Writing Captivating Song Lyrics

Greetings, songwriters!

Let’s talk about iconic song lyrics for a moment – and I mean those lyrics that people sing back to you when you mention the title of a song. 

The Power of Song Lyrics

Try it now with these hits: take note of the first words that pop into your head for each song. Ready? Go!

 “More Than a Feeling”

 “Friends in Low Places”

 “Down the Road”

Even though all of these hits have multiple verses and each is easily 3:15 long, chances are pretty good that every one of you recalled the same song lyrics for each song! It’s almost certain those words were from the chorus. That’s just a testimony to the power of writing a strong chorus.

Writing a Strong Chorus

Keeping this experiment in mind when approaching a chorus can help you write more songs that people will sing back to you every time – which is a great feeling as a songwriter and artist. 

Here are a few tips for ensuring your choruses pass the test of time:

  1.  Keep the chorus simple. Listeners and performers tend to dislike tripping over complex speech patterns, words with more than 2-3 syllables, or rhymes that require unnatural pronunciations to make them work. In general, anything that doesn’t sound like most people talk won’t be memorable!
  1. The chorus is an emotional reminder. It’s usually best for the chorus to stick to the main theme of the song rather than have it present another frame of the storyboard. In other words, the song lyrics of the chorus should focus on the emotion or theme that ties the song together from start to finish. A listener can plug into that emotion by only learning the chorus and revisiting it 2-3 times during one hearing. That’s reinforcement – and listeners memorize the chorus without even realizing they did it! Details of the story don’t need to be included in the chorus – you’ll have plenty of verses for that.
  1. Less is more.  Repeat one line or song lyric – or even one word! But repeat SOMETHING that grabs the listener’s attention. What word or phrase independently carries the emotional connection you’re attempting to make? Listen to Dan Tyminski sing “Wheels” (written by Craig Market & Daren Shumaker) and you’ll quickly appreciate the power of a chorus consisting of a single word. Reaching back a bit, the Flatt & Scruggs song “Down the Road” demonstrates the repeated use of a single phrase or song lyric for a timeless and unforgettable chorus. 
  1. Include the title in the chorus. Tom T. Hall’s “Pretty Green Hills” (all 5:03 of it) has but a two-line chorus consisting mainly of repeating the song title three times. We already explored “Wheels” and “Down the Road”, but they also effectively demonstrate this tool of including the song title in the chorus. 
  1. Include the “hook” in the chorus. This is so important that many writers who think of a hook write the chorus first. The emotional content is almost complete at that point; verses elaborate and provide character development, but the summary should be relatively obvious from the chorus, and the bait is set out to capture listeners who identify with the hook.
  1. Sometimes (very rarely), the chorus can move the story along. Try to avoid this unless you’re writing an epic tale that runs too long otherwise. You’ll have to resign yourself to the fact that only the heartiest of fans of the song will commit the whole thing to memory. It’s debatable to even identify a portion of such a song as a chorus, though some accept the definition as a result of a repeating but unique chord progression accompanying certain lines.

I hope you’ll find these general song lyrics and chorus “rules” effective in creating unforgettable choruses for your new writing projects.

Keep writing!

Jim Grubbs

There’s a disconnect between the way songwriters and performers create music. We’ve spent our entire lives in the music industry and have seen firsthand how difficult it is to pitch that song you’re so proud of AND we’ve seen how hard it can be to find great songs for that upcoming project. So, BuyDemoTracks.com was created to help change the way we write, create, and record music together forever.

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