Poetic devices can help lyrics go from mundane to first rate if used properly. Most beginning lyricists either don’t take advantage of poetic devices (or know about them) or use them to excess.
|Some of the more popular poetic devices to spice up one’s lyrics include rhyme, metaphors, similes, alliteration, imagery, personification, point-of-view, hyperbole, repetition and symbols. There are others, but these are the most commonly used ones by lyricists. Rhyme is the most popular of the poetic devises as most lyrics use rhyme to create memorable songs. Rhyme as a poetic device has been around for thousands of years and songs that have survived by word-of-mouth typically employ rhyme since people can remember them more accurately.
Metaphors are comparisons between two objects that give a clearer meaning. For instance, saying “She is the rain” is a metaphor comparing a woman to rain. If a metaphor uses “like” or “as” for the comparison, that is called a simile. Saying “She is like the rain” is a simile. Notice the difference between the two phrases and the emotion they evoke for you and then note how you can use this in your own lyric writing adventures.
Metaphors can create powerful and lasting images ingrained in our brains for years. This is why the use of metaphors is so popular not only among songwriters, but writers in general. Alliteration is the repetition of sounds in a line of the lyrics. Assonance and consonance are subsections of alliteration and are the repetition of vowel sounds and consonant sounds respectively.
Imagery is used in lyrics writing to appeal to any or all of one’s senses. Typically writers use visual imagery in their music lyrics, but this isn’t always the case as auditory imagery is also frequently used followed by words and phrases that appeal to the other senses as well. Be creative and see what works best in the context of your own song.
Personification is basically animating some inanimate object or objects. Some songwriters personify animals to great effect as in “Rocky Raccoon” or in the song “Joy to the World” where “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”
Point-of-view is also used by lyricists to great effect. Lyrics may be written in first, second or third person point-of-view, each giving a different perspective to the lyrics. Sometimes also the point-of-view will also change during a song, especially in a duet, but at times with solo performances as well.
Hyperbole is the exaggeration of something for dramatic effect. This exaggeration or overstatement is a figure of speech that lends itself well to songwriting. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” is an example of hyperbole. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse with no name” is just plain wrong, however.
Repetition is what it is and what it says it is and is self-explanatory, in itself it is. By repeating line or words over and again, such as in the chorus, the song become more memorable and adds to the “catchiness” of the song.
Symbols are used sometimes in lyric writing as a brief way to evoke a larger emotional response. The Statue of Liberty is a great symbol of freedom in the U. S. and mentioning the statue in the song lyrics may evoke larger feelings of patriotism, yearning for freedom, liberty, justice and many other feelings. Symbols of love, heroism and death are many times used in lyric writing to evoke certain emotional responses. Love lyrics are generally filled with these symbols.
These are but some of the poetic devices used in lyric writing that should be in every songwriter’s tool chest. It is important to know how to use these tools and just as important to know when to and when not to use them as well. By using these poetic devices well your lyrics will jump to life and engage the listener in a meaningful musical experience.