What Voice Do You Use For Your Lyrics

Advice on how to write your lyrics using different voices (or modes).

Ultimate Guitar
Using a different voice for your lyrics? No I don't mean using a different vocalist to sing them, but rather how you write your lyrics and from what viewpoint.

The Lyric Mode

The lyric mode always uses the first-person, describing the narrator's thoughts or feelings e.g. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. When you write in this mode, it doesn't have to be your feelings or emotions. It can be about another person, a group of people or even an animal! It can be someone real or someone fictional. Most lyrics use this mode in the present, but you can use it in the past, or even the future, describing how you'd feel if something in particular had occurred.

The Dramatic Mode

This mode involves sending a message to a specific person, group of people or thing. E.g. Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". It is often used to send a message to someone important in the narrator's life. Although this mode can be used to raise issues from the past, or what will happen in the future, they are usually written in the present addressing the subject now.

The Narrative Mode

This is one of the most common voices to use for writing lyrics. The main function of the narrative mode is to tell a story e.g. Don McClean's "American Pie" or "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles. In any good book, a story develops as you read it chapter by chapter. Lyrics in the narrative mode should do the same, avoiding reference to a singer's feelings or thoughts about a person. Write an interesting beginning and ending like you find in any well written story. You don't necessarily have to write in chronological order. One technique you can use is to jump to the middle of a story at an exciting point and use later verses to fill in the gaps. You don't have to use one story either, as you can use different one's for each verse. Lyrics written in this mode are usually in the past tense, but you can write in the present e.g. "Eleanor Rigby", or even in the future. The narrative mode can be used in the first or third person, or even a combination of the two. Try writing in different modes. Look at the lyrics you've written. Are they always in the same mode? Try combining them or try writing in different modes. Would you like some great tips on how to write a song and compose music in any style? Download a FREE 10-page guide on "5 Essential Elements On How To Improve Your Music Making In Any Style" at http://make-music.net.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    An easier way to look at it 1st person - Talking about yourself "I got out the shower..." 2nd person - Talking to someone else "You got out the shower" 3rd person - Talking about someone else "Dave got out the shower"
    ^that's great for the people who missed elementary school..
    Victims of the American public school system will no doubt need some help with this, though.
    More like American school system in general. I went from a private to a public when I was younger and was actually behind.