Disclaimer: I don’t have any cuts or any songs recorded, these are just my views and my tips on the different aspects of Songwriting
Now if you are not 100% sure what I’m referring to in regards to syllables, check out this Wikipedia Article to find out what I’m talking about.
On a few websites I visit and on Twitter (most recently thanks to @RavenousRaven ) I’ve been reviewing the occasional song or lyric. One thing I’ve noticed with non published writers (like myself) is the lack of verse forms, both in rhyme and in syllables per line. Now this might not sound like much, but those two things CAN make a verse work much better.
From the performers point of view, trying to match syllables through a verse will mean that the melody will be the same between verses.
Look in a print music book or sheet of a song you love, 9 times out of 10 multiple verses will be printed under the same melody line. The melody between verses are the same.. (or very similar). THIS comes down to syllable count.
When I write a song I usually count the syllables of each line (or if I’m using a program like Verse Perfect it counts for me). I will count the syllables on each line and write a the number in brackets on the right hand side of the page. Then I will try to match up the number of syllables (or in a worst case be 1 syllable different) between the same lines in different verses. When I first started to write songs I didn’t really take this in to consideration. In two songs I posted on my blog (both in first draft), “If Only” and “Summer Rain“, have a look at the syllable counts:
Verse 1: 5,8,9,8,9,8
Verse 2: 5,5,8,7,9,9
Chorus 1: 2,11,12,10,8,4,7
Chorus 2: 3,12,12,9,9,4,7
Verse 1: 13,10,8,14,8
Verse 2: 15,11,7,12,8
Verse 3: 15,11,9,13,8
Now I know ‘the numbers’ aren’t perfect and that is something I will work on in the next draft. But as you can see they are pretty close.
By having the same melody between verses, when the listener hears the second verse for the first time they have already heard the melody and chord progression so it will sound familiar. By also working a rhythmic beat in to your lyrics as well, this will make the lyrics even sound more familiar.
Now in saying all of this, rules/guidelines are made to be broken (especially in Songwriting!), that’s what can makes a song unique. One instance might be in a final verse which has a different syllable count for the final line leading in to the Chorus (or a bridge).
By practicing writing lyrics using a strict syllable count, your writing can improve. Why? Well I’ll ask a question… how many ways can you say “I love you”? (and each way would have a different number of syllables (from none to essays or novels).
If you have a line that requires you to show your affect to a person:
6 syllables “You’re everything to me”,
7 syllables “We were made for each other”
8 syllables “I can say love in many ways”
9 syllables “You and me, we have a connection”
10 syllables “There’s not body else I want to be with”
11 syllables “You’re the only one who makes me feel alive”
And yes that was an exercise for myself! Not only does each line above offer a different syllable count, each line also offers a different Rhyme. Subsequent I’ve got 6 lines to use in some songs.
Keep and eye on the syllable count between the same line numbers in your verses to help each verse sound familiar to the listener.
Whilst writing this post, Verse Perfect didn’t count the syllables 100% correct for me… words that were plurals were being classed as two syllables when they were in fact only one.