The Listener’s Journey

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Lyrical Structure & Style

The Listener’s Journey

When you’re writing lyrics, it’s important to consider the ‘journey’ that a listener will take through the song you’ve crafted. Let’s look at the basic sections that make this up. 

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Intro

The intro is where you set your song up. It starts to tell the ‘story’ of your song even before the singing starts by introducing the listener to the groove, the feel, musical texture, atmosphere and maybe even some of the musical themes or hooks that might turn up later. A good introduction creates a sense of expectation that makes you want to hear what’s coming next, but remember that one sure way to lose listeners’ attention is to bore them with an overly long intro.

Verse

The verse is the ‘body’ of your song. Here is where you set the scene and start to tell the story. It might be that your story is conversational (i.e. you’re directly addressing someone); narrative (i.e. a literal story, with a beginning, a middle and an end), observational, or something more abstract. Just remember: as interesting as observational stuff can be, if there’s no other development or dramatic movement, your listeners will again lose interest.

Pre-Chorus

To create a sense of expectation and build into the chorus, many songs have a pre-chorus that provides a dynamic ‘ramping-up’ quality that makes the transition from the verse to the chorus more dramatic and satisfying and is generally quite short. Lyrically, this section would start to draw the threads of the verse ‘story’ together, in preparation for the message or summary of the chorus.

Chorus

The chorus usually delivers the ‘point’ of the song in as memorable a way as possible. Here’s where the melody lifts off melodically, sonically and emotionally, bringing the song to another level while delivering on the messaging of the lyric in a concise and often hook-based way. The title of the song can often be found here, repeated more than once – though this is by no means always the case.

Bridge (Middle 8)

Sometimes called the middle 8 (despite rarely being 8 bars long nowadays!), the bridge section is your opportunity to deviate from the general feel of the song and perhaps adopt a different perspective, musically and lyrically, in a way that verses and choruses can’t without sacrificing continuity or focus. It usually happens only once in a song, though The Beatles often repeated their bridge sections for effect.

Instrumental Break (Solo)

Sometimes – generally after the bridge of the second chorus – there will be an instrumental or solo section in a song. This might occur over what’s essentially a vocal-free verse or chorus, or even a repeat of the introduction, using anything from a guitar to a harmonica to a full orchestra.

Outro

This would occur after the last chorus and is a great way of ending the song with a ‘bang’. It can be a variation on the chorus or the introduction, or an entirely new section that brings the song to a close.