Lyrics, Lyrics for other Composers, Songwriting, Writing, Writing Process
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Lyrics to Ponder (1)*

songwriting tools on a chair

Summer is here but we are all still inside, waiting for the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine with those we love. While I am waiting, I am so grateful for friends that are contacting me and asking me about musical things. I might not know all the answers, but it is lovely to be asked. Yesterday I got two thought-provoking requests; one was about writing lyrics, and the other was a question about an unusual love song. I will touch on these topics a bit this month, but if you have any thoughts to continue the discussions, please add them in the comments. And, at the bottom of this page you will also see a couple of interesting reference links related to standards in general.

*Yeah, I added the number one to this blog post title because I expect to have a follow-up post in the same format for July. Stay tuned.


LYRIC WRITING TIP (June 2020):

Even though there are plenty of songwriting resources, online and offline, to get your writing started in a structured, organized process, I thought I would share one of the ways I create lyrics when I do not have a melody yet, or when I am not feeling very inspired. Just a little random writing tip from me to you.

  • Choose an existing song that has a clear form. I like to choose a song where I do not know the melody at all so I will not be influenced by it. For this exercise, I am going to use a child’s song as an example, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, but you will probably want to apply this technique to a standard (AABA form).
  • Print or write out all the lyrics and circle or highlight all the words that rhyme:

Twinkle twinkle little star
how I wonder what you are

up above the world so high
like a diamond in the sky

twinkle twinkle little star
how I wonder what you are

  • Now write your new lyrics making sure to:
    1. follow the rhythms of the original lyrics (the same number of syllables and the same stresses), and
    2. create the rhyme-pairs in the same locations as the original lyrics
  • Here are my new ones:

In a world of shadowed mist
comes a day the sun has kissed
(mist and kist = a near-rhyme)

Dreams are filling up the air
Troubles fade without a care

People can’t believe it’s true
But I know it’s ’cause of you

After you have drafted your lyrics, if you want to try and create a song with them you have a few options. But, remember, there are no hard and fast rules for you to follow except to have fun with the process, that is one of my personal rules:

  • If you are not used to composing melodies, start out by singing them rhythmically, on one or two notes. Then try adding some additional notes that are close to the ones you have chosen.
  • Alternatively, try singing your words with little motifs you know from other songs or classical melodies. This might spark you to compose a variation that suits your lyrics. (In my mind I just heard the first two lines sung quickly to the opening theme from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – it was quite funny, wish you could have heard it too.)
  • Go on YouTube and try singing your lyrics against random backing tracks, ideally tracks that follow your song’s form. Choose tracks of songs YOU DO NOT ALREADY KNOW – you don’t want to sing that song, you want to create a new one and the chords will give you some structure.
  • Of course, another option is to share your lyrics with a friend that composes to see if they are inspired to create a melody line. I would recommend that you do not refer them to the song that inspired your words; that was just your song’s template.

I hope you will be inspired to write a melody that makes you happy. Don’t expect instant results. Let your mind rest between melody attempts. And, you will always have a personal poem you created in a unique way, even without the music. 


LYRICS TO PONDER:

Every once in a while I am asked ‘lyric interpretation’ questions. I have many singing friends who do not speak English as their first language. Sometimes they do not know a word or two, but often the overall message of a phrase, or even the whole song is misunderstood. I answer these questions as best I can, from my limited perspective, and sometimes I saved the conversations in the hopes that one day I would have an interactive platform in which to discuss them further with other musicians. So I suppose this is the day and this is the platform!

The question for this post is regarding a love song titled: “I‘m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life“. I first heard it on a Thursday a very long time ago. (Yes, it was a Thursday, long story.) I did not sing it that afternoon, but yesterday, as I was discussing it again with my friend, the lyrics took me right back to that jazz moment.

I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life
Songwriters: Cy Coleman / Joseph McCarthy Jr.

What does it mean: I’m gonna laugh you right out of my life ?

Ah, very interesting question. Even the singer of this song knows it is not possible to make a joke out of a love that was so very real to her. She is telling the man that she is over him, and can laugh about it all now. She is saying she made a mistake to care for him when he did not feel the same way for her. And, by the end of the song she seems to have convinced herself that she can laugh about it, but inside her heart she knows if she does begin to laugh, it will quickly turn to tears of sadness because, she did love him but it seems like it is over. They have said goodbye to each other. By saying she is going to laugh she is telling him “you did not mean that much to me either, and look, I am not in pain. I am laughing.” but she is lying to him and to herself.

I’m gonna laugh you right out of my life,
Laugh, and forget this affair
Guess I was foolish
To care.
So, I’m gonna dance you right out of my dreams,
Try to be carefree and gay
I guess I’ll learn to play
The part.
’cause when our friends begin that
Heartless rumor,
I know I’ll really need my
Sense of humor.
I’m gonna laugh you right out of my life,
Make it a beautiful joke.
No one will know you broke
My heart.
But if I find you and I
Really meant that last goodbye,
Then I’m gonna laugh so hard,
I’ll cry.


Please take a moment and check out one of my favorite sites for backstories and links to important standards – JazzStandards.com. Look for the “Search” function, it is located at the top of the page, in the middle of the navigation ribbon.

And, a couple of extra links for you: While I was googling around looking for a songwriting template to share (this is a pretty complete overview – found at the song foundry, I came upon a site called Song Lyrics Generator which has a sort of Mad Libs algorithm to create a song – did not work too well when I tested it, but it was fun.

[When I post my related “Writing Lyrics and Lyrics to Ponder” entry next month, it will be linked here.]

Ciao – Laurie

songwriting tools on a chair

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