Good It Is To Be Conversational

songwriting, lyrics, country music, hit songs, conversational languageThe classic definition of a song is “poetry set to music,” but I heard a definition from the great Dave Loggins (“Please Come to Boston,” “Forty Hour Week”) that I think works much better for the current commercial market. Dave defines a  song as “conversation set to music.” A great song makes us feel as though the singer is talking to us about something, or that we are listening in while two people talk to each other, or that we are eavesdropping on the thoughts in someone’s head.


In order to do that, it’s important to say things in your lyrics the same way that you would say them if you were actually speaking to someone. For example, “For a man to fulfill my heart’s desire, strength and kindness are what I require,” is correct grammar and states the idea clearly, but if you were talking to someone you’d might be more likely to say, “I hope I can find a man who’s strong and kind.


Sometimes beginning writers use words too big for normal conversation such as, “Enthralled by your touch.” Stretching for a rhyme is often responsible for non-conversational language. Writers might flip words around such as “happy I am to be your man.”  Or they might use a word that isn’t quite natural. If you want to talk about a “love that didn’t last” and you need to rhyme the word “way,” it will sound awkward if you describe it as a “love that didn’t stay,” even though listeners will know what you mean.
A good way to be sure you are keeping it real is to read your lyrics aloud without singing them. Instead of reading them with the rhythm of the music, read them as if you were actually talking to someone. If the words don’t sound like something you’d really say, keep working on them ‘til they do.