Some Compositional Principles

I have tried here to outline some ideas and techniques which I have found useful in songwriting.

Ultimate Guitar
It is impossible to teach an art. You can only provide conditions which are favorable to its development. Why am I writing this, then? I guess because I find little of worth in most of the guidebooks to song composition, and find myself wishing one existed that I could read and think "Yes! That explains it!". This probably isn't that guidebook, but here it is regardless. I hope it helps somehow.



I'll start with a description of my process and work into it the concepts and techniques I have developed, and then outline some general principles for composition that are more broadly applicable. My process begins usually with a chord progression. I tend to have a store of these accumulated from hours of instrument practice, and having this large store of musical ideas is useful because your form should reflect your content; if your theme is sad, your chords should echo that somehow. Again, that isn't a rule. Marrying sad content to happy chords can be bitterly ironic and more effective than simply using sad chords. This kind of decisions are made during the process, in the same way, a carpenter "works with" the grain and peculiar quality of his material in crafting a table or chair. I won't go into the process of writing chord progressions because my understanding of theory is bested outright by many other, better chord-guides on here, so let's skip to the lyrics.

First, you need an idea. This is the part where all the formal rules and techniques fall silent because true inspiration is a damn near mystical process. Nobody who experiences it understands exactly why it happens or where it comes from, but what we know for certain is it is highly intuitive. You "feel" your way through a project, like putting together flat-pack furniture in the dark. You can't see the instructions, you can only poke and twist and hammer till it feels like you have something resembling whatever it was you wanted.

Like teaching, inspiration is impossible to just do. You can only make the conditions ripe for it to happen spontaneously. You should absorb influence en masse, listening to all kinds of music to provide you with a multiplicity of stylistic ideas from which to draw when writing (more on this later). Purism is the most awful and stagnant trap to fall into and will render your music boring, repetitive and stale. Stylistic cross-pollination is the lifeblood of originality.

But influence doesn't come only from music. A song is a poem. Poetry at its inception was inseparable from song. The epics of Homer were rhapsodised, performed aloud to music, never read quietly to oneself in the head. Being a songwriter is being a poet, so read, damn you! Or perhaps you dont think the kind of music you want to write needs "poetic" lyrics? Read anyway! It's fun! And not just literature either, you should seek to absorb as much information, about anything, as you can. Thankfully we live in an information-rich society, with whole online worlds devoted to simple ideas, historical events, people, news, fiction, art. There is no end to the options available to draw from. Seek out real experience too. Inspiration can come just as readily from the sound of ice being scraped from a windscreen or the shape of a bridge as it can from a recent news story. Because anything you write will be a product of your personality, and your personality is the summation of your experiences, everything you experience goes toward your art. Not just the momentous events.



Once an idea comes, you can select one of these melodies and start writing words for it. This is my preferred approach because taking already written words and shoehorning them into a chord structure can tend to result in awkward, wrenched meter and a messy vocal line. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; often lines already written can be worked (with a little tweaking) into an existing song, but generally, the structure of your words can be much better dictated by the flow of the existing vocal line. Lyrically, before starting to write, I fill pages of A4 with words, phrases, and lines connected to my theme, trying where I can to come up with something pithy. When I put pen to paper I'm usually thinking more about writers than moments of inspiration have come after reading people like Yeats or TS Eliot. Always be thinking of the musicality of your words as well as what they mean. Words have beauty much so that stanzas like this one:

"And sang within the bloody wood
When Agamemnon cried aloud
And let their liquid siftings fall
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud"

(from Sweeney Among the Nightingales, by TS Eliot)

For me, don't even need to mean anything. I am content to be floored by the absolute mastery of alliteration, assonance, sibilance, syntax, external and internal rhyme, meter, and just the general gorgeousness of it all. Every word in this poem was selected with utter care, with great thought. There is no flab, he cuts right to meat of things, to borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Taylor. I mean good god, read this shit out loud! Best of all, (unlike a lot of Eliot) it scans. You could sing it.

