Lyric Exercise #2 – Upgrading Verbs
While every aspect of lyric writing is essential, the choice of verbs can make or break a song’s impact. In this blog post, we’ll delve into why verbs are important, and how you can upgrade your verbs to elevate your songwriting.
This article is a summarised transcript of the second exercise in our video “5 Simple Songwriting Exercises to Transform Your Lyrics”. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
Understanding the Importance of Verbs
Adjectives and adverbs generally do nothing but weaken your language and expression, as opposed to verbs, which not only convey action, but also image, mood, tone, emotion and attitude.
Jeff Tweedy said the following in his book “How to Write One Song”:
“You don’t need to say ‘The dog barked loudly’. Loudly is implied. And adding it actually weakens the bark.”
Even famous author Stephen King has been quoted saying “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
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Examples of Verbs in Practice
Let’s take the sentence “She walked into the room” as an example. In this line, “walked” is the verb. Here’s what happens if you replace that verb with something more interesting:
- She slid into the room
- She slithered into the room
- She flowed into the room
The change in verb paints a more vivid picture, and allows listeners to immerse themselves deeper into the song’s story.
Phoebe Bridgers does this well in her song “Motion Sickness”. Below are the lyrics to the first verse:
There are no adjectives or adverbs in this entire section, except for the word “hard”, which isn’t unnecessary since it’s part of the expression “hard times”.
How to Practice Upgrading Verbs
Go through the lyrics to any song that you’re currently working on and cross out any adjectives or adverbs. However, take note that some adjectives or adverbs are necessary. For example, the first lines of Bruno Major’s song “Nothing” are “Tracksuits and red wine ; Movies for two”.
In this case, the word “red” is necessary because red wine paints an entirely different picture compared to white wine. But if the word “floral” was added in front of the phrase “red wine”, that would be completely unnecessary.
Following this, underline every single verb that appears in your lyrics. Lastly, pick one verb per section and upgrade that verb to something more interesting.
Conclusion: Lyric Exercise #2 – Upgrading Verbs
Remember, the goal is to create imagery that shows rather than tells. By focusing on your choice of verbs, you’ll breathe life into your lyrics and leave a lasting impression on your listeners.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world: