Thread: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

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  1. #41
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Sorry, long time no post. Gabe, I knew Pat Pattison as well, and you're absolutely right, his books are excellent "cookbooks" for setting up your thinking about lyrics and their structure.

    However, one caveat. I think it's important to let ideas come, without paying too much attention to rules and structure, and THEN apply your rules and structure as you revisit the lyric, on subsequent editing passes.

    ...and Mudcat, I fully agree with you. It all comes back around to CONTEXT I think...I tend to feel the need to "build some kind of context" in my lyrics, and then set the "story" of the lyrics into it. But there's no particular reason to do that. Just as valid, is to do NO context work, just overlay your statement onto the listener's own context. When you do that, meaning changes from listener to listener, and I'm quite convinced that that's a GOOD thing.

    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."
  2. #42
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?


    THE HARDEST THING


    What's universally the hardest thing to do in lyric writing?


    ...ask 500 people, and about 487 of them will say one exact thing.


    ...getting started.


    the other 13 people will say "marrying lyrics with a melody". Those 13 people are gonna have to wait for the next installment.


    So...having said that, where to begin? I guess, upon introspection, (because it all is about me, after all), that a good lyric has to start with a good EMOTION. By "good" I don't really mean "good", I mean 'powerful'.

    So, I'm going to write a lyric. I begin, this time, with a little hook or phrase or thought: "My wife, in the course of a day, feels compelled to quite regularly say 'I love you'. In a way, it is almost more like just a 'checking in' gesture...it's a call, and the only proper response, of course, is to reply "I love you too". If I DON'T respond appropriately (and timely!), then I'm in trouble."

    Ok, so that's my song.

    Not much of a song, really. but I think there's possibly something in there. I have to move it around a bit and poke it and stuff, until I find the CONTEXT that causes me to feel that little "crinkle" inside my gut, that little wrench of emotion.

    So I think about it...mull it...and the thought crosses my mind, that sometimes it's a bit tiresome to have to always respond. After all, I love her, I know she knows that, and I know that she loves me, after all, there's a thousand little things she does during the course of the day that say "I love you" without her having to constantly interrupt me.....

    wait a minute....there's something. "you say "I love you" a thousand times a day"...no...Sting trademark infringement..."you say 'I love you' a hundred times a day...no...'every minute, of the day'...in the things you do for me".

    Let's pull that one around a little...."in the things you do for me, in the way you look at me, in the way you call my name, in the way you hold my hand"...

    etc. etc. etc. So, that's cool. but it hasn't caused that CRINKLE yet.

    Ok, more free thought....so this started in an 'autobiographical' way...the initial thought of the tune came from my personal experience. But let's move on from there.

    Let's say, "she's now gone". I'm alone. Then in that context, I replay the tape of the original thought..."I get annoyed by the constant thing of having to reply every time you say 'I love you.'." Oh, now...SHE'S NOT HERE ANYMORE TO SAY IT. (in this new context)...that annoyance was in the PAST...and in this PRESENT (the hypothetical one where she's gone), that thought has some poignancy.

    in fact....BIG CRINKLE.

    wow.

    Ok, NOW I have a lyric.


    Only have to tart it up a little and we're off to the mailbox to see if the royalty check has arrived!

    Here's my plan:

    first verse: get in, set up the "complaint about her"...

    chorus: explain to her that she says "I love you" constantly, she doesn't have to SAY it...

    second verse: replay the first verse, maybe a bit of storytelling...

    Chorus: again...same basic chorus, maybe a bit of embellishing, playing on the theme...

    Bridge: do a "be careful what you wish for" kind of thing, foreshadowing...

    Last Verse: do the PAYOFF...reveal that that was in the past, and now we're in the NOW, and how I'd give anything to HEAR her say "I love you" again...

    Chorus repeat out...

    So, I'll post my treatment of this shortly. Anyone else care to jot down a treatment?

    The takeaway point? I had an idea, but I couldn't turn it into a lyric until I found a POWERFUL EMOTION to drape that idea around. I went searching around for a context that would show me that powerful emotion, and luckily, found one.

    The lyric will work, because the emotion, and the context, are both "common themes" that will be EASY for listeners to "step in to".

    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."
  3. #43
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    One way to think of this technique above, is "putting yourself at risk".

    One thing I think you HAVE to do to write compelling lyrics, is to place yourself directly into "emotional harm's way"...take yourself into the places that represent "danger".

    ...and I don't just mean HARD or NEGATIVE emotional spaces...just like I "threw myself" into the space of emotional loss in my post above, I could throw myself into the space of "reckless exuberant abandon" in exploring the emotions around a GOOD thing, like a fiercely passionate sexual fling, or some other "emotional high point".

    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."
  4. #44
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    just a quick plug...there's a WEALTH of interesting stuff up in the Womb Radios, up there at the top of the page. Hours of entertainment and education. Not for the weak.

    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."
  5. #45
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Hi. I've just read the whole thread, and I remembered this song, really perfect lyrics. It's all there: acceleration, right use of emphasis, good ryhming, you name it, and it conveys a really powerful idea that I believe most of us share at some point in life. Here it goes:

    Beat on the brat
    Beat on the brat
    Beat on the brat with a baseball bat
    Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh- oh

    (ch)
    What can you do?
    What can you do?
    With a brat like that always on your back
    What can you do?