Try to think of interesting ways to say things, especially if they have already been said before. Cliche is your enemy and you should avoid it like the plague... *cough*. Avoid phrases in common usage, unless you have a good reason. Here's an example from the Frank Turner song "I knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous":

"Lets begin at the begining
We're lovers and we're losers
we're heroes and we're pioneers
We're beggars and we're choosers"

Leaving aside the fact that the title alludes to Eliot for no apparent reason other than perhaps to say "look at me, I'm clever", the song opens with a catalogue of cliche. The first and last lines of this stanza are particular culprits. Saying "begin at the beginning" was witty in the Sound of Music, but here it feels trite and overused, and actually, within the context of the song has little meaning at all. The inane repetition, too, is flabby and unnecessary. This has roughly the same syllable count as the Eliot stanza, but look how much music and elegance and variation and loveliness Eliot packed into his four lines, while Turner uses the same two words nine times. These words weren't thought over or carefully chosen, they were poured out onto a notebook with no revision. Sometimes this works, often it only results in sloppy prosody.

Here is a better example of musicality in verse that didn't come from an actual poem. Joanna Newsom's harp-accompanied epic "Sawdust & Diamonds"

"And everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour
butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours
and my clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines
come on home, now! All my bones are dolorous with vines"

This is beyond good. The symmetry of vowel and consonant sounds here is a miracle: everything/wings, restless/aimless, drunk/dour, butterflies/birds, hot/ungodly, clay/coloured, rangily/reclines, home/bones. These lines have been considered and weighed on the tongue, they scan perfectly, balance perfectly, sound perfectly. There are almost elements here of anglo saxon alliterative verse. Again, four lines, but here the words are interesting, they have curious and lovely sounds, and when yoked together, they are quite something. "Clay coloured motherlessness" has a particular sibilant grace. Allen Ginsberg is great at this yoking, in Howl alone you have phrases like "the starry dynamo in the machinery of night" and "the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox". These unlikely combinations have a peculiar magic. They certainly interested Dylan, who borrowed a lot of his imagery and syntactic technique from Ginsberg.

I will say that writing good lyrics is a question of practice. You should have written hundreds of aborted poems and songs before you are really ready to commit words to tape, just like you ought to have notebook after notebook of developmental poetry written before you can even think of being published. It is something you need to work at, and the best ways to do this are to read to expand your vocabulary and develop your understanding of poetic form and technique and to practice incessantly. Only you, however, can be the final arbiter of your own quality. Look yourself in the mirror and ask if you truly feel what you have written deserves an audience, and if the answer is an honest yes, then god-dammit get recording.



In terms of form, I would caution against verses and choruses. Always avoid formulas. A chorus should only be used if you feel you have one idea, one stanza, that needs repeating over and over: the thematic focus. If you don't, then don't strain to come up with one because you feel you need a chorus to follow your verse. I have found a working method based on "units", which will be labelled A, B, C and so on. Each have different chords & sometimes different words, and can be arranged in any order you feel is appropriate. Some examples of structures I have used

Basically, a variation on the Tin Pan Alley form with a climactic closing section tacked on at the end. Useful for something short and sweet, or if you want to signal or symbolise some story which has, say, an unhappy first and second act but a redemptive third. Or the opposite. As I say, use your own creative intuition.

This is a cool one, because for most of the song it feels as though there is no structure whatsoever, that you are simply moving from one section into another. One song I wrote in this form had a key change and a move from common to swung rhythm, before reprising the second "B" unit as a kind of chorus, with the same chords and lyrics but transposed to the new key. I used this to represent a false resolution, in which the narrator felt he had progressed toward something but actually had not.

One of my favorites, a verse and a chorus that abruptly end without going anywhere. Sounds abortive and pointless but if you want to symbolise something with a sudden and unexpected end or twist, this is perfect. Also, being a fan of imagism, I like things to be condensed; to squash the maximum amount of idea into the smallest possible space, and this form fits the bill perfectly.

A weird one, here just as an example of how damn crazy your structures can be if you abandon calling everything either a verse, chorus of middle-eight. Think Paranoid Android/Bohemian Rhapsody: a lot of musical ideas tacked on to each other. Where repetition occurs in this meandering patchwork, it is all the more obvious and therefore more meaningful. This kind of thing is good for telling a story, or for lyrical abstraction.

Kind of a folk form. Lots of identical verses, then a closing segment which differs slightly. This one is good if you are telling a long, folk-ballad story like John Henry's Hammer, especially when it depicts some kind of epic struggle, because its similarity to Heroic and Blank Verse in it that it can be endlessly extended is a useful symmetry to make since they tend to deal with that kind of subject matter.

I've shown these forms here not for you to copy (although you are welcome to them, of course) but to illustrate the effectiveness of thinking of structure in this way. When you stop thinking in terms of verses and choruses, of songs only being constructed of these two basic units (or three/four, if you have a pre-chorus and middle-eight), you can see that there are many things you can do in a few minutes of music that don't involve inane repetition of a preordained format, used only because "that's how you write a song". Sections with names have special places they have to go. A middle eight doesn't come after the first verse, but a section labelled C can go anywhere you like (more info on song structure you can find at UG Wiki here).



