Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #41

When beginning with the frame of your song, there are many things to consider.  We have talked about brainstorming an idea, building a catchy title, writing a great opening, detailing the plot, and setting a conclusion in mind.  Now that these pillars are set, we need to talk about the form.

Without a form in mind, your lyrics will lack structure that that can hurt how the listeners will enjoy or even remember the song.  In addition, it is good to know about multiple kinds of forms.  Why?  Each year in music sees a new trend.  Plus, old styles have an importance as well.  More tools that you have, the better you are.

Today, let’s talk about the 12-Bar Blues form.  This post will only focus on lyrics, so I suggest to look at previous posts about the musical form and blues scales from previous posts as well.

The lyrical structure of the 12-Bar Blues form is a couplet (two rhymed lines) with the first line repeated (with a bit of variation) forming the lines AAB or AA’B:

Oh you hurt me good, my baby girl

Yeah you hurt me real good, my baby girl

I never felt a pain like this, in the entire world

Each line is dedicated to 4 measures in the 12-Bar Blues form (4×3=12), with about each line leaving roughly 1.5 measures at the end for improvisation.  See older posts for more information.

While each “couplet” can talk about a different thing, there is usually a linear progression as to the story.  Possibly like indicating the problem, explaining how one feels, talk about the resolution, etc.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #40

If we are making an analogy that a song’s lyrics is like a story’s framework – it should have a start, a middle, and an end. The start is the first line that will grab the attention of the listeners. As for the middle, that is reserved for the body of the song and how the plot will develop.

The end is the conclusion or basically what the listener will take away from the song at the end. Generally, you should have the conclusion in mind before starting the beginning, but it is always good to come back to it in the revision process to make sure you have hit the mark on how you wanted you end to be.

Conclusions are meant to wrap-up the song and state the meaning as well as the purpose of the song. You can either:

  • Explicitly state the meaning
  • Imply the meaning
  • Leaving the meaning up to interpretation

To explicitly do so, you simply say in your lyrics what you want to say. Implying means that while it is say said directly, a listener can get clues from the story on what you are trying to say. Other times with a song title a lyrics that don’t match, you create ambiguity that leaves the audience to interpret and analyze what you are trying to say.

Listen to a variety of your favorite song and see where do they fall under in each category.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #39

Imagine reading your favorite book, or watching your favorite movie. Compare the stories of those to song.

From the start of a book, movie, or song to the end – there is development. Little by little the plot progresses, offering new information to the audience while constantly keeping control of their attention.

No one is going to appreciate redundancy (unless that is what you are going for) in your lyrics by constantly repeating ideas or paraphrasing to avoid development. Instead, you should be focusing on how you can creatively keep the ball rolling and allow the lyrics to mature.

Some ways of doing that are:

  • Adding descriptive imagery in all the body senses
  • Foreshadowing the conclusion
  • Drama/internal conflict
  • Irony and comedic reflection
  • Withholding information till the very end (like a mystery novel)
  • Reversing the situation from bad to good (or vice versa)

…and more!

However, your song may not call for those ways of development. A protest song wouldn’t need much of these besides a strong call to action and ways to act upon it.

In those cases, start by making a list of your ideas from least to most important/strongest. That is how you should make your song develop.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #38

As you map out the framework of your song, you begin to see everything fall into place. You have you main idea which you can expand upon. There is your title the opening lines that grab the listener’s attention. And there is your body of the song.

Writing the body of your song is like writing the body of a book to some degree. It needs to captivate the attention of the audience through development leading to a climax (and possibly a resolution at the end).

It is best to start by having the “end goal” in mind. Ask yourself “what do I want my listeners to take away from my song?” Do you want them to party, cry, laugh, feel empowered, angry, etc.? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help determine your body of the song.

The bodies of songs boil down into three basic plot ideas:

  • The Attitudinal Plot – where the singer talks solely about an emotion
  • The Situational Plot – where the singer gives perspective and emotion about a situation
  • The Narrative Plot – where the singer solely talks about a situation, but the emotional perspective is implied

You can think of this as emotion, story, or both in terms of choosing how you want the plot of your song to be.

Try coming up with an idea for each of the three different main plots for the body of your song.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #37

Another aspect you want to consider when regarding the framework of your song is where it will start, and where it will finish.

Sometimes, the toughest part of writing a song is knowing where and how to start. What will be that opening line and will it grab the audiences’ attention? A way around this is to start writing the “middle” and then come back to the beginning.

However, we are going to tackle this straight-on and discuss how we can have a strong opening for our lyrics.

Your start should be unique, grab attention, and lead us quickly down the path into establishing the “who, what, when, where, why” of the song. Think of all the novels and storybooks you have read in the past – you can probably even recall the first sentence because of its unique qualities.

To draw inspiration, your start can appear as the following:

  • A question
  • A request
  • A provocative statement
  • A greeting
  • An image
  • A perspective
  • A date/time
  • A location
  • Etc.

Remember, a beginning is as strong as the passage that follows. So, make sure that the start can easily transition into the “body” of your song and help deliver your message across musically.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #36

Continuing with the framework aspect of the beginning songwriting process, it is important to be commuted to whatever you title your song to be.


Your title should be unique, easily identifiable with the listener, and is tangent to the meaning of the song (unless the title is supposed to be a double-entendre). In addition, the title should reflect the one overall mood of the song while avoiding conflicting words.


Titles can be/come from:

  • a single word
  • alliteration
  • antonym
  • places
  • quotes
  • color
  • a person
  • an axiom
  • an idiom
  • a new word completely made-up
  • etc.

The title should also be the focus with the most power. To try to make sure that you repeat the title enough in the song to drive the point, but not too much where it dilutes the power.

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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #35

Before starting anything, you want to be in the right framework. The right framework of mind for achieving your goal, and your goal should be in the right frame work for being achieved.

In songwriting, you need to start out with a frame to craft your lyrics in. Just like a house, everything needs to hold together to create something spectacular.

We are going to talk about one element to your inception of lyric writing: the idea.

Your idea should be unique, but also be an idea understood by other people. Getting a car for your 16th Birthday (while is unique) is not something too many people experience.

Your idea can appear as:

  • an emotion
  • a situation
  • a meaning/moral to the story

Once you have settled on an idea that you are passionate about, fine-tune it a bit:

  • Can other people connect to it?
  • Can and should it be controversial?
  • Is it believable?
  • Does it have any conflicting mini-ideas attached to it?
  • Do you want a song like this on the radio?

Now that you have a good framework and idea, start putting pen to paper!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.