Once you’ve finished your song, take a moment and congratulate yourself. Then, I’d highly suggest taking yet another moment and going back in to see if there aren’t ways you can tighten and refine even further. Below are a few things to try after you’ve finished the first draft of your song. The good news is that the more you learn to edit this way, the more often you’ll begin to write this way to begin with. But early on, being conscious about your editing process is a solid approach. Here are a few more fixes that can improve a song quickly and efficiently.
Trim the lyrical fat
Small words can be important words. Sometimes. And sometimes they just bloat a lyric and add unnecessary syllables. Words like “and,” “but,” “so,” “‘cause,” “that” and “well” are often throwaway words that you sing to keep time but the leaner you can make your lyric the more punch and power it will have. Painting your song’s picture with the absolute minimum number of words is the worthwhile and necessary goal here.
Be sure to be conversational
A lyric should be conversational for a couple of essential reasons. First and foremost, a conversational lyric is easier to sing. However, it’s equally important that a lyric be easy to listen to. The average person who hears a song for the first couple times isn’t listening as much for the meaning of the words as they are for the sound of the words. If the lyric isn’t natural sounding, it won’t be comfortable to listen to and people won’t want to hear it again even if they can’t tell you exactly why. Remember to use words and phrases that you would use if you were talking, not writing, and keep in mind that emphasizing the natural syllable in a word is part of being conversational as well.
Differentiate your verse and chorus melodies and phrasing
The melody is the first thing listeners notice even if they don’t know that they’re noticing. As a result, it’s important to make sure your verse and chorus melodies are different enough so that even a casual listener will know when you’ve arrived at a different section of your song. It’s the variety that matters. For example, if you have long verses, keep your choruses short and vary the rhythm of the phrases to add dimension to your song.
Remember to make your lyric catchy
Never underestimate the power of a good, hooky “ooh” or “la la” when it comes to helping your song stand out and making it fun to sing. These kinds of vocal “tricks” go a long way towards helping people notice your song want to sing along.
The major difference between our early songwriting efforts and finely polished musical gems is the little details. Knowing what makes songs work - and not work - will allow you to more consistently deliver high quality songs that people want to hear. I hope these tips help you as you continue to refine your songwriting skills. And, if you’d like a reminder of my first four quick fixes, take a peek here.