#11 - Word Patterns in Songwriting

Just as music can be seen as a series of patterns, so can songwriting.  In fact, pre-conceived patterns are a great way to shape lyrics, and give you a template to ease the challenge of creative writing. They also lend a lot of coherence to a song.

The word patterns I'm talking about are ones where the first or last words of lines are the same, or first or last line, or partial line, of each verse or chorus of the song is the same.  In other words, (ha ha,) wisely use repetition.  With repetition, you will also naturally achieve some poetic-device-type benefits, like recurrent consonant and vowel sounds.

Example 1: 

In this song, Taking You In, not only are the first two words of every line the same, also the last line of every verse is the same (in effect becoming a chorus.) 

Like a patch of glories on their morning parade 
Like a child beaming over a drawing she made 
Like a flock of geese flying on by
I’m taking you in before you pass me by. 

Like a flood of memories run through my head 
Like a fading loved one on her death bed 
Like a shooting star in the midnight sky, 
I’m taking you in before you pass me by. 

Example 2: 

In this sample from Parting Glass, find where I use patterns, or word repetition:  

I awoke this morning with a funnel on my mind 
And we were lined up, going ‘round 
Toward the light in the middle 
Some would step aside to contemplate their lives 
And we were lined up 
And some fell through 

     And maybe this’ll be our parting glass 
     And maybe time has gone by too fast 
     Oh baby we’re a kind that just don’t last 

I awoke this morning with my mama on my mind, 
And she was right there, holding me 
Through the hard times and 
She said “darlin I will love you all your life” 
And I’ll be right there 
Loving you 

If you're interested in making some lyrics for songs or poems, give a pattern a try. Do you remember making an "I Am" poem in high school? It's the same idea. Below are some prompts you could use for inspiration, or make up your own.  
Please post examples of what you write in the comments section!

I remember…
I wonder if…. 
A door opened and…  
…. make me smile   
I said yes…. 
I dreamed….  
….all the way to Washington  

And, here's a pattern my Mom and I made, around a gopher hole. 

6 comments

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    I have no poem. But, I would like to ask, when you write a song like "Parting Glass", do you generally start with a memory and it's associated feeing, and then use that as a starting point? Or does it start with a piece of music, a progression and the feeling implicit in that. Wondering if that then provides some sort of framework that you then build on. I'm just wondering, because the evocative power of music is so much greater when these are joined. Thank you.

    I have no poem.
    But, I would like to ask, when you write a song like "Parting Glass", do you generally start with a memory and it's associated feeing, and then use that as a starting point? Or does it start with a piece of music, a progression and the feeling implicit in that. Wondering if that then provides some sort of framework that you then build on. I'm just wondering, because the evocative power of music is so much greater when these are joined. Thank you.

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Hi Bill, yes, I often start a song in both of those ways. I've learned to be open to however a song beginning shows up, and those are two big ones. I'd wager that the ones that start with some kind of melody in my head, with feelings/words implicit, are often my stronger ones.

    Hi Bill, yes, I often start a song in both of those ways. I've learned to be open to however a song beginning shows up, and those are two big ones. I'd wager that the ones that start with some kind of melody in my head, with feelings/words implicit, are often my stronger ones.

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    And I'll bet they arrive in dreams sometimes.

    And I'll bet they arrive in dreams sometimes.

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Yes, they do!

    Yes, they do!

  •  Nolan
    Nolan
    I'm rambling, but: I remember your lips I remember your face I remember your hands I remember your taste Or: Memories are dark Memories are bright Memories can fade Or keep you up all night

    I'm rambling, but:
    I remember your lips
    I remember your face
    I remember your hands
    I remember your taste

    Or:
    Memories are dark
    Memories are bright
    Memories can fade
    Or keep you up all night

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Nolan this is perfect. Those patterns you created hosted and inspired great lines.

    Nolan this is perfect. Those patterns you created hosted and inspired great lines.

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