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The Good Lyric ?


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For all those others here who, like myself, are merely lyricists - what is it you think constitute essential requirements of a good song lyric ?

When I say 'merely lyricists" here, it is in recognition that words don't make a song until given the tune to fly on.

So just what is it you aim for, qualitatively and structurally, to serve the expectations of a composer-collaborator ?

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Lazz, I think if it's good is an objective opinion. I know you know that so here is what is good to me.

It's interesting. Some cliche used in a new way, or metaphore used as I wasn't expecting. An unexpected rhyme.

It's new. I like surprizes. I hate the same old thing. I hate a melody that is obviously stolen from another song. Even just a few notes of something else will make my stomach turn.

I like positive mesages though I don't seem to be able to write them as often as I'd like.

Simple words, light rhymes, easy to sing, words that feel like milk chocolate rolling off the tounge. Comfortable shoes in a soulful dance,

with a big hearted woman, dressed in rose colored satin, holdin' her close, and feelin' her smooth skin, achin to know her much better.

The how to's, although helpfull, aren't as interesting as a new and beautiful verse.

MP

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Interesting question. I can't help feeling that a lot of the lyricists here just write words hoping to find a rhyme. In many cases, there seems to be a distinct lack of understanding of how the lyric might have to 'fit in' to a musical phrase! in short. No structure! I will be interested in any response to this question!

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I can't help feeling that a lot of the lyricists here just write words hoping to find a rhyme. In many cases, there seems to be a distinct lack of understanding of how the lyric might have to 'fit in' to a musical phrase! in short. No structure! I will be interested in any response to this question!

Steve, this hardly answers the question. But, none the less, a valid point. Not too easy to ammend if the lyricist does not play an instrument. However, who is posting music that needs lyrics? I don't believe I've ever seen such a post. Many who write music think that the lyrics they have written for the music have made it a song no matter how week the lyrical content.

I can honestly say that the lyrics written for Alistar's music and melody were my most rewarding. I love that song still.

MP

John?

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Hey MP

Just teasing because Lazz was seeking opinion of lyricists, particularly writing for others, not something I do often. I tend to write music for others and most lyrics not for me have been in a lyrical collaboration with me supplying the music.

I should really start a topic on the reciprocal part, writing music for lyricists :)

Cheers

John

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Thanks guys.

If I could just sum up where the answers seem to have got to so far:

Qualitatively:

Tom wants a mix of surprise with the comfort of cliché, warm sounds, tactile

Like Steve, he stresses a sense of musicality

(everyone says Hammerstein had it, even though he didn’t play an instrument)

In a neighbouring and related thread, John also identified important personal qualities the lyricist should possess: experience, able to communicate with musicians, simbiotically sympatico, and a willing flexibility for making practical accomodations – i.e. ready to re-write.

Structurally:

Steve and John both think, like Ghandi’s opinion of english civilisation, that it would be a good idea – to have some structure, I mean – the essential element of song architecture. And rhythmic phrasing, too, please.

NEXT:

• Do we have any more wood for the fire ?

• Anyone ?

***

Anecdotal diversion:

Personally, I strive to make the architecture transparent – so partner Pat can see right through it. And when we got a sudden sniff of interest for our “I Don’t Think About You Anymore” idea (the working lyric for which was published here at Songstuff last year) and Mr PC had reason to start turning it into a song, he was on the ‘phone pretty sharpish.

We sorted the bridge quick and easy where melody demanded a contour change, but the real issue was in the ‘A’ sections. Weeks before, I had recited the verbals into his shell-like. No melodic inferences. Just told the story. Really sold the lyric. He loved it. And now it was sticky.

Quite transparently, each line of the ‘A’ section had a sweet two-bar phrase-length – were it not for those obstinate extra beats of line 1: “I don’t think about you anymore – not very much”. He was badly aggravated by this, I could tell. Almost as if I had turned-up for supper mad drunk and improperly dressed. Just been taking a renewed look at Hoagy’s stuff, I explained – (Hoagy Carmichael, self-taught pianist, natural southern bohemian, party-animal, quit law for music, serious viper, hung tight with Bix Beiderbecke, writer of ‘Georgia’ among many others) – and thought I’d try wearing one of his old waist-coats….

I intended for ‘A’ to be 9-bars.

The response was swift and gruff.

“I don’t do that.”

Those ‘A’ sections are now eight measure.

Sorted.

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I remember that lyric Lazz, and felt the same tonight as I did when I first read it. Simply beautiful. I have a slight discomfort with the rhyme scheme in the B section, but in song form I'm certain that will fade.

Just as I was trying to say, "I Don't Think About You Anymore" isn't a new concept, but the the word choice and rythm are so comfortable.

That would be my example of a good lyric, structure and content wise.

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i m just a newbe, but here are my thoughts..

personally, i try to write lyric similerr to the bands i love at that moment. Although i have written couple of offtrack lyrics but people didnt like it much ! But i prefer quality and structure as well. I believe that changes can be done according to music/tune/melody. Many people say that sometimes its better to go offrhyme and i believe at some stage its true too. Although many people disagree with that. Many say that rhyme is MUST ingrediant of a lyric !

Quality : it can be considered in many aspects. coz sometimes random lines also makes a quality lyric. not intentionally but it does makes sometimes ! On the contrary lyric that is totally to the point, following the theme doesnt make that much charm. But again it all depends on the writter..If Lazz would write it, lyrics sure would have potential, experience blossoms ! ^_^:)

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Thanks guys.

