How do you make your point perfectly in a song?

dead of night

Member
Messages
2,650
Hi. Let's say you want to write a song specifically to make a point, for example, one called, "An Educated Man" about a man with great education that nonetheless does not know anything. How does one go about making this point perfectly using song lyrics that fit the song?

I could write a paragraph about this very easily. "He has every book by Nietzche, Darwin and Freud on his shelf. He carries them around every chance he gets. At work he holds them with the title showing so his coworkers will see. Yet he denies every simple truth that plain men live by."

How does one convert a very clear and coherent paragraph into verses of lyric?
 

dead of night

Member
Messages
2,650
A lot of times I'll be playing some chords and sing whatever comes out. I'll think, man I never expected to write that! Where did that come from?

On the other hand, I'd like to express in a song exactly what I want to say or as Paul said, "indicate precisely what you mean to say."
 

Manicstarseed

Member
Messages
746
Gosh Golly G!

I think that is the key question to any and all song writing. How do we create music that communicates?

If I knew this or can bridge the gap, I might have a catalog of songs, instead of vague ideas rattling around in my head.
 

Jeremy_Green

Member
Messages
1,096
I honestly have no idea how to answer your question....... and I am not much of a lyricist... but I will say... If I wanted to be a sculptor the first thing I would do is at as much of it as i could find. I would seek out others who were pros and ask them questions. I would read reviews on what is considered great sculpture. I would experiment endlessly and do a whole bunch of crappy sculptures first - learning a bit more from each. After YEARS of doing this i might begin to latch onto a little corner and maybe tug at it... or maybe even get a bit "lucky" and stumble upon something. What's that baseball players say "you will miss 100% of the pitches you don't swing at".

I guess what I am saying is people don't come out of the box with great things... They learn them along the way. Much of it comes from seeing how others have done it. Have you read much John Lennon? Paul Simon? Bob Dylan? What about Stephen King? Shakespeare?

I know you have likely done much of this but it is more food for thought.
 

clayman

Member
Messages
7
re-write, re-write, re-write, .......... you get the picture

I believe we have a lot of bad songs in us that need to be purged before we even get close to writing something that we like. (as you can see from what I did with your thoughts :)


The Fool

He has every book by Nietzche
Darwin and Freud as well
Carries them everywhere
for his comic show and tell

He's so smart
as only he can be
yet denies every simple truth
that the common man can see
 

dead of night

Member
Messages
2,650
re-write, re-write, re-write, .......... you get the picture

I believe we have a lot of bad songs in us that need to be purged before we even get close to writing something that we like. (as you can see from what I did with your thoughts :)


The Fool

He has every book by Nietzche
Darwin and Freud as well
Carries them everywhere
for his comic show and tell

He's so smart
as only he can be
yet denies every simple truth
that the common man can see
You just wrote a great two verses. However, call it "The Educated Man."
 

russ6100

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,549
SSSsssshhhhh!

(Looks both ways)

(says in a hushed tone:)

Iambic Pentameter.......
 

Cary Chilton

Senior Member
Messages
4,473
Learn everything you can about song writing. Use your heart. If you acquire any talent and if you have any natural gifts in music, you may be lucky enough to have a song that speaks to many.... and you may never. Very few, have several songs speak to many thus become hits.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
12,722
How about like this...

He has every book by Nietzche and Freud upon his shelf.

He carries them everywhere every chance he gets.

And he even holds those books so we can see the titles

Yet he denies the simple truths that human beings live by


Yup - lyrics do not have to have perfect rhymes, the important thing is the message. I think you got it.
 

dead of night

Member
Messages
2,650
On the other hand, maybe it's also good to sing with whimsy, whatever comes out. This morning I sang the refrain, "Neon, peon, you turn me on."

This refrain is so good, and I don't know where it came from! I could not have planned it.
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,314
For me, the best lyrics can mean a number of different things depending on how one looks at it, or at least have enough ambiguity in them to where it invites the imagination to step in and fill in the blanks.

I feel that way about most art for that matter.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
14,882
How about like this...

He has every book by Nietzche and Freud upon his shelf.

He carries them everywhere every chance he gets.

And he even holds those books so we can see the titles

Yet he denies the simple truths that human beings live by

Yup - lyrics do not have to have perfect rhymes
But if they don't - as above - the music better be damn clever...

The only song I know where none of the lines rhyme (I'd like to know of others) is "Moonlight In Vermont", and they get away with it because the length and rhythm of each line is different. So it works because we're never quite sure where the line will end, so that distracts us from expecting a rhyme (after the requisite number of syllables). And of course it's a great melody, which can cover up any number of sins in the lyrics.

Mind you, even the greatest songwriters can commit lyrical sins in the desperate search for a rhyme, as in Dylan's "Sara":

The beach was deserted except for some kelp
...
You were always around when I needed your help

:facepalm

He obviously began with the second line (as it's about "Sara"), then had to find a rhyme for "help".... and then had to invent an irrelevant line in order to incorporate the only word he could find.
Not only that, but "deserted" is the wrong word. It means an absence of people, not of things. Kelp doesn't "populate" a beach. The word "empty" would have been better.

Anyway - if it's that hard to find (and incorporate) a rhyme, maybe it's better not to rhyme at all. (Or, of course, simply rewrite that second line so it ends with a more rhymable word :rolleyes:... Dylan, always proud of "making the words fit" as dead of night says, fell down on the job there.)
 

JonR

Member
Messages
14,882
Hi. Let's say you want to write a song specifically to make a point, for example, one called, "An Educated Man" about a man with great education that nonetheless does not know anything. How does one go about making this point perfectly using song lyrics that fit the song?

I could write a paragraph about this very easily. "He has every book by Nietzche, Darwin and Freud on his shelf. He carries them around every chance he gets. At work he holds them with the title showing so his coworkers will see. Yet he denies every simple truth that plain men live by."

How does one convert a very clear and coherent paragraph into verses of lyric?
Rhyme and scansion. Editing the words - cutting or adding - so you get lines of (roughly) equal numbers of syllables. (clayman gave a great example of how your story could be edited into rhythmic, rhyhming stanzas.)

Lines don't have to rhyme in pairs (AA BB CC etc), they can rhyme in other formats: ABAB is very common, but fancier ones can be more interesting. ABCABC, ABBA, etc. And you can have internal rhymes, where a line in the middle of the word rhymes with one in the middle or at the end of the next line.
But - I disagree with cruisemates here - I think it always sounds uncomfortable and careless when song lines don't rhyme in some way. (Unless great care is taken in the song's structure to make you ignore the lack of rhyme.)
Rhyme gives lyrics musicality, as well as making them catchier, easier to remember (and sing along with). It's an essential part of the songwriter's (or at least lyric writer's) craft.

Here's another example of how you might fit your story into a verse:

"He has books by Nietzche, Darwin and Freud on his shelf.
He carries them around looking pleased with himself
He makes sure you see the titles every time he walks by
Yet he denies the simple truths that plain men live by."

It's less specific about the workplace, but that's not an essential detail, IMO. Better to generalise, so he could be doing this anywhere - and maybe everywhere. I edited out the "every" in the first line to make it more rhythmic, with same number of syllables as the second line. The rhythm might also sound better as "Nietzsche, Freud and Darwin". Just try singing the line to yourself, to a beat, to see how it feels.

It's also less than ideal to have two "by"s to end lines 3 and 4. If this was my lyric, I might change that 4th line to:

"He denies the simple truth, prefers a complicated lie"

- that's a bit of neat wordplay (if I say so myself ;)), and also adds some bite to the sentiment.

Or maybe:

"The simple truths of plain men are things he will deny"

BTW, you need to make sure (IMO) that the sentiment of the song doesn't sound preachy or superior. (What makes you so sure YOU know "every simple truth that plain men live by"?, and in what way does he "deny" them? IOW, rather than make that assertion, give examples that show how he does that.)
 

Shawn3786

Member
Messages
227
Try using your central theme as the chorus and writing a corresponding story from beginning to end through the verses.
 

Neer

Member
Messages
12,551
If I was writing based on the little tidbit that OP provided re: Nietzsche, Freud, etc., I would not be specific at all about the names and the books, but I would make references to the unconscious mind and dreams, etc. I prefer to go for a more poetic and opaque angle than to be direct. It also depends on how tolerant the musical style is of that approach. The style of music has very much to do with the approach.
 
Last edited:

JonR

Member
Messages
14,882
If I was writing based on the little tidbit that OP provided re: Nietzsche, Freud, etc., I would not be specific at all about the names and the books, but I would make references to the unconscious mind and dreams, etc. I prefer to go for a more poetic and opaque angle than to be direct. It also depends on how tolerant the musical style is of that approach. The style of music has very much to do with the approach.
IMO both approaches can work: something very specific, or something more vague and allusive.

The mention of Nietzsche reminds of the Dylan song "Joey":

"He did ten years in Attica, reading Nietzche and Wilhelm Reich"

Dylan is a great one for tales with a lot of specifics, lots of names and places, because it helps set the scene; makes it like a true story (which it was in this case).
According to Dylan, the lyrics were in fact by Jacques Levy, but it's all of a piece with Dylan's other "character" narratives.
Sometimes, specifics can make general points eloquently; you hear a story about one specific person or place, and you think "yes, I know what that's like..."

Of course, for Dylan, Joey's reading was a good thing, not a bad one...;)

In the case of the OP's lyric, something "more poetic and opaque" runs the risk of aligning too closely with the pretentious subject of the piece, rather than the "simple truths" the OP favours.
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,423
Nietzche doesn't roll off the tongue for a song.
Right up there with "purple" and "orange"

Jeez, if songwriting was easy, everyone would be great at it and even the very best songwriters have barfed out some dreck along the way.
 




Trending Topics

Top