Over the years, I have developed a few of what I ironically call "commandments", which I use to guide the process and remind me of certain things I may occasionally forget. "Commandments" is ironic because they are nothing of the sort. I said there were no rules to this, and so these are not rules. They are statements, concepts, intended to draw attention to certain aspects of the process and guide me.

The Only Virtue of a Style is its Elasticity

The traditional rite of passage in art is finding the individual "voice" with which one is distinguished as unique and distinct from other artists. Until this voice is found, everything you produce will be an imitation of something else. The trick to finding the individual voice is combining a diverse array of influences, a little from here, a little from there, until it is hard to say where the influence ends and your voice begins. Einstein said, "originality is knowing how to hide your sources". In art, the best way to do that is to have lots of them, blended together.

Once you have found your voice, though, you must be aware of its limitations and be constantly seeking to expand them. Your style should be mercurial and elastic, able to express any idea. If it cannot, if you find a subject matter which seems unsuited to your chosen voice (for instance, how many hip-hop love songs do you hear?) then you are faced with two options: abandon the subject matter and write about something more suitable, or alter your voice. Choosing the former will result in stagnation, creative tepidity, dullness. The latter will result in, obviously, newness and vibrancy, but there is always the possibility of alienating your audience, or if you don't have one yet, the fear that an audience would be critical of this new direction. This leads me on to the second commandment.

Your Reception is Irrelevant

Simply because trying to second guess taste, which is as much due to currents and trends and the peculiar beast known as discourse, is likely to lead only to populism. Follow your individual vision and disregard all other considerations, including commercial ones. If you find yourself wondering if people would like what you are doing, imagine they are all you, possess your taste and preferences and hold your views. To alter in any way the content of your art to suit what you perceive to be a public demand should be avoided at all costs. To do this is to be a designer, not an artist: one who writes to fulfill a consumer demand, rather than to fulfill an inner desire to create.

This is not to be mistaken with a command to ignore advice and criticism. A fresh perspective, especially one with experience and knowledge, can shed light on what might be astray with a piece which you were unable to see. Sometimes you are so close to the canvas you can't see the painting. But the ultimate editor and auteur of this criticism is your own artistic discretion. Always follow your vision even if it seems unorthodox or outlandish. Indeed, especially if it seems unorthodox or outlandish. You may be creating something of profound newness and importance.

All is Imperfect and Impermanent

Perfection is something that western art values have striven for since the time of the Ancient Greeks. We have idolised it to the extent that it became a truism; perfection in art was so obviously the goal that nobody ever stopped to consider what it even meant and whether it was even possible. Perfection in practicality means a slow process of editing and revising and altering and adding, and this is good, one should not rush, but perfection is a summitless, infinite mountain. All painters know this. A painting is never finished, always there can be added more colour, detail, shade, brushwork, and part of the skill of a painter is knowing when to stop painting. Likewise, you can edit and alter and revise your work literally endlessly, but you must learn to recognise when you have effectively said what you set out to say with the song, to recognise when further changes would be fruitless. The Japanese tea ceremony inspired an artistic aesthetic called Wabi-Sabi, which is centered around recognising the inherent beauty in imperfection and, rather than attempting to erase it with a more controlled and elegant attempt, accepting it as part of the whole and a microcosm of the imperfect universe.

Another principle of Wabi-Sabi is impermanence. Most art is built to last, generally out of an egoistic desire to become a canonical fixture, to be remembered for posterity, but art that follows the wabi-principle accepts that decay is a part of everything and that considering whether your work will be remembered is futile and eventually restrictive, because it inspires the same approaches as considering your audience. You will lose touch with the creative voice and so become an imitation of yourself, populist and trite.

And finally...

Only Write From a Love of Doing So

This one is obvious, but it can be surprising how often it gets forgotten when the desire for recognition or acclaim take hold. Writing is hard work, it takes a great deal of effort and will, but it should always be a labour of love. It shouldn't be a chore, an arduous task you set yourself out of some feeling of obligation or fatuous self-improvement. I write because I cannot imagine not doing, because when I wake my thoughts immediately turn to it, because I am compelled by some inner drive to do so. If you can't find inside yourself this same drive, if you find yourself slogging away at a song, having to push yourself to complete it, feeling no joy in the careful crafting and sculpting of sounds and words, then just stop. Right now, please, just stop. You really aren't cut out for this. Your lack of drive will lead to boring, insipid music of which the world is already quite inundated. If however, you read what I just wrote about drive and felt immediate recognition, felt you understood exactly what was meant, then please don't stop. No matter who tells you your ambition is folly, no matter who raises their eyebrows when you shyly admit that you write songs and, just maybe, would like to do it for a living, no matter how many well meaning people will try to keep you from it, DO NOT STOP. You might be doing something really amazing.

