songwriting

Making Sure Your Song Has a Clear Message

If you find lyrics hard to write, there could be many issues at play. In general, when I hear someone complain that their lyrics sound “lame”, or “like garbage”, there’s often a problem that’s not immediately noticeable:

Weak lyrics often lack focus or a clear message.

There are lots of other problems you might encounter when trying to get lyrics to work. Too many clichés, words and/or rhymes that sound forced, or even singing about something that doesn’t particularly resonate with most audiences or make them care… the equivalent of trying to sing the phone book, if you will.

But those problems are usually evident to most songwriters. Read through your lyrics a couple of times, and it usually becomes obvious that you’re not making your audience care.


3rd_ed_cover_smChapter 5 of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”, 3rd edition, describes how lyrics and melodies usually go hand in hand as powerful partners in the songwriting process. It’s part of the 10-eBook Bundle, and includes a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions.”


Lyrics that lack focus or a clear message can be a sneakier problem, because it often flies under the radar, and hard to pick it up right away.

So let’s try to solve that one. For every song you write, try this short checklist to see if your lyrics are doing what they should be doing. You should be able to answer “yes” to each of the following statements:

  • I can sum up the main message of my song in one clear sentence. (This is not the same thing as saying that you’ve made the message immediately obvious to all listeners. It may take a listener time to decipher the true meaning of your song, and that’s the fun of getting a lyric right. Perhaps Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a great example of this.)
  • The main message of your lyric is one that will resonate with all (or most) listeners. Singing that you put a new roof on your house won’t do anything for anyone, unless that new roof is a metaphor for something more universal. (“Fixing a Hole” (Lennon & McCartney) is a good example.)
  • Every line of lyric pertains somehow to the main message.
  • Every line of lyric represents a logical progression. Just like a short story or novel, every line works, and progresses from one thought to the next, in an attempt to pull the listener in.
  • The point of view of the singer stays consistent. You don’t keep randomly switching from one POV to another.
  • The chorus lyric represents the focal point of the lyric. A chorus lyric doesn’t need to express everything that a song is about, but it needs to provide as sharp a point of focus as possible. Similar to a melody’s climactic high point, a chorus lyric needs to provide a lyrical high point.

There is so much more that can be said about lyrics, but those six ideas should get you moving in the right direction. Remember that good lyrics, even lyrics that present complex thoughts, images, and ideas, use simple, everyday words to convey those thoughts.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

How to Harmonize a Melody

“How to Harmonize a Melody” is part of the 10-eBook Deluxe Bundle, written by Gary Ewer. If you can “hear” the chords you want, but you just can’t find them, this ebook will take you step-by-step through a process that works.

Right now the 10-eBook Deluxe Bundle includes a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”.

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