And when we got a sudden sniff of interest for our “I Don’t Think About You Anymore” idea (the working lyric for which was published here at Songstuff last year) and Mr PC had reason to start turning it into a song, he was on the ‘phone pretty sharpish.

We sorted the bridge quick and easy where melody demanded a contour change, but the real issue was in the ‘A’ sections. Weeks before, I had recited the verbals into his shell-like. No melodic inferences. Just told the story. Really sold the lyric. He loved it. And now it was sticky.

Quite transparently, each line of the ‘A’ section had a sweet two-bar phrase-length – were it not for those obstinate extra beats of line 1: “I don’t think about you anymore – not very much”. He was badly aggravated by this, I could tell. Almost as if I had turned-up for supper mad drunk and improperly dressed. Just been taking a renewed look at Hoagy’s stuff, I explained – (Hoagy Carmichael, self-taught pianist, natural southern bohemian, party-animal, quit law for music, serious viper, hung tight with Bix Beiderbecke, writer of ‘Georgia’ among many others) – and thought I’d try wearing one of his old waist-coats….

I intended for ‘A’ to be 9-bars.

The response was swift and gruff.

“I don’t do that.”

Those ‘A’ sections are now eight measure.

Sorted.

This is the first lyic I've read of yours. Is this song finished? I'd love to hear the final version.

This is an good topic. I've never collaborated so I haven't posted any thoughts. But I'm reading the thread with interest.

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There are two kinds of teams I see being discussed here.

Lazz, obviously you and PC have a working, trusting relationship. He trusts that if he says something as gruff as "I don't do that", you will take it in the correct Spirit and endeavour to find common ground.

For a new and untried relationship I think the Lyric would have to speak volumes to the Musician in order for them to undertake Music for it. In other words, it needs to bee DONE.

As a Lyric Writer myself, I am not in search of Lyrics to put Music to, but every once in a while I read one that speaks to me. I found one of MP's Lyrics to have that effect on me (we talked of my putting it to Music, but it fell to the side. I stress, that it was not the quality or "doneness" of the Lyric, Life gets in the way sometimes).

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Should be finished any minute - the pigeon hasn't arrived yet.

I could forward you a lead-sheet, Don

No idea when it will get recorded.

Thank you for offering. Unfortunately, notes on paper make my eyes glaze over. I can figure out what they mean but I can't hear the music in my head. Once recorded, if you post a link I'll be quite pleased to listen.

Beyond thanking you for the opportunity to enjoy your well-written lyric, I want to thank you for a bit of inspiration reading your lyric provided me. As often happens, as soon as I realized how good it was, I got my hands on a guitar and toyed with a few chord sequences and melody lines. The way you structured the verses led me to think a little differently about how to sing those lines. I liked the results. Some version of the resulting chords and melody might just end up on some future song I will write. If that happens it will be because you wrote that lyric and I got a chance to read it. Thank you.

Keep writing,

Don

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I want to thank you for a bit of inspiration reading your lyric provided me............ the resulting chords and melody might just end up on some future song I will write. If that happens it will be because you wrote that lyric and I got a chance to read it.

Wow.

That's HUGE.

My pleasure should be an arrestable offence.

As indicated in the 'Anecdotal Diversion', I was kick-started into the theme myself by Hoagy Carmichael.

Happy to pass the parcel.

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Lazz, obviously you and PC have a working, trusting relationship. He trusts that if he says something as gruff as "I don't do that", you will take it in the correct Spirit and endeavour to find common ground.

My position is that the music is most important.

Not true for all - but definitely true for me.

My aim is that the words don't let it down.

Very first time Mr PC (Pat Coleman) and I set out to write a song, I gave him an old lyric I had been carrying around - "Song For A New Day". Pat's first four bars spoke so clearly in their own momentum and colour that I tore up the words and started completely afresh as the music demanded and deserved.

It's still a favourite piece for both of us.

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I have several requirements when I write a lyric:

- I feel that lyrics should tell some sort of story - listeners/readers must come away knowing something they previously didn't. Also, it must be something that both myself as a lyricist, and other people as an audience, would care about. Do people want to hear about my smelly socks? Probably not.

I do my best to avoid all cliches. Nothing kills a good lyric for me more than cliches.

I ask myself - "have i told this story before?" The idea for the lyric must be new, or must be from a new perspective, or bring something fresh to the proverbial table.

As several people have mentioned in this thread already, the lyrics must have some discernible rhythm that myself or other musician could put to a melody.

Lastly, all the words in the lyric must contribute to the overall lyric. Rhyming strictly for the sake of rhyming is forbidden.

Hope that answers the question for you, Lazz.

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Just been taking a renewed look at Hoagy’s stuff, I explained – (Hoagy Carmichael, self-taught pianist, natural southern bohemian, party-animal, quit law for music, serious viper, hung tight with Bix Beiderbecke, writer of ‘Georgia’ among many others) – and thought I’d try wearing one of his old waist-coats….
Might be helpful if what I was referring to was made a bit clearer:

Hoagy always wrote music first, I believe, and appears to have been conceiving melody horizontally rather than vertically - much like the way Burt Bacharach does, away from the piano, to come up with all those odd bar lengths and changing time signatires which are so neat and so right that you don't even notice what's going until you start to transcribe and analyse his stuff.... anyway, here are the structural outlines for two of Hoagy Carmichael's lovely standards:

I Get Along Without You Very Well

A1 - 10 bars

A2 - 7 bars

Bridge - 8 bars

A3 - 7 bars

Skylark

A1 - 8 bars

A2 - 9 bars

Bridge - 8 bars

A3 - 7 bars

Wierd, eh ?

But very lovely tunes.

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