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Cacophonaut wrote: Satyr, I don't mean to be argumentative, but every lesson on here is someone's opinion. These are just my subjective ideas about writing, I never claimed they were objective rules. You cant be objective about art. I was merely saying "this is what cliches look like; avoid using them". I mean hell, you wont find a writer, teacher or professor in the world who advocates the use of cliche to beginners. Some may, with much skill, be able to turn a cliche to their advantage, but this is not recommended for someone new to writing for obvious reasons.
    sorry but I would argue that lessons should be 100% unbiased, unless the teacher specifically presents something as opinion. yes even art lessons should be unbiased. sorry they just should be, I would never teach one of my students that fender only makes crap guitars just cuz I haven't found a fender that I like, I may tell them that I prefer a different type of guitar, but remind them that if they like the tone it's theirs to use. I would also never tell any student that the music they listen to is absolute garbage, I may say that I'm not a fan but being a teacher, one should not be trying to force opinions upon the students, otherwise, non-cliche ideas begin to become cliche and the cliche is no longer cliche. if you force all to be metaphoric and poetic, then poetic and metaphoric ideas become cliche. not to mention good lyrics (or composition, or anything else for that matter) comes from practice. if the student actually feels these things they should write them. there is a much better exercise than telling someone not to be cliche. it kind of goes like this tell them to write a four or five line poem thats literal. then have them write the same poem but change the lines to similes (comparison using like or as ie "her eyes are as blue as the ocean"), then have them write it again using metaphors (comparison with out like or as ie "her eyes are deep oceans of blue"). this is way more productive than "don't use cliches" and guess what for this exercise you are actually teaching them to take a cliche and change it to something more poetic. I don't want you to think I'm attacking you because with the exception of the cliche thing I think this brings up some interesting points that will actually help people. I personally just don't like the idea that "you can't be objective about art", this is why I dropped out of art school, because it was a bunch of teachers telling you their opinion and presenting it as fact, and if you have a differing oppinion, even if it brings up all totally valid points to argue it, you are wrong. art is and always will be in the eye of the beholder and when you start telling people that what they like is wrong then you are destroying the total idea of art. in short you should never teach your opinion, and the things that are presenting as facts should be facts. such as "this is a c major chord" not "this chord sounds bad". one is informative and allows the student to form their own opinion and theoother isn't.
    i'm sorry but i don't see how taking someone else's working and saying this is bad, and this one here is good is really going to help anyone. there are people who can listen to cliches and pull some random meaning from them, and strangely it makes. Saying those Frank Turner lyrics are an example of what not t do is simply your opinion and you shouldn't make it sound like its an absolute truth. I appreciate the Einstein quote it is very true.
    Satyr, I don't mean to be argumentative, but every lesson on here is someone's opinion. These are just my subjective ideas about writing, I never claimed they were objective rules. You cant be objective about art. I was merely saying "this is what cliches look like; avoid using them". I mean hell, you wont find a writer, teacher or professor in the world who advocates the use of cliche to beginners. Some may, with much skill, be able to turn a cliche to their advantage, but this is not recommended for someone new to writing for obvious reasons.
    There's a lot of argumants about that cliche section in this lesson. I write a lot of poetry, but I keep it to myself. The stuff I write may be full of cliches, but I'm not gonna go back and revise it, because when I write a poem i'm writing down what I'm thinking at the time, and if I go back and change it I'll loose a little bit of the emotion I was feeling at the time. If I was feeling angery, the words I used were harsh and blunt. if I was happy or imaginative at the time, the poem is full of metaphors and imagery. When it comes to any type of art, it's all about the emotion.
    Personally, I like the song lyrics that were used as a cliche example. And I also liked the other ones. Music is music, who are we to criticise anyones art but our own?
    But I don't want to argue. I thought this was a good lesson, and I liked the "commandments". I'm glad it was written and I'm glad I read it.
    It is impossible to teach an art. You can only provide conditions which are favorable to its development.
    anyone who has argued that the author is "teaching"/presenting an opinion as fact must have missed the very first line of this impressive lesson... as the first thought presented clearly surpassed the pseudo-intellectuals who've come here to argue, i imagine much of the rhetoric applied is beyond the scope of the majority that will 'attempt' to read this... that's not a knock on the readers, it is a compliment to the author's mastery of lanquage, music, and philosophy.
