Lyrics and Pulse
So let’s assume you’ve got the backing rhythmic feel/groove of your song established, and now you want to make sure the words you write will work with it. There really are just two important steps:
- Say your words over and over, and keep a beat. Tap your foot, slap your knee… do whatever you can to feel the beat, and then say your words to that beat.
- Make note of how the words and musical beat interact and coexist. It needs to feel natural. Once in a while, a word might seem forced, but most of the time the stresses and accents of your words should work with the stresses and accents of your music.
Lyrics don’t need to be profound in order to be good; it really just depends on the song. When lyrics are bad, it’s usually because they sound like they’ve been beaten and bent in order to fit the rhythm of the melody.
There’s a natural feel to the words you sing when the natural pulse of the words is matched to the natural pulse of the music. When the feel is all wrong, nothing much else matters. Dealing with pulse issues is job number 1 when it comes to lyrics.
That's what they mean when they speak of 'prosody', the 'marriage' of the Lyric to the Melody, and the Melody to the beat. Some of the 'great' singers were pros at hitting that beat, sometimes making a weak Song work. A good Melody can probably be sung a capella, just making sure it hits the beat in the delivery. If you can sing it unaccompanied you can probably sing it with musical accompaniment even better, the vocal execution and instrumental 'arrangement' working together in the overall product. Study some Songs to see when you perceive they're doing it right, and see if you also spot some doing it wrong. Examine your own Songs to see if they can be better if you just find that beat in your vocal execution. It can help you decide where to add or delete words to make it work. Playing Songs at different tempos and making the Lyric work within the parameters of the differences can be very educational. Will it work as a blues? Will it work as an uptempo rock Song? Will it play as a jaunty, country & western style? Explore the possibilities of cover Song interpretations, and your own products. See what you can learn.