The Flow of Words
Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 19, 2010
Unless you’re deliberately writing in a lofty, formal style, it’s best to make your lyrics move straight ahead, as they would in conversation. “To the store I will go,” or “The day, beautiful it is,” or “My slippers fetch me” might work okay in old timey poetry, but it’s jarring in modern lyrics. It sounds like a lyric made by a contortionist or like dialogue by Yoda. Of course if you’re writing in a lofty, more poetic or hymnlike style, or setting scripture to music, it’s okay. We’ve done it ourselves.
Here is a good example of backward phrasing (or maybe it’s a bad example) from a hymn written in 1868 titled, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” (Even the title is backward):
The King of love my Shepherd is
Whose goodness faileth never
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine for ever.
Strong lyric, but we hope no one ever asked the author for directions.
Sometimes the problem is having broad syllables that have to ﬁt into little short, unaccented notes. Here’s an example: Your tempo is moderately quick and you’re in a shuffe pattern—dum, da dum, da dum, da dum (dotted-eighths-and-sixteenths.) Sing “On the rolling sea.” Works ﬁne, doesn’t it? The syllables match the rhythm. Now, at the same tempo, try singing “On the great, broad sea.” Doesn’t ﬁt, does it? The word broad is simply too broad to ﬁt into that little spot at that speed. Sing your songs aloud and look for awkward singing lines. Fix them before letting your song out to the public.
You probably won’t give a lot of conscious thought to all this in your ﬁrst draft of a lyric. In fact, let us caution you not to. You can tie yourself in knots and bring on a serious case of writer’s block by being too analytical at ﬁrst. But in your rewriting, see how many words you can improve by paying more attention to how they sound and feel. With practice, this will become more and more instinctive, so you won’t have to do as much rewriting.
Other Posts Featuring Paul Baloche
- How To Thrive This Christmas - Webinar with Paul Baloche
- For Unto Us A Child Is Born (Open the Eyes of My Heart) Tutorial with Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Hark The Herald" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Your Name (Christmas Version)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "What Can I Do (Christmas Version)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "This Is Love (with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "Prepare Him Room" by Paul Baloche
- How To Play "O Come Emmanuel" by Paul Baloche