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Lyrical Inspiration

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My first post here, although I'm a regular on Keyboard Corner.


How do you guys get inspiration for lyrics? Or get your head in the right place for it? The reason I'm asking: A great chorus came to me in the car, basically complete in a neat little package. (Most of my song stories start this way, I don't know why.) So great, that's done, and within a couple of days I had music and melody for verses and a bridge. And based on the chorus lyrics, I have a general idea what I want the verses to "say". But dang, I can't figure out words to say it. It would take me a couple of paragraphs to explain it in prose, how the heck am I supposed to get that into two or three 8-line verses?


Sheesh. I'm just rambling here. Thanks for listening. I'll go sleep now. :rolleyes:



Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.


My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/


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Hi Dave,


Well... what I would do is go ahead and write it out as prose, what you want the song to say. Just to get that part out of your system. Then read over what you wrote and try to shift gears from "what you want the song to say" to "what this idea evokes in you." Images, emotions, whatever. On a separate sheet of paper, write down these "meta-ideas" that come to mind when you read over your idea. Just little short phrases. Don't worry about whether they make any sense, just write down any fragment of a thought, feeling or image that comes to your mind when you think about the song's subject.


When you've collected a bunch of these little fragments, go through them and see if you can make them fit the rhythm of your verse melody. Usually you have to changing the phrasing around a little, but it's enough to get you going!


Hope that helps....

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I second that: reduce your thoughts to "crysatlized" prases that convey the essence of your ideas/feelings, then re-expand from there.

Keep in mind that (as you're probably aware) most songs only convey a general idea of intent & most people will reinterpret that to fit their outlook, anyway.

Is it a "theme song" (that is, with an expressionist, poetic intention) or a "story"?

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Hey nice ideas. I've never tried that before, but I will now.


I guess it's kind of a thematic song. The idea of the chorus is that I can always obtain spiritual renewal, or re-centering, if I really want to. Or something. I'm not really used to being analytical about this stuff, it usually just comes to me, like the chorus did.


Thanks for the tips. I'll post an MP3 if I ever get this finished and recorded (which could be months). Not sure if I'll post lyrics, to me lyrics are not poetry, they don't really stand alone without the associated music.



Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.


My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/


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just one way of looking at it you might find useful:


if you think like you would in improv, it can be the exact same process, with an understanding that the language you're using is setting 'tone', frequently more than the melody/harmony/rythm section itself might.


for example, a violent thought can be made much richer, or more dubious/sinister by using elegant language that doesn't reveal it's violent undercurrent until a compositionally impactful point.


that's the same thing you might do with a lingering keyboard improv that leads with a gliss or tricky bend into the fanfare of the main chorus but you're using the dimensions of language to create it, in addition to the melody or vocal tone.


just "jam" on paper, like you would your axe. experiment with the rythmical placement of each recurring phrase, like neil pert would vary up an otherwise simple beat.


don't get bogged down in preciseness, especially in the beginning, write down everything that pops in your head. even if it doesn't work - it will have captured the idea.


and failing to capture the series of ideas you want to employ as they pop into your head, is a common problem.


if you get stuck on how to work a certain part, try conveying the thought again but in a different method altogether, eg a quote from a character the song is about, or by using a popular phrase from today, your audience's cultural past, or even just a simple play on words that happens to relate to your idea.


using a sports metaphor: get points on the board, as the more the timer ticks down, the more you begin to believe you cannot succeed, and the more advantage you give to forces working against you (namely entropy).


creative breakdown in writing most often occurs when you overwhelm yourself by staring at a blank page. get words/ideas down, think laterally/generatively.


keep working them and massaging them and tightening them up, and before you know it you'll be sitting on something that is quite ingenius because it's unlikely anyone else has spent the same time and effort on the same thought in the same context.


and it's sooo fun. :wave:

--_ ______________ _

"Self-awareness is the key to your upheaval from mediocrity."

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I'll third what Lee said. And I can go along with Schmee, too.


As long as you jot down the idea of what you want to say, you'll eventually boil down the heart of it in verse. I wouldn't be surprised if you threw much of it in the trash before you hit upon the right lines. And even after that, you will probably think of ways to say it better, and go through revisions. I know I have!



I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left!
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  • 3 weeks later...

One idea is to get a little dictaphone thing, get in your car and drive around aimlessly singing the chorus and just make up lines for the verse part.


usually when I "sit down" with a piece of paper and try to write lyrics they end up looking good on paper but don't work in the song itself. plus you end up writing too much and over-intellectualizing the whole process.


just singing over the melody while doing something else (vacuuming, washing the dishes?) leaves you open to a lot more ideas from your subconscious, plus you get some housework done.


remember also that some of the best songs have lyrics that don't make a hell of a lot of sense on paper and plenty of songs with "good" lyrics are kind of boring as songs.

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Lee Flier said:

Well... what I would do is go ahead and write it out as prose, what you want the song to say. Just to get that part out of your system.
Good point,


Something that I have been doing the last couple of years is when I get stuck for verses, (I usually get the hook first as well) I will write the question: "What is this song about?"


Then below that I will write in a jumbled, free association way, all of the words and images that come to mind. I have found that by doing this, I actually find the vocabulary , IE the words to tell my story.


It's kind of cool. When you are not trying to rhyme, or think of structures your brain will come up with words you would have never thought of otherwise.


It works for me, I hope it's helpful.



"It's all good: Except when it's Great"

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I agree with the suggestions of Lee and others here re: extracting the meta message from a stream-of-conscioness dump.


I'd add that when you do choose the lines to express the core idea they should not "tell" the listener how you feel. Rather, they should "show" how you feel somewhat indirectly. Its easy for the technique of identifying meta mesages to turn into lines that describe how I feel.

For example

" I am lonely"

this makes for a shitty lyric.

Whats better is having folks see/infer that your lonely. Something like the following:


Im talking to the goldfish

He's the only one who listens.

And Oprah is my only real friend...


This is less introverted and painting a picture seems to provide a better connection to listeners.


Ive been sensitive to the need to carefully balance direct "how I feel" statements with painting a picture lines. This is a useful observation I got from some web site on songwriting some time ago.


I think its an important point that many beginning songwriters would benefit from .

Its helped me fer sure.

Check out some tunes here:


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