6 Steps to Better Song Lyrics

In a previous post, I discussed how to go about selecting the right tool to use for creating an idea palette for songwriting.  In this post, I’ll discuss a tried and true technique that I use in Wordsconjunction with the idea pallet to develop ideas from my common threads.  This is almost always my starting point for lyrical development.

Step 1: Breakdown common threads into single keywords

From the common thread “Radio Silence” we get two keywords.  Keyword: Radio -> Keyword Silence

Step 2: Develop a list of related words for each of those keywords

This is nothing more than a simple exercise in word association.  Do NOT edit yourself when working through this part.

Example: Keyword: Radio -> Related Words: Wave, ripple, signal, beach, sunshine, sunburn, radiation, oscillation, swell, frequency, ocean

Step 3: Develop a list of antonyms or opposite ideas

Do this for all of the keywords as well as the related words.  We don’t need exact opposites here.  If there is no clear opposite word or meaning for the keyword, then try to think of something that takes your mind in the other direction of your keyword.  Remember…there are no rules.

Example: Keyword: Radio -> Opposite Idea: Television

Related Word: Wave -> Opposite Idea: Underwater

Step 4: Develop a list of rhymes for each keyword and related words

Try to use as many imperfect rhymes as possible.  They are more interesting and will provide you with more opportunities to pivot to other ideas.

Step 5: Research the keywords and their related words

Use Wikipedia, Bing, Google or any online dictionary.  Do this even if you already know the definition of the word.

When researching the definitions for your keywords, make sure you read all of the entries for each listed definition.  Take note of the most interesting ones.  Doing this can lead you in some interesting directions.

Step 6: Add interesting discoveries from your research to the idea pallet and develop them

When you find interesting ideas, definitions, or concepts during your research, add them the idea palette and begin with Step 1.

For example, if you look up “Sunburn” (a related word for wave) on Wikipedia you will find, “A sunburn is a form of radiation burn that affects living tissue, such as skin, that results from an overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, commonly from the sun…” 

What exactly am I getting from this reference?  The words overexposure and ultraviolet appeal to my eye, so I’ll add those words to the idea pallet and develop them.  You get the idea.

The end result will be a rich list of words and pivot points that you can pick and choose from to develop your lyrical content.  Many of the words that end up on the palette will have double meanings and can be used in way that you may not have considered without having gone through this process.

The examples that I used in the 6 steps above are excerpts from an idea pallet that I used for a song called Daylight (Radio Silence Part IV).  Listen to it for free.

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