Lesson One: Songwriting Part I

Lesson One: Songwriting Part I

A Lesson by The Perfectionist
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Some of the differences between songs and poetry

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Most of you may have expected me to start things off here with a talk about how reviewers suck and how they can do better. Since I always like to mess with people, I'm doing something different. Maybe that will be lesson 2, who knows?

Tonight, I want to talk about something even more dear to me than reviewing, and that's songwriting. WC doesn't really give much freedom to those of us that would be lyricists, beyond giving us that sub-category that no one even so much as looks at. We're forced to group them as 'poems' and tonight I'm going to explain what the difference is. This may be useful to you if you're trying to figure a song out, or if you're looking into writing a song and you want to know what it means.

As a helpful example, I'm going to start by writing down the lyrics to a song I was listening to when I was thinking about this, and then we'll examine them from a poetic and a song perspective.

Unkind - Hurt

A perfect cancer was spreading and twisting
You start explaining and I'll stop pretending
That all of my actions are for you
And all of my heartache is from...

All that I needed was a life
Cause all that I found in you was a lie
All that I asked for was some time
Damn it all I love you
But, you're unkind

You gave your body to all who were willing
And took these pleasures that I wasn't filling
And everything sacred to me
Just adds to the heaving when I breathe.

So all that I needed was a life
Cause all that I found in you was a lie
And all that I asked for was some time
Damn it all I love you
But, you're unkind
To me you're unkind
To me... (and now we come clean)

Even though you had been used before I saved myself for you
But the contents of my stomach fell when I was told the truth
After one last desperation I begged you for some time
God damn it all
I loved you and you were unkind

She said all that I needed was a life
Cause all that I found in you was a lie
And all that I asked for was some time
Damn it all!
Damn it all!
But your un...

So, all that I needed was a life
Cause all that I found in you was a lie
yeah all that I asked for was some time
Damn it all I love you
But, you're unkind
So all that I needed was a life
Cause all that I found in you was a lie
yeah all that I asked for was some time
Damn it all I love you
But, you're....
Your unkind to me..
To, me..

But damn it all I love you and you're un...


Now, let's consider this first as a poem. Well, it doesn't look like a very good poem to me. A lot of the lines trail off into nothingness, it's extremely repetitive, the form jumps all over the place, and it's rather creepy, too. Not to mention the rhyme scheme is all distorted.

But aha, as a song we recognize that the repetitive parts are choruses, and suddenly they are an asset and not a problem. For the rest of the issues, we look to the single biggest difference between songs and poems, and the subject of this already rather lengthy lesson: a tune.

When you write poetry, especially when you write free verse, it's nothing more than words on a page. Yes, it's kind of nice if it rhymes and flows well, but it really doesn't have to. A poem can be a story that doesn't make sense, if you want it to. It probably won't be a very good poem, but it will be a poem nonetheless. A song doesn't have that freedom. Songs really should rhyme, songs really should make sense (well, for a basic songwriter), and it should definitely flow. The advantage to writing a song is that a lot of this can be solved in something that cannot strictly be read, the aforementioned tune. When you write a song, you should always have a tune in your head, and if you're doing it right, then the words work well enough that someone reading it can get a rough idea of what that tune is just from reading the lyrics. Hell, if you're just doing it for fun, write it to the tune of an established song; I've done it a few times myself.

The tune can be a lifesaver; it can grant your song form when the lyrics don't appear to have it, it can excuse a bad rhyme scheme, and it can justify any material you put in there. The song I've posted for you up there is, in my opinion, f*****g awesome, despite being somewhat poetically challenged. The other instruments pick up the gaps that the vocalist leaves behind, and it all works quite nicely.

The point of all of this may be somewhat hard to understand, but I'm new to this whole course thing, so bear with me. What I'm trying to get at is that poems and songs are drastically different, even though they may not seem so. The biggest difference is that songs must carry a tune, and you are a strong songwriter indeed if you can create one just from your words.

Leave comments if you like, or suggest topics for future lessons.


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Comments

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Hello!

My username is Phillitup and I have read several songs on WC. I have noticed two things about most of the songs.

1) Most of them have curse words that I've read. This makes me uncomfortable and disturbed. I am quite young, which might explain it, but people at school say it all the time and doesn't matter much. Somehow, written down, it;s stronger. Intensified.

2) Most of them are depressing. Songs can be happy, I don't think people realize that fact. I guess they think minor tunes are easier to work with or something. Maybe it's the fact that mad and mean can be anything. Never the less, their depressing.

3) It's very true how writing it down isn't the same as hearing it. Written down, most songs are terrible and completely pointless.

Thanks for reading!

-Phillitup
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The Perfectionist
The Perfectionist

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Send me Poetry RRs at your own risk. They will be read but they will not be reviewed unless I actually have something to say. All stories, no matter how terrible or boring, will be reviewed. Review..