    Really, you might not like it, but it's technical perfection just can't be denied. Try to think of one way of doing it better. Try to change a word. Even worse, try to add a verse. Nothing will work: this is just perfect as it is.

    Also, about emphasis, I was thinking about the Kaiser Chiefs' 'Oh my god' song, on their own version and also Lilly Allen's in the Mark Ronson album. In the original, they have this line (emphasis in bold):

    The only thing growing is our history

    In Lilly Allen's this is emphasized in a different way, and a little pause is introduced to allow this change:

    The only thing growing
    is our history

    Lilly's interpretation is way better, it just brilliantly solves the problem. I hated that line in Kaiser Chiefs' version, and love it now.

    Cheers.

    Cheers.
  6. #46
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I'm not familiar with the Kaiser Chiefs...but this is a very common issue.

    Natural breathing...


    Natural cadence...


    Natural semantic constructs...


    Natural emphasis...


    ...all critical aspects of good phrasing. The lyricist has to consider the poor sot that will be singing the stupid thing. Don't make him/her chew words, don't make them breathe or make them NOT breathe.

    Although...sometimes you can get away with cleverness.

    In the example, the word "history". HIS-tory...his-STORY...history is his story.

    This "idiosyncratic" emphasis is also sometimes employed to illuminate an internal rhyme...

    So, there are no rules, just techniques.

    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. #47
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    And you're right, the "gerund-icity" of Kung-fu-fighting is not necessarily the 'crutch' example that i was searching for. But, you have to admit, YOU ARE DOOMED TO HEAR THAT SONG IN YOUR HEAD for the rest of the day. DOOMED, I SAY.

    In that example, "fight", "light", and "fright" rhyme without regard to the gerund. (a gerund is the 'ing' word). But take a better example, such as 'working', 'loving', 'dreaming'.

    oh....


    dwoz
    He's criticising that lyrical genius, Huey Lewis, now!
    [Life Of Brian]"He's havin' a go at the flowers, now!" [/Life Of Brian]

    "Takin' what they're givin' 'cos I'm workin' for a livin'"

    I swear that guy has shares in the apostrophe market.
  8. #48
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    The rhyme scheme here is A-B-B-A-A.

    That's right. ABBAA. No question whatsoever.

    "salesman" and "arrangement" are actually "somewhat close rhymes". They're PERCEIVED as rhyme. Definitely not strong, but DEFINITELY rhyme. And, the first line certainly rhymes with the fourth and fifth! Enunciation would of course also help the listener identify the imperfect rhyme.

    hope that helped.

    dwoz
    But how would you fit it in?

    I don't wanna live a life of quiet desperation
    Or forget to use enunciation
    And I don't want to die the death of a salesman
    Got to find some other arrangement
    I can live without the aggravation
    of a catch twenty-two situation.

    Something like that?
  9. #49
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    But how would you fit it in?

    I don't wanna live a life of quiet desperation
    Or forget to use enunciation
    And I don't want to die the death of a salesman
    Got to find some other arrangement
    I can live without the aggravation
    of a catch twenty-two situation.

    Something like that?

    I don't wanna live a life pedantic enunciation
    And I don't want to die the death of a salesman
    Got to give dwoz some gratuitous appeasement
    I can live without the aggravation
    of a catch twenty-two situation.


    like that?
    "...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. #50
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    I don't wanna live a life pedantic enunciation
    And I don't want to die the death of a salesman
    Got to give dwoz some gratuitous appeasement
    I can live without the aggravation
    of a catch twenty-two situation.


    like that?
  11. #51
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Join

    by dwoz (David Wozmak) (c)2007
    What's the vibe with posting our own lyrics on here for dismantling / critique in terms of copyright?

    If a song I've written isn't yet copyrighted, does the post on its own count as "proof" that I wrote it first if someone reading plagiarises some of it later?

    Of course... that'd be working under the assumption that none of the moderators on this site would plagiarise it and delete my post / account.
  12. #52
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    What's the vibe with posting our own lyrics on here for dismantling / critique in terms of copyright?

    If a song I've written isn't yet copyrighted, does the post on its own count as "proof" that I wrote it first if someone reading plagiarises some of it later?

    Of course... that'd be working under the assumption that none of the moderators on this site would plagiarise it and delete my post / account.

    There's no copyright issue whatsoever. Please include a "copyright bug" as I did, just because that's the canonical form for notifying others that the piece is copyrighted. I'll be happy to help analyze.
    "...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. #53
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    There's no copyright issue whatsoever. Please include a "copyright bug" as I did, just because that's the canonical form for notifying others that the piece is copyrighted. I'll be happy to help analyze.
    So, the "copyright bug" on its own is enough to copyright the lyrics, even if I haven't formally copyrighted them anywhere before posting them here?

    If I were to make something up on the spot such as...

