Tom Odell’s beautiful song ‘Constellations’—from his 2016 album Wrong Crowd—opens with Tom talking to a girl in a busy bar and his lyrics vividly describe the scene. It’s a great example of why songwriters should always show listeners what is happening in their song, rather than just tell them …
“In order to write it,” Tom Odell told Dale Kawashima of SongwriterUniverse magazine, “I had to imagine every detail in that bar—the picture on the wall, the girl’s voice, the jacket on the back of the chair, the gentle hum of the bar, the chair that squeaks, the look on her face.”
He explained: “I almost had to live it in my head in order to write the song. But obviously you can’t get all of that detail in the song. You can only pick a few of those details to sing.”
One of the most frequent mistakes in lyric writing is trying to evoke a strong emotional response in listeners simply by stating what you’re feeling or thinking (for example, “I’m getting mad” or “I’m feeling down”).
This is actually one of the least effective ways to make a lasting connection with the people who hear your song. In the verse lyrics especially, you need to show listeners what the song is about by painting vivid word pictures that describe the physical experience of the emotions you want to convey.
In other words, invite the audience into the world of your song by allowing them to “watch” the story unfold like a movie. If you describe each scene as if you’re looking through the lens of a film camera, you’ll be able to help people ‘see’ and experience what the performer of your song is feeling.
You can also help listeners to enter your song by including descriptions of familiar, tangible objects in your lyrics—such as an empty chair, a wine glass, a framed photograph, and other concrete nouns which refer to physical entities that can be observed by at least one of the senses. These images are more likely to engage listeners than a dull statement of fact.
Legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell has always taken a highly visual approach to her lyrics. “My style of songwriting is influenced by cinema,” she once explained. “It’s very visual. I’m a frustrated filmmaker. You’re scoring the actress, but the actress is singing the lines and trying to get them as conversational as film.”
She added: “A fan once said to me, ‘Girl, you make me see pictures in my head!’ and I took that as a great compliment—that’s exactly my intention.”
“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and also across Europe. Read more about the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).
A 5-star rated book at Amazon, “How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.
“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.
‘HOW (NOT) TO WRITE A HIT SONG! – 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS’
With a 5-star rating at Amazon, this book takes a close look at the essential elements that are consistently found in the structure, melodies and lyrics of all hit songs.
It highlights the most common errors that are made when these key components are built into a song, so that new writers can try to avoid such mistakes in their own songs.
Most writers have had to endure the disappointment of having their songs rejected, and ended up asking: “Could I have done more to make my songs better?”.
“How [Not] To Write A Hit Song!” aims to help writers recognize weaknesses in their songs, so they can re-work them, make them stronger, and hopefully achieve the breakthrough they’re striving for.
The book includes a detailed checklist of 101 common mistakes that writers can measure their own songs against.
“HOW (NOT) TO WRITE GREAT LYRICS! 40 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN WRITING LYRICS FOR YOUR SONGS”
The 40 most common lyric writing mistakes are exposed in this new book by experienced music publisher and music consultant Brian Oliver.
Written in an easy, non-technical style, the book identifies the most frequent causes of lyric writing problems and aims to help aspiring songwriters steer clear of the many traps that they can easily fall into when writing lyrics for their songs.
“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics!” gives new writers a wide range of valuable advice - from how to prevent common errors in the basic construction of their song lyrics ... through to the perils of making bad choices when it comes to titles, opening lines, lyrical hooks, verb selection, clichés, rhyming patterns, and many other issues.
The book includes a comprehensive checklist of more than 100 potential hazards that writers can measure their own lyrics against.
“SURPRISING RHYMING FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS -THE ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY”
With more new songs being written than ever before, songwriters are finding it harder to sound original and craft rhymes that have not already been used. “SURPRISING RHYMING” is a new kind of rhyming dictionary that aims to make it easier for writers to avoid clichés and create rhymes people may not have heard before.
Based on an in-depth study of the ingenious rhymes used by some of the world’s greatest songwriters and lyricists, this book offers an astonishing array of thousands of alternative rhyme options. It contains rhyme types much broader than those found in traditional rhyming dictionaries which tend to stick to ‘perfect’ rhymes. Instead, it focuses on ‘imperfect’ rhymes that are less predictable than ‘pure’ rhymes—and are therefore more likely to surprise an audience. The book also includes many new words that have been added to standard dictionaries in recent years.
With 624 pages, the book is laid out clearly to make it quick and easy to find the perfect word to achieve a memorable rhyme. There are separate sections for one-, two- and three-syllable rhymes, along with many useful tips on rhyming.
“SURPRISING RHYMING” is available from Amazon as a paperback and an eBook. It’s also available as an eBook from Apple’s iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.
“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE SONGS IN THE STREAMING AGE – 40 MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT TO GET MORE STREAMS” - This book shows how the dominance of music streaming is having a profound impact on songwriting and the structure of songs. Songs that connect in the streaming world are no longer the same as songs that work on traditional media, like radio. Successful streaming now requires a different type of song. This means songwriters who want more plays on streaming platforms need to rethink their songwriting approach in order to meet the specific needs of streaming audiences. This book aims to provide a better understanding of the new building blocks of song structure in the streaming age. It examines essential elements found in the construction, melodies and lyrics of the biggest streaming hits – and highlights the most common errors made when these key components are built into a song. To help new songwriters avoid such mistakes in their own songs, the book provides 40 insightful tips and a comprehensive Checklist for creating more streaming-friendly songs. The book is now available from Amazon as a paperback and eBook, and also from leading eBook retailers like Apple Books, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.