As a songwriter you likely think sectionally. All that means is that you’re always aware of what part of the song you’re in. The downside of this kind of sectional thinking is that if something is going wrong with, let’s say, your verse lyric, the tendency might be to fault the entire section of lyric, when the problem might just be one particular line.
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True, that one bad line can make an entire section sound bad, but focusing in on that line can make finding solutions a little easier. The trick is to find good and efficient ways to identify the bad line, and then do some rewording exercises to fix it.
Verse and Chorus Issues
As you hopefully know, verse lyrics are generally observational and descriptive of people, situations and circumstances — narrative in character — while chorus lyrics are more emotional and descriptive of feelings. You need to know that because sometimes a bad line of lyric is actually an otherwise good line, but either not emotional enough (if it’s a bit of chorus lyric), or too emotional (if it’s a verse).
So that’s the first place to start. If you’ve got a verse line that seems over the top with feelings, find ways to tone it down, and changing it. And if a line in your chorus is too technical or dry, you need to find a new line that keeps taking your audience to a more emotional place.
Other problems? It might be that you’ve overused some trite lyrical clichés, or perhaps one particular line, for some unidentifiable reason, just doesn’t work. No matter what the reason, you’ll often find that fixing that one line makes the rest of the lyric sound better.
Once you’ve found the line or two you think needs to change, here’s what you can do:
- Write down the actual line(s) that you chose.
- Underneath that line, write the basic meaning of what you were trying to say.
- Start writing new lines that convey the same basic meaning.
The more lines you can write, the better. You may find that the one you finally choose might be a combination of different lines that you came up with.
Many of the world’s best songwriters do this. They know they need to write a verse, so they actually write many potential verses and then choose the one that works best.
In any case, what this kind of rewording exercise shows you, hopefully, is that most of the time the solution to a weak lyric is not to toss the whole section out, but to focus in on that one particular line that is the true offender.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
Excellence happens when you practice your technique. Gary’s 9-Lesson Course takes you through the fundamentals of writing good lyrics, melodies and chords, and helps you understand the concepts of great songwriting structure. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle.”