    This was a fun read, even though I didn't agree with a lot of it. It reminded me of a humanities class I had taken: music vis-a-vis classical literature. That's fine, but not exactly what I was looking for. The Buddhist references to impermanence were a nice touch, but now the kind of 'meat & potatoes' I'm looking for during instruction. Seems like the 'cliche' portion has gotten a lot of attention. According to this article, you can probably toss all country/Americana music out the window, as there is often heavy reliance on cliche in the genre. I am not interested in songwriting as poetry at all, but rather storytelling. I don't need flowery prose, but authenticity of experience and emotion, in order to connect with others. I *would* have liked to have seen specific examples for each of the song forms (using contemporary songs, not classical poetry), and an overview of rhyming schemes, which are always fun. (Of course, my comments are IMHO~) Now, for some great songwriting info, I highly recommend the radio show "The Art of the Song" which is broadcast on 200 radio stations and can be streamed (I think) at
    I've used formulas like the ones you exposed, not exactly the same but quite simmilar. My music is instrumental. thats why i did it. and, yes, im reading this because i suck in this stuff of songwriting. :/
    I read this immediately after writing my first song lyrically. I really enjoyed penning my ideas but I know as a potential lyricist, I am new so this was a very insightful lesson.
    you obviously put alot of time and effort into this man good job really helpful
    Cacophonaut wrote: ReynboLightning, a good way to avoid cliche is to use imagery not normally connected to your topic. Show, don't tell. Try writing about something unusual, just for the sake of it. For instance, there is a cat on my garden fence right now. I could write about him, and then think later that he serves quite nicely as a metaphor for something I wanted to express in that song I never finished the other month. Instead of talking about your relationship breaking down, talk about how sad your house is to have sad people in it. Its all about finding a fresh perspective on something familiar.
    That last line of the comment is genius. That just made something click in my brain.
    After reading through the comments and reviewing my original lesson, I feel I should addendum some information vis-a-vis the lyrics section. I perhaps was too limited in my selections of sample lyrics, and this may have given a narrow impression of the kind of verse I was advising people write. When I rail against cliche, I am not necessarily advocating ornate verse as its catch-all antidote. One person commented on how my lesson threw out most country/americana lyrics for their reliance on cliche. I don't think this is true: in that genre, cliche is far from the point. Especially in country music, storytelling is the operative mode of voice, and that is what recommends it. Storytelling, in a direct and simplistic manner, is not cliche, and does not necessitate cliche. "The news I could bring; I met up with a king on his head an amphetamine crown he talked about unbuckling that old bible-belt and lighted out for some desert town" (the Return of the Grievous Angel, Gram Parsons) Here is the usual made unusual: the king with the amphetamine crown is often interpreted as being Elvis, but the identity is shrouded in wistful symbolic imagery which, rather than detracting from meaning, enriches with it. Beyond that, the words are beautiful for their own particular enigmatic character. "Lighted", rather than simply "set out for" (which he could have just as easily said) carries the weight of the nautical, and an ever-so-slightly epic quality, which intensifies the noble stature of the "king" character, and "unbuckling that old bible-belt" is an inventive expression of a desire to reinvigorate the tired ideology of a place, yet tinged with an affection hinted at by "that old", which suggests the speaker carries a certain comfortable familiarity for it which sits in conflict with the need to awaken and refresh. Taken in totality, the words have that gorgeous nostalgia and sadness which is the raison d'etre of country music, without ever resorting to tired forms of expression. There are ways of saying things which are new, and successful lyrics are those which seek these out. Cliche does not mean "simplistic writing", and complex writing is not inherently better than the simple. Cliche is when we resort thoughtlessly to the tried-and-tested rather than expressing ourselves as individuals. Take this example, from "Johnsburg, Illinois" by Tom Waits: "She's my only true love she's all that I think of look here, in my wallet that's her" He begins with something so obvious as to be almost insulting to his subject, and then in a move of pure genius relates the sentimentality to something specific, a picture in a wallet: we are presented with an image of the narrator, perhaps in a bar somewhere, showing a picture of his wife to a stranger, and this divests the cliche of its drab mawkishness and instead fills it with the joy of the real and the true. We sense the genuine feeling and therefore connect and identify. It is also so simple, so elegantly sublime, and packs such an emotional punch for its brevity, that we reel as from a blow, struck with its power. I hope I have clarified for those who felt I was unfair on certain styles or over-emphatic on others. I advocate genuine sentiment in writing, and cliche is the enemy of genuine sentiment. Rather, it is embodied sentimentality , which is quite a different thing. Oh, and perhaps I was a little hard on Frank. He does write some fine lines at times, and he didn't deserve being made my embodiment of the use of cliche, he was simply the first example I dredged up at the time. Hope this has been helpful.
