page which was (in a fashion) linked to Band In A Box software to showcase one's originals using their software.
You've done far more promotional involvement than myself so I do hope you get some favorable comments from those sites.

Have a great day amigos....
 

hemingway

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I've been following all of the posts here on lyric writing. I'm 71. I have been listening to music all of my life. My parents always listened to music. We had a big RCA tube radio and we had electricity so they weren't reliant on batteries. We had a record player as well.

For you younger TDPRIers whose parents didn't grow up during the 1930s Depression or in Newfoundland, they were doing well. 'Success' was pretty much defined as having a job/income that put food on the table, clothes on your back, and a roof over one's family's head. A radio and a record player were icing on the cake.

In the fifties, it was Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, et cetera. In the sixties it was The Beatles, Bob Dylan and so on.

I've been listening to "music all of my life". (I like my period 'outside' the quotation so apologies if this is not proper.) When I say "music" I mean the instrumental part AND the lyrics. That's what I'm getting at here. I have a real appreciation for a good melody BUT I really have appreciation for songs with 'good lyrics'. Yes, I know it's subjective and that one person's 'good' lyrics'may be another person's 'crap' lyrics.

But the point of this post is that after a lifetime of listening to the best and even the worst lyrics ever written, I should be able to write songs with great lyrics. Not so. I struggle with lyrics. I refuse to use computer-generated lyrics. I've read about such programs but 'no, thanks' - my lyrics have to come out of my pea-sized brain, lol.

Anyhow, that's just my two cents worth on lyric writing.

And while I have you here, have a listen to one of my efforts on my newly-opened SoundClick account.

http://www.soundclick.com/artist/default.cfm?bandiD=1478350

I like your song. And your voice.

People are either writers or they're not. But talent isn't enough. Good lyric writing involves honesty, honesty, and more honesty. Honesty till it hurts. In every way imaginable.
 

chulaivet1966

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Interestingly, The Writer's Block seems to be tucked away in the corner here. It has only 92 threads and less than 3000 posts. Hmmm.

My perception is that the majority of those who post up their original efforts here seem to be more into instrumental compositions rather than songs.
So...the "Writer's Block" may not be their 1st choice and determine they'll post in the "Recording In Progress" and "Twanger Central" forums.
Again...that's just my guess.
When I upload a song I've pretty much used the "Twanger Central" which it was designed for.

Mas cafe pare mi....have a great day.
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Hey, there, Tel!

Here's what I can tell you after 68 years on earth and over fifty years writing songs of zero acclaim:

You can't learn to write songs just by listening any more than you can learn to play guitar just by listening. It's exactly like learning an instrument. You have to sit down and do it — and do it and do it and do it.

Doing a lot of listening is an absolute requirement, though, so you have a good foundation. Writers all read a lot, painters and photographers all look a lot, and musicians all listen a lot.

It's easier if you celebrate whatever little benchmarks you achieve. For me, mastering an F chord when I was sixteen was a big deal! Writing my first blues song, my first cowboy song, and my first minor-key song were all cork poppers, too.

I'm like you: I have never and would never use a computer (or a book) to help me find words. What fun is that? If a word isn't in my head, it doesn't belong on the page.

Anyhow, best advice: Just have fun with it. In the words of my favorite lyricist, Robert Hunter, "This ain't no knock-down drag-out race!"

And since you ask: In British English, the period goes outside. In American English, it goes inside.
 
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jtees4

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So many great songs had crappy lyrics. But they worked. That's the key. Don't think lyrics have to be anything special...they're not. If the song is good, it won't matter. If the song becomes a hit....it will never ever matter.
 

telestratosonic

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Also (although you didn't ask), a period in British English is called a full stop.
(Thought I'd add this because I had to look up what a period was, being from a British colony.)
Interesting. Like Australia, Canada was a British colony until 1867. I grew up in Newfoundland, a former British colony. I was conceived there; my mother was two months pregnant with me when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.
We always used 'period' instead of 'full stop' though.
 

loopfinding

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generally the only lyrics i really like are either in country or hip hop. otherwise i find most stuff elsewhere is on a scale from "cringey" to "inoffensive." i tend to just tune them out.
 

kbold

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Interesting. Like Australia, Canada was a British colony until 1867. I grew up in Newfoundland, a former British colony. I was conceived there; my mother was two months pregnant with me when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.
We always used 'period' instead of 'full stop' though.
Sounds like perhaps a little grammar leakage from the south.
 

telestratosonic

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Sounds like perhaps a little grammar leakage from the south.
Probably. The first US military base in Newfoundland was built on the edge of the capital, St. John's, not long after the Pearl Harbor attack on 07 December 1941. There were US military bases scattered around the island and at Goose Bay, Labrador.

Something like 25,000 Newfoundland women married US servicemen. The last US military base - the naval base at Argentia, Newfoundland - closed in 1995.

