How to Structure Lyrics

Steph Unger, musician,singer, songwriter is featured in the book Global Citizens Creative Arts Text.

She says,”Keep it simple, and stick to what has stood the test of time.”

“Experienced songwriters tend to write the lyrics first, however I have found that students need far more structure and scaffolding to write their first few songs.”

because of this Steph encourages students to

  • experiment with the given chord progression (I, V, vi, IV, I) first to create their ideal harmonic line [as described in How To Write A Song]
  • then she recommends they sit down and write some lyrics

Writing lyrics is actually something that most students take to easily. Whether consciously or unconsciously, students tend to follow the “verse – chorus” form and more often then not opt for prose that consists of no rhyming.

Steph thinks that the main difficulty student’s face is writing lyrics for a chorus.  She says they tend to cram a lot of words into the chorus, and in doing this they are unwittingly turning it into an extra verse. She says that she interprets this to mean that the student has not actually consciously decided what the main point or message of the song is.

Setting out to simplify the process for her students, Steph gives them direction by asking, “What is the one thing that you want your audience to remember?” To make sure they are focused she elaborates thus, ” If [your audience] did not listen to any other part of the song, what is the main line or statement that you would want them to remember?” She explains to the student that this main line or statement is the chorus.

If students can author the words and create their harmonic line, the melody will be developed easily.

Extension for More Advanced Music Students

As students progress they will be hungry for more opportunities to experiment. Some students will add harmonies on top of their melody. Others might add percussion such as drum or electronic beats to the music. In the beginning, though most students will write acoustic pieces for the guitar and one voice, or they may include piano and one voice.

Steph Jorna Provides Tips and Tricks to Make Writing Music Easier

Her advice is to

  • Keep it simple and stick to what has stood the test of time. The “Heart and Soul” progression has stood the test of time and has proven its popularity and effectiveness over and over again by artists such as Alicia Keys, Mika and Last Kiss Goodnight and countless others. This progression is explained in How To Write A Song [Murphy. 2008]
  • She always recommends that the easiest and most effective way for students to write a song is sticking to this progression first. Once familiar with the technique students can manipulate it and varying the style over time as they become more comfortable with the whole process.

“My aim as an educator is to ensure that each student is given every opportunity to achieve and experience success.” By using the “Heart and Soul” progression along with an open, creative and supportive classroom environment, she believes that there is opportunity for every student to achieve to the best of his or her ability.

Readers : is this how you write a song?  if you have tips and tricks please post about them on the discussion boards.  Jo

First Published @ Suite101: How to Structure Lyric Writing Classes

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