I have nephew attending college in New York, majoring in English. I saw Robbie over the weekend, but forgot to ask him if he was planning on becoming a rap star with his degree.
But why not?
Something about “poetry,” whether my class (which I aced) at Boston College years-ago, a quaint, stuffy little book, a professor with eyeglasses … the images conjured up by the word “poetry” are hoity-toity to me.
You too? At least, the image of poetry isn’t like rap music.
I keep wondering, why not?
I wonder, why didn’t they tell me in school, if I learned to write well, I could use my skills to entertain, to work in the most exciting industry in the world? Instead, it was educational … meaning … literary … meaning … boring as hell.
Not on purpose. With a student like me, I think my teacher back in the day really got a lot out of the class!
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a callback, but did you know if you wrote a song for Britney Spears and she put it on her album, you’d get half the money, without ever even lifting a microphone?
Yes, money; big money. As a writer, if you can break into the industry. But that would certainly require first becoming a great writer.
This article focuses on why the words are so important in a song.
MUSIC AND THE SUNG WORD
Musicians sometimes ask me, “should I sing?”
I strongly beliieve yes, you should!
Songwriters sometimes ask me, “should I write the words or music first?”
I say the part that’s sung is so important, you should pay very good attention to it.
There are layers of reasons why the voice is the greatest instrument on the stage!
THE VOICE AS AN INSTRUMENT
Unlike other instruments, the human voice is uniquely yours. Think about how important this is, if people love your voice!
Unlike other instruments, the human voice speaks language. This creates at least three critical dynamics, or layers, in a song — the poetic sound of the words, the meaning of the words, and the rememberable nature of the words, none of which are as meaningful dynamics with other instruments. People remember your song because of the excellent, sticky, punchy, effectively memorable words.
Unlike other instruments, listeners to your song can easily “play along” to the words hands-free. If you had a hit song and it had a great saxophone solo in the middle, how many saxophone players would grab their instrument and play along when your hit came on the radio? Sounds crazy! But if your words are excellent, there will be lots of people singing along.
Your voice is not only the instrument with the deepest ability to make a message, it’s also the one far most likely to be repeated, as a slogan of your song.
SONGWRITING IN A FEW GOOD WORDS
I sometimes recommend to songwriters to write the lyrics first, then a melody, as if writing a poem. One difference between a poem and lyric is a song utilizes repetition and rhythm more, but otherwise the two things are essentially the same, the whim of the writer whether it’s a song or poem or poem meant to be attached to its melodies at a later time.
There are reasons, also, to come up with the music first, creating lyrics by singing on top later. This helps learning alternating rhythms that don’t occur very naturally in poetry – offsets that take advantage of the beat of a song.
If you’re wondering where to begin writing your song, though, I’d say start with the words. There are tons of reasons. It’s important to write good lyrics, and discipline can be built more easily focusing on the lyrics first, the risk avoided that they start to become more like an afterthought.
You can, of course, have a feeling of the energy of the music while writing the lyrics, but on the other hand, you don’t have to.
Both lyrics and voice are such important parts of a good song they need to be great.
YOU’RE GONNA SEE
So write, sing and repeat! Make joyful sounds!
I just wrote my latest song-to-be poem last night, “You’re Gonna See.”
The rhythm and intention to become a song are in the words! I wrote the lyrics in about an hour, inspired by an instrumental I created which I like to play when I practice; I just started singing to it, found the melody and rhythm, then wrote the words. This is a great way to learn more advanced ways to “sit” the words on top of the music’s rhythm, even though not the best way to start if you are a beginning songwriter. This new song has all its parts and I’ll post a recorded demo soon, so you can hear what I’m saying!