Yes, I definitely agree on the possibility of grammar leakage. Where I grew up, there were American (long gone now though) and Canadian military bases.
 

kbold

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Probably. The first US military base in Newfoundland was built on the edge of the capital, St. John's, not long after the Pearl Harbor attack on 07 December 1941. There were US military bases scattered around the island and at Goose Bay, Labrador.

Something like 25,000 Newfoundland women married US servicemen. The last US military base - the naval base at Argentia, Newfoundland - closed in 1995.

Yes, I definitely agree on the possibility of grammar leakage. Where I grew up, there were American (long gone now though) and Canadian military bases.
Theme for a song hidden in there. Soon the lyrics and lines will come flying at you .... catch them as they pass.
 

catdaddy

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Yes, writing good lyrics is hard work. Well no, it's actually really hard work. Saying something in a way that no one else has done while matching the mood and meter of the music is something akin to riding a camel through the eye of a needle. And as has been mentioned, many a popular song has been successful without a great lyric. So, as a songwriter is all that hard work really worth it? Depends. If it matters to you, the writer, then it's worth it. It was worth it to Guy Clark, to Townes Van Zandt, and to Eric Taylor to name just a few of my favorites in the Country Music genre.

While listening to "A Good Day's When I Don't Think About Her" I hear a fine melody and song structure as well as some elements of good lyric writing such as going for the metaphor of the "broken wagon wheel" and using the internal rhyme of rain and pain. Nice! The difference between your lyric and what Guy, Townes or Eric might have written under the same title is that those guys would have not only let the listener know about the pain they're feeling, but they'd also reveal details as to how they've come to that place, a backstory to make it personal instead of didactic. You're not far from that with what you've written. Just work on adding those story-telling details (the betrayal? the drifting apart? the untimely death? the decent into the bottle?) to bring the listener into your very personal emotional world. Tell us the how and why to draw us in, and by all means keep writing! You're close.
 

telestratosonic

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Yes, writing good lyrics is hard work. Well no, it's actually really hard work. Saying something in a way that no one else has done while matching the mood and meter of the music is something akin to riding a camel through the eye of a needle. And as has been mentioned, many a popular song has been successful without a great lyric. So, as a songwriter is all that hard work really worth it? Depends. If it matters to you, the writer, then it's worth it. It was worth it to Guy Clark, to Townes Van Zandt, and to Eric Taylor to name just a few of my favorites in the Country Music genre.

While listening to "A Good Day's When I Don't Think About Her" I hear a fine melody and song structure as well as some elements of good lyric writing such as going for the metaphor of the "broken wagon wheel" and using the internal rhyme of rain and pain. Nice! The difference between your lyric and what Guy, Townes or Eric might have written under the same title is that those guys would have not only let the listener know about the pain they're feeling, but they'd also reveal details as to how they've come to that place, a backstory to make it personal instead of didactic. You're not far from that with what you've written. Just work on adding those story-telling details (the betrayal? the drifting apart? the untimely death? the decent into the bottle?) to bring the listener into your very personal emotional world. Tell us the how and why to draw us in, and by all means keep writing! You're close.
Thanks, catdaddy. Greatly appreciated.
 

DADGAD

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Writing good lyrics is tough. Sure. But like anything else in life it is a skill that you can learn and develop. Being a good guitarist does not come easy. It’s the same way with composing.

Elton John once mentioned that he has written over 100,000 songs and most of them stink. But he kept at it and he had a bit of success.

Years ago I took classes on lyric writing. The instructor, who was brutal to me the first semester, asked me back the following semester to co-teach. You want to learn something? Study. There are no shortcuts. Our particular textbook was, “The Craft Of Lyric Writing” by Sheila Davis. I think it is still available.

I tackle lyrics like it is a movie that I must deliver in 4 minutes. Draw them in and make them want to listen. Hook the listener. Make it memorable. Make it emotionally universal. No one wants to buy a song about your green parakeet who escaped because... not everyone owns a green parakeet. But everyone knows about love, anger, disappointment and success. You want to sell records, right?

A lyric is not a poem. But read poetry for inspiration. Avoid worked-to-death rhymes like “moon and June” or “love and above”. There are many others but you get the idea.

Study a favorite song. Why do you like it? What makes it good? Is there a marriage of music style and the lyric? Happy, sad etc.

Learn the rules of the lyrical road. The guardrails are there to protect you from crashing. Once you learn the rules, you can be brave and break them.

“We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.”
― Arthur O'Shaughnessy
 

kbold

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And here's another punctuation mark I'll bet you've never heard the name of: ?!
Well ... it's morning here; just woke up and already I've learnt something new; interrobang. It's the logo for the NSW state library, so I should have known of it. Actually I didn't know the library had a logo, or what it was, so I've learnt lots of new things this morning.

The interrobang may be a subversive plot, since "The interrobang was first proposed in 1962 by ..... Speckter."
I'm sure the British Secret Service is onto this with their best man.

That's all for now. Period. (Wait ... I follow the word period with a period?!)
 




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