Songwriting - List

Being Creative With Word Lists, For Better Lyrics

Most songwriters know the benefits that come with creating a word list when writing song lyrics. And though there are several ways this can be done, most lyricists will create a simple list of words that pertain to the song’s topic.

The benefit of doing this is that you establish a vocabulary that makes searching for the right word or phrase a little easier, and that will speed up your lyric-writing process.

But you can enhance your word lists if you get a little more creative. Here are some ideas for making more useful lists:

  1. Create separate verse and chorus lists. Since we know that verse lyrics tend to describe situations, people and circumstances, and chorus lyrics tend to express more emotions, you can create two separate lists, one which helps create the basic nouns (Verse: drive, party, friend…), and another to express emotions: (Chorus: cry, heart, warm…)
  2. Use phrases in addition to words. A word list can include multiple-word phrases, and this is a great way to make sure you’re not overusing some time-worn expressions. Putting phrases in your list can allow you to take a common phrase, and change it to suit your own purposes. (Example: “Hold my hand” might become “Hold my heart”).
  3. Add synonyms. For some of the more powerful words and phrases on your lists, you might consider creating mini lists that amount to being synonyms. Again, it can help you avoid overusing certain words. They don’t even have to be exact replacements, but simply other words and phrases that offer the same basic idea. Example: “Looked over at her”, “watched her”, “took a look”, “glimpsed”, “shot a look”, “stole a glance”, etc.
  4. Consider rhymes. As you create your word lists, you could already be thinking of rhymes for some of your choices. It makes it just a bit easier when it comes time to creating the final lyric.

Whatever you do, the basic idea is to remember that there are no rules as to how you should create or use a word list. And like any activity in songwriting, the more creative you can be, the better.

And one more idea: try re-creating your word lists as you work through your songwriting process. In other words, take out a new sheet of paper (or open a new document) and start your lists over when you’re part way through writing your song.

You can either redo them from scratch, or take a good look through the lists that you already have, and see if there are words and phrases that you can add to the list.

In that regard, don’t think of writing a word list as a single activity that gets done only at the start of your process; it can be dynamic activity that gets done — and then redone — several times through the process of writing a song.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting ProcessIf you’ve always wanted to make your lyrics stronger, there’s a strong benefit that comes from a lyrics-first process. “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process” gives you lots of ways you can put the spotlight on your song lyrics. Get it separately, or as part of the 10-eBook Bundle.

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