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Trouble Finishing Lyrics


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Hey

Just thought I'd start a topic on this. I've spoken to a few regulars who not been posting much recently, and who have been having problems writing new material.

I've been trying to get back into writing after a long time (for me anyway) of neglect. I don't have any great problem coming up with ideas, but I am having a problem finishing lyrics to my satisfaction. In fact finishing lyrics at all.

I get caught in an editing loop, before I have the idea down. I guess part of the problem is that I tend to explore an idea quickly within the lyric, and very quickly I find myself repeating the same message to the extent that the idea seems used up before I have a second verse!

I thought about it. Am I choosing song ideas that don't have enough meat on the bone? Am I over generalising, and so making it easier to get overlapped meanings within my lyrics? I know I am editing too early, but I find it hard to leave a line I think is crap, just for the sake of getting the idea down. I do do this sometimes, but I always end up removing those lines, if not half of what I have written, on the first edit.

Anyone else having or had problems in this direction?

Cheers

John

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I have had the same problem since I've begun writing. I've found that the best thing to do in that situation is keep writing regardless of whether not I like it. Then I wate a week or two and then read it again and I usually end up making a few changes, but I don't think anyone else can tell anyway.

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Hey

I don't know. The longer I leave it, the more lines I'm inclined to change :D

Funnily enough I have tewo almost finished lyrics and about 5 that are progressing well at the moment. Well, progressing well for me (these days) so several months per lyric!

Cheers

John

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I've been trying to get back into writing after a long time (for me anyway) of neglect. I don't have any great problem coming up with ideas, but I am having a problem finishing lyrics to my satisfaction. In fact finishing lyrics at all.

#1) I get caught in an editing loop, before I have the idea down. I guess part of the problem is that (a): I tend to explore an idea quickly within the lyric, and (B): very quickly I find myself repeating the same message to the extent that the idea seems used up before I have a second verse!

#2) I thought about it. Am I choosing song ideas that don't have enough meat on the bone? (a): Am I over generalising, and so making it easier to get overlapped meanings within my lyrics?

#3) I know I am editing too early, but I find it hard to leave a line I think is crap, just for the sake of getting the idea down. I do do this sometimes, but I always end up removing those lines, if not half of what I have written, on the first edit.

Anyone else having or had problems in this direction?

John, can you explain what you mean by "2 (a)"? The overgeneralizing/overlapping?

I know I've had this obstacle before, meaning #1 both (a) and (B) - I marked your paragraphs and changed format a bit for easier reference. I did find that in those cases sometimes the idea was not meaty enough - and I was NOT interested in magnifying or adding on to it. Or, for some other reason while the idea was big enough, I couldn't amplify.

What did happen in one instance with such a lyric, was this: the original idea was that of a woman's pain and longing (which was absolutely palpable to me, after seeing a certain documentary). I wanted to tell her story. But I could not communicate what I felt. Somehow I ended up writing instead a completely different story and the only thing left of the original idea was "pain and longing".

Re: #3 - that's a toughie when combined w/ 1 & 2. I would advise keeping your edited solid lines. A couple options spring to mind. One being to consider yourself a storyteller (maybe you have already done this? I hadn't really, until Last Train). I found that took a lot of pressure off, to finish the idea. It is true, the lyric ended up going somewhere I hadn't intended, and maybe didn't even want, but the more I could consider myself more as reporting or as a detached sort of recorder, the more options opened up for me as to finishing the lyric. And I was able to quickly pare down those options, once they revealed themselves.

As far as getting caught in editing loop before the idea is down...either you have finished the idea (seriously) and need the beginning, middle, end to fatten it so the listener can glean SOME kind of completed picture - or it just stands alone, to be either put with some other gem verse someday, or not. That's my opinion anyway. Or - maybe putting it down for awhile, do something different and out of your routine and life, to help get you dreaming or whatever it's called, thinking in a different way, letting go somehow.

I fear this is no help at all ~ but Cheers anyway.

Donna

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Oh - just wanted to add that musicially this happens with me as well (reminds me of Finn talking about the "themes" he comes with, to string together). Well, I had a beautiful theme written over 16 years ago, and now I'm pretty sure I'll be finally using it.

That's not helpful for what you're working on presently, Mon Capitaine, but maybe you having something of old (idea or actual lyric snippet) that's just been waiting to be used with the present unfinished stuff?

A long shot - but then again, maybe not!

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Hey Donna

Thanks for the reply. By overgeneralising/overlapping meaning I mean two things really, and generalising is really a misnomer. I really mean expressing the main song concepts in too straightforward an expression:

1.generalising -

idea - johnny gets in a bar fight over another woman ;)

She's not worth it

another bar fight

These two lines encompass almost all the basic concept. Ok it's a very basic concept, but hey.