    Very inspirational article. I really appreciate you for taking your time and writing this. The ending just molded it all together for me. +10
    I wrote a lot of things on each form, and now I undestood a lots of things, not directionally conected with some other things, you now, before I just gone for the ABAB or AABB, and my music sounded forced, not natural, I will now write some other forms, maybe I can catch some extra information =) Thanks Brother, Have a nice Day, year, and life.
    Good article! Gave me some Ideas to use....I use cliches ALOT I just dunno how to write any other way :/
    Almost the entire lyrics section I disagree with, but otherwise, very nice article.
    that guy Strife
    krypticguitar87 wrote: I personally just don't like the idea that "you can't be objective about art", this is why I dropped out of art school, because it was a bunch of teachers telling you their opinion and presenting it as fact
    So ... they were being objective about it ? And you hated that they tried to force it on you ? So you dropped out ? School is all about having stuff forced down your throat. You have to take and leave. Great article. If you read the intro you'll actually see that these are his personal experiences and he hopes they help. For sure they're gonna some references and opinions. And for sure some people won't leave out what they don't need and say ''hey I don't agree with this !'' Pretty hard to write something and have no controversial point in it. Excellent article, very well thought-out.
    Krypticguitar87, there is no such thing as objectivity in art. I'm sorry but there just isn't. Everything is opinion. There are straight up facts , but reciting them rote doesn't make for a very informative lesson. Everything we experience is filtered through the lens of subjectivity, and therefore everything is opinion. These are mine. I did open, as Strife pointed out, by saying that these are just my methods. Not "these are immutable rules for writing". In fact, I think I mentioned repeatedly that there are no rules to this And about the cliche thing. I do not say never use cliche. There are no rules and there is no never. But the underlying reason most new writers use cliche is because they have absorbed those ways of expressing things the most (because of their abundance in popular culture) and have not yet developed their own voice and original way of expressing something to use intead. This is inherently bad, you should find a new way of saying what you have to say, a way that is as distinct to you as you are from the rest of the world. After three years of studying english literature at degree level, the one thing I'm sure of is the axiom make it new . Remember also that oldness is a form of newness, just like repetition is a form of change. Cliches are like shop-bought greetings cards; they're vague, impersonal and glib. Through overuse they have become trite and devoid of meaning. They are useful insofar as they can be adapted by a skillful writer into something meaningful, but its difficult to make them anything other than ironic. So: Ironic cliche: good, new, original. Sincere cliche: trite, glib, unoriginal. Opinion aside, saying "my heart is a black as the night" really isn't good writing. Above anything else, it shows you haven't actually thought much about what to say, and if there is one hallmark of a poetaster, it is thoughtlessness.
    ReynboLightning, a good way to avoid cliche is to use imagery not normally connected to your topic. Show, don't tell. Try writing about something unusual, just for the sake of it. For instance, there is a cat on my garden fence right now. I could write about him, and then think later that he serves quite nicely as a metaphor for something I wanted to express in that song I never finished the other month. Instead of talking about your relationship breaking down, talk about how sad your house is to have sad people in it. Its all about finding a fresh perspective on something familiar.
    When you change from a evil sound to a happy sound you have to be perfect in your key changes... you could have just told tat cause it sounds more simple...
    Nice lesson...kinda long...but good principles I think, and good presentation. That kryptic guy is always harassing someone so don't worry about him. We all know you mentioned several times that these are not rules. Maybe he's just miserable because he couldn't hack it in art school...idk.
    I really enjoyed this article. You bring good points forward in a very approachable way.
    You know it is quite clear you know a lot about words as you do about music, I should say thanks as everybody else has. But seriously you have no idea how helpful your guide has been to me.
    Thanks for the lesson! For some reason the part about "form" really improved my lyric writing. For the first time I can say I'm proud of some lyrics I wrote!
    Man, thank you! So much good stuff in here- please write more lessons, you have a gift :-D