    "These lyrics that I'm writing are made up on the spot,
    To discuss whether they would actually be copyrighted or not"

    (c)2010 Phil Plumpton

    Then that's it, those "lyrics" are copyrighted to me? I don't need to send a copy of them to a music industry lawyer or fill in a "copyright your songs from your own home for only £50" pack or anything?
  14. #54
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    ^^ anyone?
  15. #55
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Actually, your lyrics are copyrighted (at least in the USA) the instant you first fix them in a tangible form. (i.e. write them on the back of a dinner napkin).

    Putting the copyright notification on it when you toss it around and about serves the purpose of alerting any potential exploiters who they need to contact for permission.
    "...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."
  16. #56
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Actually, your lyrics are copyrighted (at least in the USA) the instant you first fix them in a tangible form. (i.e. write them on the back of a dinner napkin).

    Putting the copyright notification on it when you toss it around and about serves the purpose of alerting any potential exploiters who they need to contact for permission.
    That's good enough for me. :-D

    Right, ok then, here goes....

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Shackles (c)2010 Phil Plumpton

    I dress like a burglar in my own home,
    You know the beanie keeps the hair where it needs no foam,
    I've got a tendency to fall asleep in my clothes,
    I been known to skip my baths so folk'll leave me alone.

    Economics was never my strongest hand,
    I'd bet the farm that I'd go broke if I was a gamblin' man,
    Can't stand to think of all the money I'd save,
    If I wasn't smokin' myself to an early grave.

    I'd sort the stink in the sink, but I think it's contaminated,
    I probably vote if I wasn't so jaded,
    Desist with the lecturin' but I'm too opinionated...

    I've got a heart of gold,
    But I've gone and sold it for a
    Stack of old guitars,
    It's rock and roll,
    Profound and cynical,
    Secretly humanacled,
    Some kind of animal,
    Bleeding from the shackles you put on my mind.

    I'm no smokin' pistol but I've been a round,
    If my red paint hadn't run dry I might just hit the town,
    The water's still rough but I ain't gonna drown,
    'Cos I been hardened to the weather since my ship ran aground.

    Dedicated to the apes who've learned to use their minds
    Yeah, I'm just a monkey with an axe to grind,
    I may be cynical but I still find,
    That seein' is believin' in the land of the blind.

    Ah, heart of gold,
    But I've gone and sold it for a
    Stack of old guitars,
    It's rock and roll,
    Profound and cynical,
    Secretly humanacled,
    Some kind of animal,
    Bleeding from the shackles you put on my mind.

    Won't you put on my mind?

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    (c)2010 Phil Plumpton


    There you go, lads, tear me apart.
    Last edited by fyl2u; March 12th, 2010 at 12:07 AM.
  17. #57
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Just finished reading a critique here that Mixerman did for BIGDOG.

    In it, he excoriates her for essentially being a "one-trick-pony"...heavily relying on a single lyric "tool" to do her work. You know how the saying goes..."if you've only got a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail".

    So, I thought it would be a useful exercise to talk about some of the various lyrical "tools" that we have at our disposal, that can help add interest and excitement in our lyrics.

    As Mixerman alludes to in his rather excellent analysis of BIGDOG's lyrics, the typical listener doesn't sit there and say, "oh, how interesting...the lyricist accomplished an acceleration by way of an inner rhyme". What they DO do is to subconsciously recognize patterns and relationships, and entirely without thinking about it, they arrange those patterns to extract meaning.

    They do this IN SPITE OF YOU. If you do not "lead them by the hand,” they will go places you don't expect, and that you don't want them to go. They will walk down blind alleys, trying to make sense of the patterns their subconscious is inventing in your lyrics, and come up against a dead end. Then they will abandon you.

    Writing effective lyrics is NOTHING about 'following rules'.... its all about using your tools effectively, and COMPELLING the listener to go where you want them to.

    So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to take a stab at each of these tools, and try to discuss some places you might use them. Please feel free to jump in and contribute, interject, question, challenge!

    dwoz


    Repetitions of words/phrases


    Repetitions of patterns


    Syllabic rhythm and patterns


    Rhyme


    Inner Rhyme


    Non Rhyme or broken rhyme


    Alliteration


    Accelerations and decelerations


    Prosody


    Syllabic Emphasis vs. rythmic emphasis
    (or, em-PHAS-is)


    pauses and stops.
    Sounds pretty cool. Great resource! Thanks!
  18. #58
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    New here but I really liked this thread. All good things to consider and thanks!

    If I could add anything, I have always tried to have a clear idea of a resolve in every song I write. First I figure out where I'm going, then I decide how I'm going to get there.
  19. #59
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    Default Re: What's in YOUR lyrical toolbox?

    Not meaning to shill for Pat too much, but if you really want to get better, his shit will help.
    The fair lady and I took his online course in songwriting about a year and change ago while we were in the midst of February Album Writing Month—yes, course work plus writing 14 songs in 28 days, plus she has a day job—and I have to say it gave me a perspective on songwriting that has proven to be of no small utility.

    Berklee, through Coursera, offers the course peripatetically.

    I totally forgot about this thread, but I guess I can be forgiven since everyone else did too. Well, until the post before mine.

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