2. Overlapping meaning

basically repeating an idea in another form, which is easier when you write at a high level.

idea loving someone:

I love you

Virtually anything relevent after this statement is likely to overlap...

I love you

You mean everything to me

etc etc

alternatively if the lyric is written in a more abstract form:

hanging on your words

the way you move

Does that explanation make sense?

Cheers

John

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Guest voclizr
I get caught in an editing loop, before I have the idea down. I guess part of the problem is that I tend to explore an idea quickly within the lyric, and very quickly I find myself repeating the same message to the extent that the idea seems used up before I have a second verse!

John;

It sounds like you might be a bit too close to it, ie looking too close to see "the big picture".

When this happens to me, I back off of it for a bit. It might also help to get another perspective, like from your better half, or a close friend. :)

Hope this helps!

:) John B

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Guest voclizr

I should clarify the perspective part.

Not to say that you should let another person get invloved in your finished product. I just mean to say that perhaps it would help to let them read (or hear) what you have at that point and get their feedback. :)

I suggest somebody close to you, who knows you well (and hence, how you think).

John B.

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Mon Capitaine, I think I understand, but am not sure. However:

1.generalising -

idea - johnny gets in a bar fight over another woman

She's not worth it

another bar fight

These two lines encompass almost all the basic concept. Ok it's a very basic concept, but hey.

Ah, but what drove Johnny to be so stupid? Is he just stupid? Then why write a song about this unless there's something engaging about him? Maybe there's something behind his loyalty to this bum of a girl that makes it interesting. Hey- I just read a novel about an medival girl betrothed to a man she barely knew - but her betrothed entered a monastery due to wounds of war and unfit for married life. She was of such mettle that she disguised herself (even to him) as a monk and cared for him til his deathbed several years later. It's full of mystery and heroism - some would say she was stupid, tho.

...that's what I meant about considering one's self a storyteller. I guess some folks could be helped by asking "who what where why?"

Overlapping meaning

basically repeating an idea in another form, which is easier when you write at a high level.

idea loving someone:

I love you

Virtually anything relevent after this statement is likely to overlap...

I love you

You mean everything to me

etc etc

alternatively if the lyric is written in a more abstract form:

hanging on your words

the way you move

That abstract form is beautiful, though. The thing is, even if the idea can be expressed in one line, life is dynamic, the song is. And I say that being a great admirer-er of conciseness and editing! People need to know how the idea manifests as (the way you move, etc;) and the story in your song may need it as well.

The bare idea while it is the core needs something more....maybe it'd be like cooking without spices, or even heat. Just plop down the basic food groups, raw, there's your food (idea)...maybe not even a plate or utensils to eat wiff.

I think JB may've hit the nail on the head, about being too close to gain perspective. It happens....

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Here's whatI wrestle with. Existing lyric which needs changing, but the vowels and syllables themselves are already what I'm used to, and usually what I want. Sometimes the consonants, too. This would be for a lyric which already has melody, or a definite rythym I am set on.

Example:

Existing lyric: She stole from a peach tree

New lyric : Theiving for a fruit unknown

The new lyric may be what what's required for force of expression, poetry, whatever, but I need the "ee's" from peach and tree, need the "ole" from stole - or at least the "oh". And, not necessarily need them because they make the next or preceeding line work. Ditto, the syallables and the way these lay.

This kind of thing may be why MaCartney's Yesterday apparently had a working title of Scrambled Eggs.

Any hints??

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Hey Donna

Ah, but what drove Johnny to be so stupid? Is he just stupid? Then why write a song about this unless there's something engaging about him? Maybe there's something behind his loyalty to this bum of a girl that makes it interesting. Hey- I just read a novel about an medival girl betrothed to a man she barely knew - but her betrothed entered a monastery due to wounds of war and unfit for married life. She was of such mettle that she disguised herself (even to him) as a monk and cared for him til his deathbed several years later. It's full of mystery and heroism - some would say she was stupid, tho.

...that's what I meant about considering one's self a storyteller. I guess some folks could be helped by asking "who what where why?"

That abstract form is beautiful, though. The thing is, even if the idea can be expressed in one line, life is dynamic, the song is. And I say that being a great admirer-er of conciseness and editing! People need to know how the idea manifests as (the way you move, etc;) and the story in your song may need it as well.

The bare idea while it is the core needs something more....maybe it'd be like cooking without spices, or even heat. Just plop down the basic food groups, raw, there's your food (idea)...maybe not even a plate or utensils to eat wiff.

I think JB may've hit the nail on the head, about being too close to gain perspective. It happens....

So simply put the actual detail of the ideas maybe too simplistic and I may be too attached to the idea that I have?

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Guest voclizr
Hey Donna

So simply put the actual detail of the ideas maybe too simplistic and I may be too attached to the idea that I have?

