Tips on Lyrical Songwriting
Avoid highly predictable rhymes, especially with often-used religious words. “I seek your face, I love your grace.” Instead of always using perfect rhymes, try various kinds of false rhymes. I find that false or near rhymes don’t sound as contrived. You avoid sounding trite by using alternatives to perfect rhyme.
One alternative is called consonance. In the rhyme soon/own, the final vowel sound is the same but the preceding vowel sound is different. Another example: time/ life, time/cried—same vowel sound, differ- ent consonant at the end. Examples of consonance from Shakespeare’s writing: scant/ want, fast/guest, pass/was, wrong/young.
Only rhyme words that are essential to the song’s central message. In a desperate effort to find a rhyme, you can be tempted to use off-subject words that don’t help build the theme of your song. A final note on rhyming: it is not always needed.
Change lyrical density in different sections of the song. Lyrical density is the number of syllables per measure of music. If you cram lots of words into the verse, then make sure you give some room to breathe in the chorus.
Consider prosody—does the melody aptly express the lyrical theme? Example: the song “Breathe” has long pauses, or
breaths, after many of the phrases. “This is the air I breathe …” The famous classical composer Schoenberg said, “the rests sound well.” Give people room to think, “rest.” The mind needs space and time to take in what is being sung.
One of the most important points in lyric writing: does every line contribute to the central message of your song? Some- times you can have a very poetic line that by itself is beautiful but has little or nothing to do with the theme of your song.You have to be ruthless at editing out extraneous lyrics like this. Save that line for an- other song.