Song lyrics must communicate. Making some of the mistakes presented here will hinder the ability for a song to communicate. These mistakes will confuse the listener. When the listener is confused they will lose interest in a song. A loss of interest is fatal to a song’s ability to be successful. Here are five common mistakes to avoid when writing song lyrics.
1. Avoid Grammar Mistakes
Songwriting is the art of using words to communicate a story. Having song lyrics with proper grammar is important for communicating the story. It is not exempt from the basic rules of grammar. Grammar rules are important. Using grammar correctly will help present the song’s story the best way possible. Some mistakes that can happen include these items. The use of pronouns needs to be consistent in the lyric. Don’t move from “I” to “we” if the story is first person. Another problem is verb tense. If your verse is in the present time don’t use past tense verbs. The next grammar mistake is using sentence fragments. Keep in mind that a sentence has a subject and verb. A prepositional phase is not a sentence, it’s a fragment. These are some of the common grammar mistake that a songwriter needs to avoid when writing lyrics.
2. Avoid Using Obscure References
You song lyrics may make perfect sense to you, but obscure references can confuse the listener. Recently I was attending a song evaluation session. The song lyrics made a reference to a “red wall”. Many in the room wondered what that was. It was an obscure reference to an actual place, not a wall that was painted red. This was confusing and distracted from the overall song lyrics. As songwriters there are times where the temptation to be clever in the lyric will happen. Be careful doing this. Being too clever can lose your listeners attention and cause a sense of confusion.
3. Missing Storyline or Plot
Every song lyric must have a storyline plot. People love stories. We all relate to stories. Imagine going to the movies and watching a movie without a story. Most of us would walk out of the theater. Stories are one of the best ways to communicate and entertain. That is why a song needs a well thought out plot. A story will engage the listener. A good plot will have some interpersonal relationship. This could be husband and wife, or boss and employee. To have a really great story there needs to be some kind of conflict. The song’s plot is how the characters in the song deal with the conflict. A good plot will have a beginning, middle and end. If your song does not have a storyline or plot the listener will lose interest in the song very quickly. They will not get any satisfaction from it because it will be impossible to relate to it. As a songwriter your job is to create the plot.
4. Don’t Overuse a Rhyming Dictionary
Rhyming dictionaries are great tools for songwriters to use while writing a song lyrics. They will help you discover new words that rhyme. People love the way rhymes sound. I believe that is one of the reasons we love songs. A well executed rhyme will enhance a song. But never use the rhyming dictionary to write the lyric. What I mean by this is; don’t open up the dictionary and start picking word rhymes for the sake of rhyming. There is chance for abuse where the songwriter will force a rhyme. Forcing a rhyme is where you settle for a word that kind of fits, but is really not the best word for the lyric. Another problem with rhyming dictionaries is putting together very predictable rhymes. A predictable rhyme is where the listener is not surprised at the word used. They instead actually predict what the word is. Using near rhymes or slant rhyme can go a long way in lyric writing.
5. Too Many Ideas.
Many songwriters when starting out will write songs that have several ideas contained in the song lyrics. When writing a song, pick one topic and build on that one topic. Avoid the temptation to introduce new ideas into a song. Having too many ideas in a song makes the main topic weak. It may also confuse the listen. When a song is listened to the listener should be able to precisely know what the main idea of the song is. If you find that you have more than one idea within the lyric here is what you can do. First isolate one idea and build your song. The additional ideas can then be made into separate songs.
When it comes to writing your songs avoid these mistakes. Avoiding the five mistakes will make you a better songwriter. You will be able to communicate better. Communicating better will help you connect with your audience. That connection will build your success as a songwriter.
This friendly, hands-on guide tackles the new face of the recording industry, guiding you through the shif... Read More >
In My Life with Deth, cofounder and bassist of Megadeth David Ellefson reveals the behind-the-scenes details of... Read More >