Lyric Exercise #5 – Power Positions
For songwriters, crafting lyrics that captivate and resonate with listeners is both an art and a science. Lyrics have the ability to convey emotions, tell stories, and create vivid imagery. In this article, we’ll discuss power positions and how we can use them to elevate our lyrics.
This article is a summarised transcript of the fifth 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 Power Positions
There are lines of lyrics that naturally draw more attention from a listener’s ear due to their position. Those lines are always the first and last lines of any section. It’s a well-documented phenomenon that the human brain will pay attention to the first and last line of anything, but this hold particularly true in songs.
It’s not that the internal lines aren’t important, but they’re just not as important as the first and last lines.
Power positions refer specifically to the first and last lines of any song section.
The Last Line Pivot
An effective technique to use power positions is one that I call the last line pivot. To understand this technique, let’s take a look at the following excerpt from the song “River” by Joni Mitchell:
The last line comes as a surprise because prior to that, Joni had stacked on lots of Christmas imagery. Since Christmas is normally associated with positivity, the last line is a huge twist because it’s not positive at all.
Surprise can only happen when we create an expectation, and expectation can only be created if we establish a pattern. So, the whole idea here is to stack images to create a pattern, and then subvert our listener’s expectations by breaking the pattern with that last line.
To learn more about how to write great lyrics, download this free PDF eBook on “The 5 Best Songwriting Exercises for Writing Great Lyrics”:
How to Practice Using Power Positions
One way that you could practice using the last line pivot is by stacking images that describe something, whether that’s an event, feeling or experience. Then, use that last line to break the pattern and do the opposite of what you established.
Alternatively, you could actually start with your last line, then reverse engineer the rest of your section. This way, you’ll be able to keep your target in mind whilst you build the rest of your section’s imagery to imply the opposite.
Conclusion: Lyric Exercise #5 – Power Positions
By strategically placing unexpected twists or contrasts in your songs, you can captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression. So, don’t underestimate the power of those first and last lines because they might be the key to making your lyrics unforgettable.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world: