Thread: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

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  1. #21
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    The rhyme scheme of ABBAA is interesting. Here is a five-line stanza verse, which is a bit of a long distance. My thought here is that the initial "A" rhyme, bridging the interceding "BB" couplet, and finally paying back with the last "AA" couplet, does two things. First, it holds the whole thing together as a unit. If it was AABBC, or something similar to that, then with more than four lines, you'd perceive it as being not one long thought, but more as several joined couplets. It might even play out as two verses jammed together, or as a verse with a transition line into the chorus! The rhyme scheme helps to hold it together as a unit.

    Also, the rhyme scheme ABBAA does one other thing...it PROVIDES ACCELERATION into whatever comes next! If the rhyme scheme was AABBA, I'd suggest (depending on LOTS of other factors) that the rhyme scheme would be helping to HOLD THINGS BACK, and PREVENT acceleration.
    It's setting up the pre-chorus. [edit] It's part of the pre-chorus. But rather than dance about architecture, here are the other factors. (I'm not changing the lyrics regardless, just so you know)

    Warmth of the Sunshine 012007

    I have an exercise that I do when looking for rhymes. This harkens back to the point that nobby and fulcrum were making earlier, that the LYRIC STORY is the key to the whole thing. This is true. One valid exercise (out of many) is to do what I do...write down a paragraph of prose, that conveys the thought you're trying to put across. (prose being simple, straight text). Often this little mini-paragraph of text includes some kind of "key phrase" or "hook" or "interesting turn of words" that you like, that FEELS like the basis of a lyric. You take this short paragraph, and just read it naturally, and identify the "strong" words...the ones that are important. You re-write the paragraph to put those words into STRONG STRESS positions within the form, perhaps making these words the end of lines. Next, you identify the line that will most likely rhyme, and see if there's a logical natural choice to replace the word you've got in there. Often there is.

    So...START with strong story... FIND the words of strength...ARRANGE the prose into a verse form, with those strong words in key spots...and REPLACE words around them to accomplish a rhyme.
    That's a good description of what I do, though I don't think about it consciously.
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  2. #22
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Want to check out a really clever use of rhyme? Shortly, jennbeast's tune will be up on the RotationStation. Here's her chorus:

    JennBeast - Wish

    and I would

    Be...
    The...
    En-...
    vy...

    Of everyone I knew
    but it would be an empty
    kingdom without you


    Its an ABAB chorus, that because of the rhythmic pattern applied, becomes two sections, ABBA/CAC. Now, that's a very sophisticated and effective use of a rhyme pattern to put a choke-hold on the momentum of the tune, and make it do EXACTLY what she wants.

    Very nice!

    dwoz
  3. #23
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    So, over the next few weeks....
    Weeks?

    Please Sir may I have some more?
  4. #24
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Lyrics are a great topic, one that has been a longstanding challenge for me as a songwriter who's always tried to do things a little differently.

    I must admit that I find the majority of modern rock and pop lyrics are utterly insulting in their simplicity, overuse of well-worn cliches and formula-toting-ness. (Yes, thats a technical term...heh heh)

    I've long held "The Abstractionists" in very high esteem -- Michael Stipe, Tori Amos, Gord Downie & Thom York in particular. They have somehow managed to weave a poetic tapestry using imagery, phonetics and emotive 'touchpoint words' that have raised the Lyric to equal standing with the art that supports it.

    Lyrics are the part of songwriting I struggle the most with. The thought of putting something out there which says something I can't firmly stand behind -- or worse, doesn't say anything at all! -- is so utterly terrifying. To the poster above who said if they just need a bunch of 2nd verses and would then have a bunch of new songs ... very very true. I'm battling the same thing right now.

    If anyone cares (I know, I'm new around here), here's some rough rough solo recordings of a few things I'm working on for my new band. Many of you folks play by different rules than I, so your feedback -- both positive and negative, is most welcome.
    www.myspace.com/lesjupes
  5. #25
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Join

    by dwoz (David Wozmak) (c)2007

    verse

    If you stayed another night
    would it really make a difference
    we both know its a lie
    but would that get in the way?

    You know I have to try
    to break through the indifference
    to strike dry tinder spark
    to make truth out of inference

    chorus
    So, here we are
    at the flashpoint
    We stand apart
    in the crucible of dreams
    Awaiting the chance
    to dance
    and claim the space between

    where you and I would join
    and never be the same again

    verse
    So the game is over, so you say
    but you're still playing, anyway
    I will follow to a certain point
    before the trail becomes too cold

    The story's old, and it unfolds
    like so many stories yet untold
    and still I know that this one's different
    Please just tell me this one's different

    chorus
    So, here we are
    at the flashpoint
    we stand apart
    in the crucible of dreams
    Awaiting the chance to dance
    and claim the space between

    Where you and I would join
    and never be the same again

    verse
    Did you think I was the type
    to wait alone, to stand apart
    to make some offhand vow
    to take a hollow promise?

    It's not that I
    want to see you compromised
    or cut back down to size
    but you must realize

    chorus
    That here we are
    At the flashpoint
    we stand apart
    in the crucible of dreams
    awaiting the chance to dance
    and claim the space between

    Where you and I would join
    and never be the same again..
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

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  6. #26
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    So, I was experimenting with something in JOIN...


    The idea of the ACCELERATED RHYME.


    that song rhymed more than any song I've written in the last year.


    The story's old, and it unfolds
    like so many stories yet untold.


    I am VERY fond of that line. it features an ACCELERATED RHYME.

    sometimes that's called an INTERNAL rhyme. old-unfolds.

    When we're writing verse stanzas, we set up a PATTERN of emphasis, that has a payoff at the end of it, a rhyme. This couplet packs a punch, because it breaks that pattern, and gives you the rhyme closure early, then repeats it.

    "Awaiting the chance (to dance)"

    another accelerated rhyme. It increases the 'pace' of the vocal, gives a sense of building.

    very cool, very effective tool in the kit.

    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  7. #27
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Effective lyrics.


    what makes a lyric effective? I want a debate here. I think its when we manage to abstract and capture a core emotion, and then place it INSIDE THE LISTENER'S CONTEXT.


    I'm a big fan of the word CONTEXT when thinking about music, and it's affect on people.

    ABSTRACT...


    ...SIMPLIFY....

    ....FIND THE CORE....


    ....RE-STATE.


    that's the pattern that makes people FEEL it for you.


    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  8. #28
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Lyrics convey EMOTION.


    Emotion is ephemeral.


    It's allegorical. You have to try to take your own PAIN and make it resonate for others.

    THat's extremely difficult. You end up sounding trite, or condescending, or sappy.

    or cliche.

    GOD, please deliver me from cliche.

    I have been (rightly) accused of being too erudite, too wordy, too intellectual, in my lyrics.

    I used the word "denouement" fer krissakes. (team hinterland..."When you couldn't believe")

    WHO uses the word "denouement"????


    but that was a pretty good couplet:

    "The feeding frenzy, the voyeur's amusement
    Vicarious libel and false denouement"



    Something that I feel is underused and VERY POWERFUL, is the "anti-rhyme".

    Alliteration! (Feeding Frenzy)

    it gives that same sense of acceleration that you get with a rhyme.

    Alliteration is a GOOD TOOL for our kit.

    In the above lyric couplet, the words "Voyeur" and "Vicarious" also form an alliteration pair. It creates even More acceleration.

    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  9. #29
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Syllabic Emphasis


    The rhyme scheme is certainly important to make a bit of prose "seem" like a lyric.

    But there's something that's far more important. It's the STRESS PATTERN in the words themselves.

    All spoken language has stress patterns. Any pairing of two syllables has one of them being STRONGER, and one of them being WEAKER.

    When you string a few words together into a line, you now have created a RHYTHM, of the words themselves. The pattern of strong/weak.

    Probably better spoken as "emphasized/de-emphasized".

    Let's look back at Join, for a moment:

    (If you )stayed another night
    (would it) really make a difference
    (we )both know it's a lie
    (but would) that get in the way;

    (you) Know I have to try
    (to) break through the indifference
    (to) strike dry tinder spark
    (to) make truth out of inference

    If you look at this in relation to the music, you see that all the strong syllabic marks fall on the beat, and the weak syllabic marks fall off the beat.

    Also, the strong/weak pattern is repeated throughout the verse, on all the lines. This creates a sense of cohesion, a sense that it hangs together as a unit.

    Note, also, that all the lines have a pickup, the lines are started on the upbeat, coming in to "one". Considering the rather "weak" rhyme scheme in this stanza, it helps to "box" the stanza, and close the pattern.

    Rhyme-wise...'night', 'lie', and 'way' are what could be considered imperfect rhymes. But the continuance of the rhyme pattern into the second stanza ('try'), and the continuance of the rhyme scheme around the 'ifference' words, also help to 'box' the pattern as being closed by the end of the 2nd stanza.

    Making sure that "strong" syllables end up in emphasis points in the music, is a fairly important part of writing verses that hold together. putting 'weak' syllables on strong beats, or even mis-stressing words, can be used, but it's the rare instance where that really helps you.


    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  10. #30
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    what makes a lyric effective? I want a debate here. I think its when we manage to abstract and capture a core emotion, and then place it INSIDE THE LISTENER'S CONTEXT.
    Saying something old in a new way. Finding a new metaphor that personalizes it-- yes, of course, for the listener; but first of all for the lyricist. It needs to be of prime importance to the writer first, in order that when communicated properly it resonates with the listener to some degree.

    Of course the lyricist is working within the constraint that someone will hopefully eventually sing his/her lyric, and may need to adjust for that fact by not using certain words, like, well, denouement-- unless there is absolutely no other word that describes the situation.
  11. #31
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    ...putting 'weak' syllables on strong beats, or even mis-stressing words, can be used, but it's the rare instance where that really helps you.
    Straight from the Alanis Morrisette playbook. Just when I'm about to cozy up to a lyric of hers, there's that misplaced emPHAsis on a sylLABle that makes me cringe. I often miss the next few words she sings while I recover.

    dik
  12. #32
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Straight from the Alanis Morrisette playbook. Just when I'm about to cozy up to a lyric of hers, there's that misplaced emPHAsis on a sylLABle that makes me cringe. I often miss the next few words she sings while I recover.

    dik
    Bingo.


    There's at least two songs on Jagged Little Pill that do that. I'll see if I can remember which...


    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  13. #33
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I always took that as a sign of immaturity or ineptitude. At best we can say she was too fucking lazy to look for a better phrase construction.
  14. #34
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I always took that as a sign of immaturity or ineptitude. At best we can say she was too fucking lazy to look for a better phrase construction.
    well...one way to phrase that, non-judgmentally...is that doing it definitely draws attention to the word. Scrutiny, even.

    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  15. #35
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Yeah, to say the least.

    I would argue (along with Dik-- see above) that doing that causes an unnecessary distraction.

    One of the joys of listening to Sinatra was that his phrasing was at times conversational; he would no more misplace the stress of a word while singing than he would while talking. Me, I think that's a fairly decent yardstick to go by-- otherwise, we could (and Anacin Morrisette apparently has) just throw the dictionary out the window, make up your own rules, and to hell with what everybody else thinks about your pronunciation or ability to convey a message.

    It's noble that you offer a non-judgmental way of looking at it, but don't we as lyricists have to be judgmental? Other than having a feel for what doesn't work, and drawing those lines in the sand, how do we arrive at what does work?
  16. #36
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    It's noble that you offer a non-judgmental way of looking at it, but don't we as lyricists have to be judgmental? Other than having a feel for what doesn't work, and drawing those lines in the sand, how do we arrive at what does work?
    We can get into a lot of trouble trying to over think some of the things we write. How many great rock songs do the lyrics mean next to nothing or are sung in a way that's almost indecipherable?

    I'm with Dwoz in that context is everything.

    What the fuck is Yes singing about? I have no idea yet love their music.

    For Once in My Life...Sinatra. Stevie. Great performances, but is the lyric really that complicated?

    I find it much easier to write for others than myself. I'm the guy that they come to when they can't get past the first verse. Is it because they're more/less demanding than I am? Is it because they only want something to sing and really don't have anything to say? I'm still trying to figure that one out. I also try to follow the Motown formula when writing for/with others. Tell a story. Keep it simple.Try to keep it in the now.


    With my own songs it's different. Sometimes I'm more concerned with communicating my feelings than my thoughts. If garbling syntax and fucking up grammar works, I'm all down with it. Eventually, I know the lyrics have to make sense, but i don't hamstring myself by starting out that way.I start as far as I can outside and work my way to the middle. Like reducing a sauce.

    I know that I'm gonna write some complete shit from time to time, but a lot of shit songs have a great line in them that I wouldn't have stumbled on if I had just quit or thrown them away because the hooks were lousy.
    If I had a nickle for every project I have struggled to finish that ended up not panning out, I'd have a bag full nickles. I would then use that bag of nickles to beat selected former band members. ~BlackieC

  17. #37
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I think that there's a little bit of truth in all the comments.

    Just in the same way that Functional Harmony, a system of organizing and analyzing music, was arrived at more-or-less empirically, so are the "rules" of lyric writing.

    Most all of the "rules" have come from the analysis and sifting and parsing of lyrics, prose, and poetry that we recognized as having an effect. We "discovered" some patterns, codified them, and in re-applying them, find that we are able to invoke those same effects, at will.

    The patterns that are simple, strong, and most importantly, effective, become "rules".

    Rhyme, for instance. It's a "rule" that songs are supposed to rhyme.

    Rhyme creates strong expectation/release moments in lyrics...but so do other things. My CAPE III song "Gone" (team artisan) has but ONE perfect rhyme, throughout the whole three verses and chorus and bridge. It happens to occur smack bang on the high emotional point of the song. (...no accident). The "cohesion" of the verses is arrived at instead, through meticulous matching of emphasis patterns.

    If you write "free verse", and in some spots find a verse or couplet or section that really seems to have some excitement to it, upon analysis it is highly likely that you'll "find" that you've employed some one or other of the "rules" there.

    Mis-use of language is itself another pattern...or perhaps anti-pattern. It tears a rip in the fabric of the listener's context, and they go into an alert state...they're moved into a realm of uncertainty, and the natural animal response is to "get alert", until the uncertainty is resolved.

    Now, the magic happens when all this stuff is happening because the writer was CONSCIOUS. Ultimately, the unconscious writer will squander whatever random, accidental opportunity was present, and fail to bring the listener into a special state.

    The genius of writing is when these accidents happen, and the writer SEES the opportunity, and uses it to his/her own advantage.

    dwoz
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  18. #38
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I completely understand.

    It's one thing to do something instinctively and quite another to recognize the technical aspects of it and therefore control it.

    With rhyme for example. Many times I've deliberately avoided a rhyme when it just sounded corny and I didn't want to force one. This jarring of the listener was conscious and deliberate but the result not a forethought. It will be from now on.

    As with alliteration, it was something that I did sometimes just because something sounded cool to say, I discovered by accident how it can push the beat or create counterpoint and make things more interesting rhythmically.

    Knowing why you do a thing is a lot more powerful than just doing things by instinct and hoping it works. It also helps to know when or why not to do it.

    Great post Dwoz.
    If I had a nickle for every project I have struggled to finish that ended up not panning out, I'd have a bag full nickles. I would then use that bag of nickles to beat selected former band members. ~BlackieC

  19. #39
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    As a lyricist, I'm a minimalist. I don't try and paint an entire picture with a wordy lyric, however well crafted it may be. Powerful music itself can turn a 5-word line into a complete story in the listener's mind, based on their own experiences and imagination. Imagination is far more powerful, to me, than 1000 words can achieve, in terms of song. I lean to the power of music w/ minimal lyric when possible.



    But that is my style.......some of you (Dwoz, Grape, Fulcrum come to mind) have done some excellent lyrics, imo.


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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Just a quick drop in here. I haven't done much writing in a LONG time (though I find myself experimenting with a David Bowie technique for coming up with ideas lately), but back when I did write a lot, I was in the Songwriting program out at Berklee. We had three text books out there which are a HUGE help in building your tool kit. All of them by the guy who started the lyric writing program out there, Pat Pattison, who knows more about the English language than any 25 people I've ever met. Taking classes from Pat was a real Privilege, enough so that I never missed a class, and I never left one of his classes without my entire perspective on the language being turned upside down and sideways. He was one of the three truly great teachers I've had in my life.

    At any rate, the books are:

    Writing Better Lyrics (and yes, I know how ironic it is for a book on writing better metaphors and such to have such a boring tittle - Pat Swears it was the publishers choice).

    The other two I have, Managing Lyric Structure and Rhyming Techniques and Strategies appear to have been replaced with a couple of new ones:

    Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming: A Step-by-Step Guide to Better Rhyming and Lyrics

    Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure: Tools and Techniques for Writing Better Lyrics




    Not meaning to shill for Pat too much, but if you really want to get better, his shit will help.

    Oh, and buy a REAL rhyming dictionary and a REAL Roget's Thesaurus, and then learn how to use them. Neither of them should be in dictionary form, because dictionary form rhyming dictionaries and thesauruses are a total and complete waste of time and money. Their design pretty much guaranties that you will never use anything but the most clichéd and obvious POS rhymes on the planet.

    Yeah I know, strong opinions from a guy who hasn't written more than about three songs in the last decade. I had a great teacher. Take his word for it. (Oh, he taught Gillian Welch, if that means anything to you - and it should - though he swears that she didn't need him).

    Well, I meant it to be a quick post.


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