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Too many lyrics in a song?

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You write, you edit, you hone and tweak.  But too many important lyrics remain - and I certainly don't have the musical or vocal chops to carry an extra-long song.  So ... what do YOU do?


TWO OPTIONS work for me:



Sound effects allow you paint an audio picture quickly.  It means that time/words don’t have to be spent or wasted in exposition, and you can get to the nub of the story.  Sound effects can also work underneath the lyrics.


An example is “Running From Red”, a song about escaping the Soviets as they expanded through Eastern Europe after WWll.  At 3:36, the song is overtaken by the sounds of invasion ... far more powerfully than any words could convey.

The opening of “The C-Bomb” has various politicians denying climate change, focusing the listener on the issue and removing the need for me to provide additional lyrics for context.


2.       SPOKEN WORD

Sung rhyming lines are highly constrained by their need to fit the musical rhythm and melody. By contrast, speaking allows you to pack in a LOT more content.   


Last Post” started as a sung melody but is was far too unwieldy ... the words/syllables had to wait for the music, which was slow/funereal.  Yet, when spoken, 370 unhurried words made it into the 4:47 duration, saying everything I wanted to say on the matter.  These were still rhyming lines (the same as my preference in songs).

In “Losing My Grip”, I had more ideas for the choruses than could fit when ‘sung’ (ideas that I was not willing to cast aside).  When spoken, I ended up with 110 well-fitted words in these chorus parts.

Agincourt”.  I tried for a long time to tailor this into a more traditional song format, but nothing ever gelled.  Even spoken ‘verses’ like in “Last Post” were too constricting.  The end result is more like a radio drama. Not only spoken prose (1180 words in 11 minutes) but ‘illustrated’ with sound effects and classical music.


I'm aware of the self-referential pompous nature of these posts.
I've parodied the whole issue in "Pop Song" :) ... 



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5 hours ago, Popthree said:

I have to say I don't recall ever having that problem. If anything, I've struggled to write enough  insightful, thought provoking, quality lyrics to complete a song. I never have too many 


Well ... perhaps I'm kidding myself when I think I have too many and instead need to be more ruthlessly selective! :) 

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  • 2 months later...

I'd say it's important to keep the listener's attention musically to make a long lyric work. I love early Bruce Springsteen, who was as expansive as any prog rock band back then but he did it with more of a pop sensibility. The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle album has eight songs and three of them make up side two. But one of them is Rosalita, seven minutes long and his most popular live song. And if you look at the structure, it's the same as a classic 3-minute pop song: verse, bridge, verse, bridge, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, middle, verse, bridge, chorus, outro. He just uses more words per line and his middle 8 is a middle 16.

Edited by Glammerocity
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  • 1 month later...

To me, "the pop song" is a format – and a very tired one.  There are plenty of "song formats" that are much longer and more interesting, such as any classical-music format such as the "sonata."  Some very-interesting music by artists in the 70's and early 80's directly used those things.  The Moody Blues even hired the London Symphony Orchestra.

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