Lyric Exercise #3 – Use Specific Imagery
People listen to songs so that they can be transported to a different place. To that aim, it’s important for our lyrics to help listeners paint vivid images in their mind. In this article, we’ll discuss how using specific imagery strengthens lyrics, as well as methods to practice writing specific imagery.
This article is a summarised transcript of the third exercise in our video “5 Simple Songwriting Exercises to Transform Your Lyrics”. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
Why Does Specific Imagery Matter?
In the Bruno Major song “Nothing”, the first two lines are “Tracksuits and red wine ; Movies for two”. The moment we hear these lines, our minds paint an image of who the characters are, what they’re doing now and how long they’ve been together. So, we then become invested in the songs’ story.
On the subject of imagery, author Stephen King says “Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand-in for everything else”. This is even more true when it comes to songs, as we have limited real-estate to work with when creating worlds for our listeners.
To learn more about how to write great lyrics, download this free PDF eBook on “The 5 Best Songwriting Exercises for Writing Great Lyrics”:
Examples of Specific Imagery in Practice
A line from Amanda Palmer’s song “The Bed Song” demonstrates the effectiveness of specific imagery. The lines goes “I find my glasses and you turn the light out”.
This line alone helps us paint a picture of a couple in perhaps their 30’s or 40’s, who have been together for a while. The line also implies that they’re not on the same page, and that something is wrong with their relationship because they’re living in such close proximity with each other but are living parallel lives.
You can check out this video over on our channel for a more detailed walkthrough on how to come up with great imagery.
How to Practice Using Specific Imagery
Pick a line of lyric that you’ve written which you can identify as more telling instead of showing, or more general instead of specific.
For example, you could take a line such as “It was a beautiful, normal Saturday afternoon”, and find different ways to show that image without saying the line itself. Here are some samples:
- Barbecue smoke curling up through the eucalyptus leaves
- Watching my dog chase rabbits in his sleep
- Eating samosas that my neighbour dropped at my door
These lines are all designed to imply a beautiful, normal Saturday afternoon, instead of outright saying that it was one.
Conclusion: Lyric Exercise #3 – Use Specific Imagery
At the end of the day, we as songwriters have to remember that songs are just stories in a condensed format. To that end, we must strive to provide our listeners with colourful pictures through showing rather than telling.
This way, our listeners will become more invested in our stories, thus enjoying our songs more. This is only the third of five exercises to improve your lyric writing. Check out the full article for all 5 exercises or watch the video here now.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world: