Lyric writing is an adventure in that it is usual bound by a certain
set of rules and parameters, yet the lyricist can be exceedingly
creative within those parameters. Unlike poetry, which may be as
short as one line or as long as hundreds of pages, song lyrics that
are written for radio play are usually written with a 3-minute time
limit in mind.
While its true that some songs longer than
3 minutes do receive airplay, the standard 3 minute song
will, in general, be received more favorably by radio stations
than much longer or short songs.
So, within this limitation, the lyrics are
generally arranged in a verse
and chorus pattern.
The verse of the lyrics tell the story and set up the drama
and the chorus is the memorable part of the song, generally
containing a hook that is the most memorable part of the
The hook can be a repetition of the title of the song or other
verbiage that tends to stick in the listeners' heads. While it must
be noted that not all songs have a catchy chorus, or any chorus
at all, most popular songs do. Some lyrics also contain a bridge,
which is different from verses and choruses and is sometimes used
to connect the two.
One of the elements of successful lyric writing is the use of poetic
devices within the music lyrics. Metaphors are a powerful method
of conveying imagery to the listeners. Lines like "She is a
black cat" or "I am a rock. I am an island" convey
an image to the listener is a way that few other poetic devices
When making metaphors and writing lyrics in general, it sometimes
helps to draw upon personal experience in order to connect with
the listener. If there is a particularly memorable feeling or event
in your life that you can draw upon for your lyrics, that will generally
make them all the more powerful.
Meter and rhyme
are also important elements of lyric writing. The syllable stresses
of words in a line contribute to the meter of that line. It's helpful
in singing a song to have consistent syllabic stresses in the verses
and chorus throughout the song. For instance in the line "Peter
Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers", the syllabic stresses
are on the first part of each "P" word. Repetition and
consistence help with the rhythm of the song.
Rhyme may be either internal rhyme or end rhyme. If the end rhyme
of a 4-line verse is all the same, the pattern is considered to
be A, A, A, A, which means the last words in the verse all rhyme
with one another. If the last words in the first and third lines
rhyme with each other and the second and fourth rhyme with each
other, then the pattern is A, B, A, B, which is a common rhyme scheme
in lyric writing.
Alliteration is another common poetic device that lyric writers
use in order to give emphasis and rhythm to a song. For instance,
the song "Blinded
By the Light" by Bruce Springsteen is literally littered
with alliteration. In the line "Some silicone sister with her
manager's mister …" the "S" is repeated in the first
part of the line and then the "M" is repeated in the second
These are just some of the techniques that professional lyricists
use to create powerful and memorable lyrics to songs. They are also
guidelines as well. Many memorable songs do not contain all elements,
while some songs like the one just listed will contain a concentration
of colorful and creative lyric writing techniques.