Crafting Your Song
Before you write the lyrics ask yourself the following:
- What circumstances will unravel as the song progresses?
- Who is singing the song?
- To whom is the song being addressed?
- When is the song taking place?
- Where is the song taking place?
- What is the main conflict?
- Will the conflict be resolved at the end?
- If so, how will it be resolved?
Ask yourself these questions and jot down your answers before writing the lyrics. But do avoid being too specific, you don't need to address each question directly through your lyrics.
Although all songs tell a story, there are certain songs that express it in a narrative way. This is particularly evident in country and folk music where the story is well-developed. Here is an example
Tie A Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn - This song is about a man who was in prison for 3 years and has been released. He has written a letter to his loved one asking her to tie a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree in their neighborhood as a symbol that she still wanted him. As the man was riding the bus on his way home, he was pondering whether he will see a yellow ribbon or not and was telling the bus driver about it. As the bus neared the old oak tree, the passengers started cheering because there were a hundred yellow ribbons around the tree.
"Tie a Yellow Ribbon" was released in 1973 and shot up to number one staying on top of the charts for almost 5 months. You'll notice that this song has a very well-developed story with lyrics that are singable and a melody that is catchy.
Other examples of songs that tell compelling stories are:
- "Don't Cry Joni" (Conway Twitty and Joni Lee)
- "Never Been To Me" (Charlene)
- "Cats in the Cradle" (Harry Chapin)
- "Fast Car" (Tracy Chapman)
- "Ode to Billy Joe" (Bobby Gentry)
- "Luca" (Suzanne Vega)
- "A Boy Named Sue" (Johnny Cash)
- "Tell Laura I Love Her" (Ray Peterson)
- "Harper Valley PTA" (Jeannie C. Riley)
- "The Boxer" (Simon and Garfunkel)