Musicology (The Study of Writing Songs & Song Lyrics)

by Robert Gardiner   Aug 14, 2018


Musicology (The Study of Writing Songs & Song Lyrics)

This is an excursion into Song & Lyric Writing to learn some of the basics of the craft and what it takes to write a great song. To open I shall share some of what I've learned, garnered while writing myself. The first and most important thing, I think, when sitting down to write is knowing what you want to write (what your song is going to say, be about). It is cardinal to know your “Theme” when writing. Once you have an idea as to what your song is about, then, you have to figure out your song structure (layout). There are more than a few ways you can structure your song, which you can research, but you’ll usually have these elements Verse, Chorus, Melody, and Bridge. They are not always all used (used together), but every song has a verse/verses and some kind of melody and many contain a running chorus, as well. Sometimes also, a refrain is employed (usually containing the title or central message of the song). What you have to do is figure out how you will arrange and put these elements together to form your song. When writing your chorus remember that it is the framework (foundation) as to what your song is about. Also remember, when verse writing, that your verses must reflex that basic message contained in your chorus. You want your song to have congruence and symmetry and for it to flow well. Part of that is transitioning well, from verse to chorus and chorus to verse. A song that doesn’t transition well just seems off, no matter how well the lyrics are written. Now, you can do that with your melody and/or bridge or your lyrics by ending your song parts with something that connects or points to the next part. One other thing to mention, when putting your chorus together you're trying to grab your audience’s attention (hook them), that’s why it’s also called a “Hook”, thusly you want it as catchy as possible. To sum up, these are my keys, know what you’re writing, how you want to structure it and be mindful of how it flows. The object is to make something palatable to the ear.

Now, what I learned is to write with symmetry. I think it is important to write under one umbrella. (Know what you're trying to do and do it). Your song can have different voices, but all voices must speak to what your song is built around. Also, as I said earlier. pay attention to how you transition from verse to chorus and chorus to verse. You want it to be as smooth (seamless) as possible and for your song to have harmony of structure. Pay attention, also, to how your song flows, whereas, it presents itself in the fashion you wish, desire, that its style and manner is appropriate to what you are trying to achieve. Be mindful, also, to the voice (vernacular) you're using, that it fits your song and what you're presenting, therein. Your objective, always, is to write a good song, so in that, your song must be well written, no matter the voice or vernacular used. A good song also has "well-crafted lyrics" - even a bubblegum pop one, so always strive to write well - even if, not grammatically proper/perfect.

As I said earlier, you want to write with congruence and symmetry, which basically means you want to be cohesive in the composition of your lyrics. I recently added four lines of verse to a song I wrote to support the verse (line) before it. The verse played out as such (Title: I AM WOMAN);

Yes, I am Impactful
A Most Powerful Force.
You may call me a handful,
And try to throw me, off course,
But still. I remain strong.
I got, so much resolve.
Get ready, cause here I come.
Gonna conquer. it all.
A Titan Is Woman,
And Woman Is A Goddess.
Gonna be held down, by no one.
Yes, I'm Am Woman, and I Got This!
(I am Woman, I am Woman, I am Woman)

Nicely written verse, but what is the "all" she's gonna conquer? This needed to be expanded upon or explained, and after that line is where I added my four lines of verse to support the line and previous verses. I compose these four lines of verse;

So, put up any wall, that you want to,
And that wall I will climb.
There is no limit, to what I can do.
I Am, Woman, Divine.

See, how the four lines of verse supports the line and verses before it and transitions (threads) into the next line and verse. Now your listener (audience) know what the "Gonna conquer. it all" line reflects on and speaks to, which is the obstacles put in her way, and your entire verse is more cohesive and gives a fuller picture. Here how the verses layout (plays) with the added four lines;

Yes, I am Impactful
A Most Powerful Force.
You may call me a handful,
And try to throw me, off course,
But still. I remain strong.
I got, so much resolve.
Get ready, cause here I come.
Gonna conquer. it all.
So, put up any wall, that you want to,
And that wall I will climb.
There is no limit, to what I can do.
I Am, Woman, Divine.
Such A Titan Is A Woman,
And Woman Is A Goddess.
Gonna be held down, by no one.
Yes, I'm Am Woman, and I Got This!
(I am Woman, I am Woman, I am Woman)

See how the verse is supported and in fact strengthened by the added four lines. See how they better help to bring everything together. Be mindful to what your song says and how it is received. You don't want your audience feeling as though something is missing or the story is incomplete.

I would say, when writing, write with a "Mission Statement", with core goals of what you want in and from your song. I've mentioned some of those I think are key. You want to know what you're writing about (your subject/theme), what you're trying to do to, inspire in, or say to your audience (be mindful, always, of your message); You want well-written verses, a good chorus/hook that connects (threads) the song together (one preferably catchy and infectious); You want your lyrics (a song) that transitions well, that is as smooth and seamless as possible;. You want to structure and arrange it in a manner that fits and it most effective to what your trying to accomplish and is most appealing to your listener (audience); You want to write cohesive lyrics, with congruence and symmetry; You want your song to flow well and to have a voice that works for the song. Your objective, always, is to write a good (well written) song, and the better the individual parts, the better the entirety of the song!!!

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