Hey, Anything's possible!!! :D

JB

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Hey Donna

QUOTE(Donna @ Nov 26 2006, 12:43 PM)

Ah, but what drove Johnny to be so stupid? Is he just stupid? Then why write a song about this unless there's something engaging about him? Maybe there's something behind his loyalty to this bum of a girl that makes it interesting. Hey- I just read a novel about an medival girl betrothed to a man she barely knew - but her betrothed entered a monastery due to wounds of war and unfit for married life. She was of such mettle that she disguised herself (even to him) as a monk and cared for him til his deathbed several years later. It's full of mystery and heroism - some would say she was stupid, tho.

...that's what I meant about considering one's self a storyteller. I guess some folks could be helped by asking "who what where why?"

That abstract form is beautiful, though. The thing is, even if the idea can be expressed in one line, life is dynamic, the song is. And I say that being a great admirer-er of conciseness and editing! People need to know how the idea manifests as (the way you move, etc;) and the story in your song may need it as well.

The bare idea while it is the core needs something more....maybe it'd be like cooking without spices, or even heat. Just plop down the basic food groups, raw, there's your food (idea)...maybe not even a plate or utensils to eat wiff.

I think JB may've hit the nail on the head, about being too close to gain perspective. It happens....

So simply put the actual detail of the ideas maybe too simplistic and I may be too attached to the idea that I have?

Yeah!

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What was the question? Hints about what? To write a line with fixed lyrical rhythm, and fixed sylable locations?

That's a good question! :-/

Yeah - hints on writing line w/ fixed lyrical rythym, PLUS FIXED VOWELS, and syllable location. Precisely, exchanging a new line for an existing fixed lyrical rythym, etc;

Maybe someone knows a shortcut.

It'd help to know simply if anyone else wrestles with this.

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So simply put the actual detail of the ideas maybe too simplistic and I may be too attached to the idea that I have?

John - it may not be the idea itself which you're too attached to, but the parameters set down (knowingly or not) in which you're willing to express it. It might be interesting to find out if you do have parameters and what those might be - just the kind of self exam I'd think you'd be suited for.

I hope something may apply?

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Yeah, of course it applies to me, and is certainly related to the issue. I'm aware of, and use the means you describe to mitigate the problem, but I can help getting into the same situation again and again, so much so that many lyrics stall completely.

You're right, in that I analyse how I work, and try to find improvements in what I do.

Parameters. Hmmm. Well there are some intangible-ish quality parameters. I guess, just focusing on the lyrics:

It has to challange the listener

It has to challenge me

The listener has to identify with the emotion

The listener has to have room to "interpret" the lyric i.e. some ambiguity in meaning. I think of this as open writing

The lyric has to either be about something new, take a fresh perspective, or express itself in an original way

In terms of ideas, I can get stuck on having to include a line I already have, because I think it's a great line, but as I've grown as a writer I realised that I should be fearless and ruthless. The line won't evaporate, although if I write the rest of the song in a different way a great line can become obsolete. For that to happen the rest of the lyric has to really work.

I like to kid myself that my lyrics work on different levels, allowing people to take what they want from the lyric. It can be taken on face value, or they can dig into it to discover layers of meaning. Of course npot all lyrics have many layers, but hey!

A few years ago I consciously stepped away from over personal lyrics (my early lyrics wore the emotion on the surface), and I learnt (or least I think I did) how to construct open lyrics, but in recent years I've moved back to writing on more intimate lyrics. For example, to move into less personal lyrics I used he, she, they rather than I, we or you.

I also vary my perspective, viewpoint and attempt to write in different styles, and from different starting points (ie. lyric, melody,chords or rhythm first, start on different instruments). I sometimes do brain dumps to capture raw feeling, but I edit very harshly.

Lately I have been writing quite a lot, so hopefully I can show you some results soon.

Cheers

John

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That's a good question! :-/

Yeah - hints on writing line w/ fixed lyrical rythym, PLUS FIXED VOWELS, and syllable location. Precisely, exchanging a new line for an existing fixed lyrical rythym, etc;

Maybe someone knows a shortcut.

It'd help to know simply if anyone else wrestles with this.

For me, melody is the key, and lyrically that means rhythm and phrasing. They are the most important factor.

I am least attached to the actual sounds, more the type of sound that allows me to stick to rhythm. So for example, If I use an "ooh" sound, because I want it to rhyme with another "ooh" sound, over as more stacato sounding "ent" sound, then I look at this way: is the new line better than the line it is trying to rhyme with? or if I change the rhyme line will it be better? If its is, but uses "aah" rather than "Ooh", then I will look to change the line I am trying to rhyme with to end with an "aah" sound. If not, I keep working on the problem rhyme.

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