For most people in the world, writing a song is simply an impossible proposition. The idea of creating music and lyrics is more like a magic trick than a job. For those of us who can write songs, however, we have a different set of challenges. One of the primary ones involves learning how to get out of our own way while writing powerful, effective songs without re-inventing the wheel each time we sit down to do it. I’ve put together a list of a few things to consider if you’d like to write better songs just by making them a little simpler.
Early on in our songwriting efforts, we have a tendency to want to be absolutely certain we haven’t left a single thing out of our songs. I’d like to suggest rethinking that approach. Sometimes it’s better to include only the absolutely essential elements to convey your message and let the reader connect the dots. Why not try to fit into two verses what you’re currently using four verses to say? The more distilled and clear your message is, the more powerful the effect will be on your listener. As I’m fond of saying, “when in doubt, write less.”
Sometimes, we can overly complicate our songs by having so many different sections that it becomes difficult for a listener to know where they are in our songs. One thing that has helped me over the years is thinking of songs as only having three parts. In other words, if you have verses, pre-choruses and choruses there’s no need for a bridge. Or if you have verses, choruses and a bridge, there’s no need for a pre-chorus. Keeping your song’s structure condensed in this way helps maintain its momentum.
Something else you can do if you’ve said everything you need to say lyrically in the verses and choruses is to make your bridge an instrumental. Again, you’re creating a song with three parts but you’re using your instrumental bridge as a place where the listener can stop and reflect on what you’ve already said while also enjoying a new musical section. I think you would be surprised at how often hit song lyrics have fewer words that you ever imagined.
Another way to not only simplify your song but also make it more learnable/memorable is to keep your chorus lyrics the same in all of your choruses. It can be tempting to want to move the song along a little further each time the chorus comes around by modifying the chorus lyric from chorus to chorus. My suggestion would be to use your verses and bridge for story development and keep your chorus as the main message of your song. That way, you’ve got a chorus that your listeners can learn and sing along to and you will be writing less new material by keeping your new information to your verses and bridge only.
Striving for simplicity in your songwriting is definitely a worthwhile goal. It’s important to acknowledge that simple doesn’t mean your song has to be fluff or lightweight. As a matter of fact, the more simply you can get your message across, the higher the likelihood that it will connect with the greatest number of people. Also, giving yourself permission to write simply can be truly liberating. Give it a try.