Repetition (Lyrical & Musical)
Name: Benjamin McElwee
UG Name: benjmc
Email Address: email@example.com
Indeed…how to cleverly use repetition in your songs, and inevitably also a discussion of choruses, refrains, bridges etc. Initially, I’ll deal with lyrical repetition. This is whenever you repeat a phrase and keep the same structure but alter the content by adding another detail. For example, (and this is made up off the top of my head):
“I’ve never seen such a queen
In this town before
But then I’ve never been in this dream
If you ignore the double internal rhyming, you will notice (hopefully), that the structure of both couplets is more or less the same, and the foundation line still deals with “being in a specific town”. Yet another detail is added, so that the reader if more fully aware of what is happening. That is the type of lyric that you’d sing with a smirk on your face…(like a country song). Now, I actually have a really good example, from the chorus of a great song by The Cooper Temple Clause called, “See this through and leave”:
“Please believe me when I say
This is how it has to end
This is easy on us all
Well easier than other ways
Sleep is all I ask of you
Sleep and not to wake again
See this through and leave my friend
Tears will come and I will end”
Other than the genius rhyming, there are two great examples of this repetition. They are a really good way of saying something differently, for example that “This is easy on us all / Well easier than other ways” is almost conversational, as if the singer is thinking aloud. He says something, but then is not quite content that he’s being entirely honest and therefore he adds in the “Well easier than other ways”.
As for the other one, well that’s just an ingenious way of telling someone that you want him or her to sleep forever/die. “Sleep is all I ask of you / Sleep and not to wake again”. Once more in these two lines he is going back to what he initially says and then adding another detail, and from this we grasp that either he doesn’t want the person to know that he is going to dead shortly (“tears will come and I will end”), of else he wants them to die. It allows open interpretation from the listeners, and all of those who read the lyrics.
Does he mean he must commit suicide if the other person does not die? Or does he mean his suicide/death is inevitable but he is too ashamed to let the other person watch him crumble? Think about it…’cause that’s what high-quality lyrics have a tendency to do…they either ask you to think or they force you to think…
Now it is only fair to deal with this in the other sense… If we discuss repetition in the musical sense then of course, we are thinking about sections of a song where the music repeats. It is often the case that the lyrics to this section are also repeated. In, “See this through and leave”, that is the case in the chorus. Additionally, you’ll find a repeating bridge/pre-chorus quite frequently. And in a solo there is often a melodic motif, which is repeated, so as to allow the listener to recognise it and gives the illusion that the solo is completely coherent from start to finish. Without motifs, listeners often feel that the musician is just playing about without really knowing what he is doing.
The public seldom likes people who wander during their songs, either in their lyrics or in their solos or basically anywhere in the song. The person, who hears a song, will often not like it unless it has a hook or a chorus. For a hook all you really need is one good line that you can then repeat throughout the song, in an attempt to let the listener either sing along or just to ground the song. What distinguishes a hook from a chorus, is normally that it is only one or two lines, and secondly that the hook should, by and large, consist of an amazing line or two.
However, the main aim of a chorus is to be rousing, catchy and melodic…at this point in a song the listener wants to sing along. They are rarely too concerned whether the lyrics are any good at this stage…they just want to feel the need to sing. Or else they want to be able to jump around to it. This is why you’ll often find songs that have great lyrics in the verses but something mindlessly simple in the chorus. However, the melodic hook of the chorus is usually far superior to that of the verses.
“Moving on in this life
Losing out on a wife
Moving on in this life
Leaving you with the lies”
Above is something I made up off the top of my head… that’s what your standard chorus may look like, although the example does have a slight country tinge. By looking at that very simple and unoriginal chorus and then by looking at “See this through and leave” you should be able to realise the contrast and why one is amazing lyrically and the other, although it may sound good with music, at the minute looks incredibly simple and cliche.
Hopefully, the one good example and two made up examples have helped to increase your awareness and understanding of repetition in songs…it’s mainly used to add another detail in an intelligent manner, to emphasise or exaggerate a point, to increase flair and originality or to add a mocking, sarcastic or derisive tone to what the writer is saying. Try the technique and see if it’s suited to you and your style of music. It may be, it may not. No matter. It is one more useful technique to add to the ever-increasing repertoire of yours.
If you want your creations to be admired by others, then I would advise you to learn some of these techniques. They will most likely add some additional flair to your writing, which was never there before. Lyrical techniques will also help refine your lyrics into something remarkable. Just remember that when in the right frame of mind, one can do almost anything…consequently writing a lyric is something everybody has the potential to do. Everybody. Make yours outstanding.
The Satan of songwriting wrote this lesson for you with the intent of demolishing all lyrical and musical purity. If you have any comments, complaints, queries, suggestions for lessons or even tips of your own, then just e-mail me, at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM them to benjmc. Feedback is always encouraged and appreciated.