Being A Wordsmith
By Beth Lawrence - 02/13/2013 - 02:27 PM EST
Yes, as a lyricist, you are a Wordsmith. You are creating thoughts and feelings from words strung together; and like jewels, they flow magically with an intention that creates an emotional response in the heart of the listener. Here are a few steps I take when I'm starting a song, and especially if I'm 'stuck'.
When you're starting your verse, formulate your thought first. What do you want to say -- distilled into one line with correct cadence and meter. Your next lines complete the thought, but complications arise because you've got to rhyme the ends of line 2 and 4, lines 1 and 3, or both! And these rhymes have to be true rhymes, not just phony rhymes as I call them, like 'friend' and 'again'. A better, true rhyme would be 'friend' and 'bend', or 'smile' and 'awhile'. If they don't rhyme then you have to go back and find a rhyming word that completes the thought. You may have to dismantle the lines - keeping the thought but saying it in a new way. There's no easy way around this, it's called the craft of songwriting and it's the process of being both creatively intuitive and also aware of the concepts of the proper crafting of lyrics and music. Yes, lots of songs out there are not well crafted, and some of those songs are big hits! But YOU don't have to take the easy way -- learn your craft and it will carry you far.
When you're having to do your rewrites to make something work, you might ask, how many times can you restate something, but in another way? That's the challenge, and each time that you restate it, your words can get more sophisticated, your thought more eloquent. Sort of like Scrabble - you're going for the 7 letter word, not the 3 letter word! There comes a time when you have to STOP rewriting, or you'll never finish a song; but don't be locked in to what you've written, be open to reworking it in even a more brilliant way, if it needs tweaking.
Once the first verse is done, then you take it further with the next verse, which must have a logical and emotional flow back into your chorus which completes the thought you've set up in each verse. How many variations of an emotion can you describe? How do you do it in such a way that you connect with your listener? Lyric writing is not about being esoteric when describing your feelings. No one will relate. Your audience won't 'get' what you're talking about even though it may be very clear to you. Being vague confuses your listener as they grapple to find the meaning within your words. That's called distraction, and you don't want that because it disconnects your listener from you emotional intention! You want your listener to feel what you're feeling - or what the person who's singing your song feels. If the lyric is too esoteric, too vague - the singer won't get it and they won't convey the feeling; thus no connection with the audience.
We communicate through music. It touches our hearts. So when we are creating words and music we must write and speak to the heart. A Wordsmith must be clear while also being eloquent. That's where art meets feeling. That's where genius resides; in thought provoking, unique, and emotion-loaded words that have chords and melodies that match and reflect the feeling of the words. So the listener is totally immersed in a song that touches them mentally and emotionally. They can find a commonality with the singer who becomes the story teller. It's finding a fresh approach to the basic emotions we all share -- that's the trick! And yet there are infinite combinations of words, notes, chords and melodies just waiting to be discovered. That's the thrilling thing about creating music -- it's always a throw of the dice. Which words can be combined to tell a compelling story? And what combinations of notes and chords will underscore that story to maximize its emotional affect on the listener.
You, the Wordsmith, you the writer of chords and melodies - you the creator of songs, pull all of these elements out to the ethers and combine them to create an inspired piece of emotional art. It's an expressive medium that is both challenging and exhilarating. It takes no more energy to be ordinary, as it does to be extraordinary. So go for craft, go for eloquence, go for emotion! Oh, the exciting life of a Wordsmith!
Beth Lawrence has composed music for Broadway's Marilyn, An American Fable and The Journey Home, a musical commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee. She is an International recording artist who has performed on concert stages worldwide. As founding member of Viva La Voice, a music branding and mentoring company, Beth has produced 10 Award-winning CDs and has won music awards from Billboard Magazine; L.A. Jazz Scene Magazine; The American Song Festival; and Parents Magazine. Beth uses her entertainment expertise and experience to help singers and speakers claim their stage with confidence, and is the Author of From Shower To Stage...7 Easy Steps for Singing Like A Pro! Vivalavoice.com
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