One Stop Rock Star

Ezra is a rock star. And so are you!

The Parts of Lyrics

Posted by onestoprockstar on July 29, 2007

 

First and foremost, remember that everything stated in these articles are generalizations. So if you can think of exceptions to these rules, good job. There are definitely plenty of exceptions. This information isn’t presented as how every songwriter writes, it’s presented to help you find the easiest way to writing great lyrics.

Also, if you ever get inspired to write lyrics while reading this, go ahead and start writing. This article isn’t going anywhere. Come back to it when your writing ideas calm down. On the other hand, if you’re concerned that you’ll never be able to come up with anything to write, don’t worry. I’ll present you with writing exercises you can do to get your creative juices flowing.

That said, let’s get on with it. Generally, there are at most five parts to the song using words: intro, verse, chorus/hook, bridge, and ending/extension.

Intro

The intro is usually an instrumental lead-in that has no words. But occasionally, the intro is the same as the chorus or the hook. The Beatle song “Lovely Rita” starts of with background vocals singing

Lovely Rita, meter maid.
Lovely Rita, meter maid.
Lovely Rita, meter maid.
Lovely Rita, meter maid. 

Catchy, eh? On the other hand, if the intro has no words, it can be the same music as the chorus.

 

Verse

The verse tells the story or the reason for the singer’s overall emotion. Each verse reveals new information, and each new piece of information should be more powerful and more revealing than the previous verses. There are typically three verses in a song. If there’s a fourth, it’s often a repetition of the first or third verse.

Can’t Buy Me Love

I’ll buy you a diamond ring, my friend,

If it makes you feel all right.

I’ll get you anything, my friend,

If it makes you feel all right.

For I don’t care too much for money,

For money can’t buy me love.


 

When I’m 64

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now,

Will you still be sending me a valentine?

Birthday greetings? Bottle of Wine?

If I’d been out till quarter to three,
Would you lock the door?

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,

When I’m sixty-four?

 

 

Chorus

The chorus relays the overall feeling the singer has about the situation. It doesn’t reveal any new information, it simply states up front what the verses imply. This way, it doesn’t matter where in the song the chorus pops up. At every moment in the song, the chorus can deliver the main point and the listener can respond, “Ain’t that the truth!”

Can’t Buy Me Love

Can’t buy me love, love.

Can’t buy me love.

  

The Hook

The hook replaces the chorus whenever a song has no chorus. In the above song “When I’m 64,” the words in italics are the hook. There is no chorus in the song, but the words “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” are repeated at the end of every verse.

Bridge

The bridge tells in detail what’s left out in the chorus and verses to clarify the situation. Since the structure is more loose than the chorus or verse, this is a good place to easily convey the problems or emotions. In other words, since the bridge uses new music, and often a new rhyming scheme, it’s going to be less memorable. It won’t be as catchy as the verse, and not nearly as catchy as the chorus. As a result, it doesn’t matter what the words are. The whole purpose here is not to be easy to sing back, but to explain in simple terms exactly what the whole point of the song is. Put in all the details that couldn’t fit in the verses. For example, “Can’t Buy Me Love” has no bridge, but if it did, it could look like this: 

When you said a diamond ring
Would prove my love for you,

I didn’t understand just

What the heck that had to do

With being in love, so when I refused

You ran away. I got confused.

Don’t you know that money
Has nothing to do with my loving you?

Notice that there’s nothing catchy in this stanza. There are no repeated words and the rhyming scheme is completely different from the rest of the song. But it helps us understand why the singer is singing the song in the first place; something we didn’t know before. Here are samples of other bridges:

I Want Love (By Elton John & Bernie Taupin)
So bring it on. I’ve been bruised.
Don’t give me love that’s clean and smooth.
I’m ready for the rougher stuff.
No sweet romance. I’ve had enough. 

When I’m 64
Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of White if it’s not too dear.
We shall scrimp and save.
Grandchildren on your knee:
Vera, Chuck, and Dave.  

Both of these bridges have completely different music and rhythm than the chorus and verses. There are no repeated phrases to make them easy to sing back, so they aren’t designed to be catchy. Also, the bridge can be used to generalize the moral or message of the singer’s experience. For example, in my song “Can’t Say It’s Only Love,” the narration is in first person during the verses and chorus. (First person is from the narrator’s point of view: I do this, I do that). But in the bridge it changes to third person (he does this, he does that) to describe the message of the song. 

Verse 1:
Years ago I knew I would get over you.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, I have to say.
But it’s alright, it’s alright. Doesn’t matter.
Just as long as I make no mistake
In knowing my mistakes. 

Verse 2:
I don’t suppose you know
Just what you do to me.
You cannot understand the man I am.
But it’s alright, it’s alright. Doesn’t matter.
Just as long as you understand
That you don’t understand.
 

Chorus:
So don’t believe you’re just a passing phase
I’m going through.
And don’t believe I’ll find a girl
Who’s more for me than you.
After all those years when it’s you
I’ve been thinking of.
You just can’t say it’s only love. 

Verse 3:
It’s so easy to misjudge my feelings for you.
It’s so easy to believe they’re like your own.
But it’s alright, it’s alright. Doesn’t matter.
Just as long as you know that what it’s like
Is nothing like you know. 

Chorus 

Bridge:
A man’s very existence is
Defined by the dreams he has.
It’s no exaggeration to say,
“I dream therefore I am.”
And all his hopes and motivations,
His passions and his needs,
All of them determined by his dreams. 

Verse 4: 
Now, not a dream goes by that I don’t kiss you,
Caress your face and tell you I’m your man.
But it’s alright, it’s alright, doesn’t matter.
Just as long as I know that I am.
By dreams of you I am.
 

Chorus + Lyrical Extension:
So don’t believe you’re just a passing phase
I’m going through.
And don’t believe I’ll find a girl
Who’s more for me than you.
After all those years when it’s you
I’ve been thinking of.
You just can’t say it. I won’t let you say it.
You just can’t say it’s only love.
It’s more than love. 

Ending/Extension

The ending is typically instrumental music that ends the song, and there is often an instrumental extension tagged on. The instrumental extension is the music that sounds like it’s slowing down when really, all that’s happening is that the length of the last melodic notes are doubled and extra measures (often two) are added. I’ll address that more in the article on how to write a melody. A lyrical extension is similar in that there are added words at the very end, but they’re mostly the same words repeated. Its purpose is to give the effect of slowing down, even if you’re not.


Those are the parts of lyrics. Don’t worry if you haven’t grasped all that was presented here. You can always come back to it later. It’s time to cover the different form structures of songs, where you’ll learn how to order the verses, chorus, and bridge, and you’ll learn how to put in appropriate rhyming schemes. You’re on your way to writing killer lyrics!

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