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How to Turn Poems Into Lyrics?

Most pop songs’ lyrics sound conversational as if the singer is talking to you, the listener. Lyrics these days also do not necessarily rhyme and common words are used. However, songs aren’t always straightforward, common or conversational. Bards like Homer, in the 7th to 8th century BCE, were already singing their epic poems telling stories of war, love and adventure. So, it isn’t inconceivable that poems can be turned into songs. In this post, we explore how can you turn your poem into lyrics of a song.

Poet Musicians

Modern poems today aren’t like the epic ones sung by Homer. Today’s poetry is put together with as few words as possible while containing as much meaning as possible. Short poems with impactful meaning may be difficult for people to sing along, since they may make it hard for mass listening.

But it is not entirely impossible. Bob Dylan, who is feted as a great musician is also a poet. He also won the Nobel Prize in Literature for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition in 2016. His lyrics reflected the cultural and political changes in the U.S.

Other poet musicians include Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Nick Cave, Jim Morrisson, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, and the list goes on.

Less Complicated Poems for Lyrics

Melodies help listeners remember the lyrics, as it once helped Bards of the old remember long oral histories during recitation. While readers can go through poems at their own pace and take all the time required to understand and react to each line, it is different for lyrics to songs.

To help listeners remember your song, it may be better to write poetic lyrics that are not packed with meaning. Instead, you can spread your metaphors and images over several lines instead of putting them together in a paragraph.

Add imagery and metaphors over several lines instead of in one line. Add more information gradually to allow listeners the space to gain deeper insights before moving on.

Use Simple and Direct Words

Unlike writing traditional poems, it would help to mix your poetic devices with clear and conversational words. Do this especially for the chorus, since it is usually what is remembered by listeners.

If your listeners have to stop and ponder about the meaning of the lyrics, you have lost them. It is still possible to have poetic rhyme to your lyrics using simple and common words. Give your listeners direct statements to get them engaged to keep your ideas focused and clear.

Utilise Conversational Tones

Poems come with the structure of metering, rhyming, and line length. Instead of getting caught up by the technical structure, pay attention to what meaning you wish to express in your songs. What do you want to say, and how do you want to express those emotions?

Don’t sacrifice your idea or expression by trying to accommodate a rhyme or meter. Doing this will lose the honesty and sincerity of the meaning in your lyrics. The most remembered lyrics are authentic and natural as if the singer is expressing a real thought and feeling. So it is essential you keep your lyrics as natural as possible.

Don’t Forget Song Structure

All songs, no matter what music genre, come with a song structure. Song structures are different from poetry structures. Mainstream music depends on a structure with repeated sections known as the chorus:

Verse 1/ Pre-Chorus 1/ Chorus

Verse 2/ Pre-Chorus 2/ Chorus

Bridge/ Chorus

A strong repeated chorus is what gets listeners to remember the song and to sing it repeatedly in their heads. A mix of repeated sections and new material gets the song moving and the listeners engaged so they don’t get bored.

It also helps to get your story moving and allows you to add meaning and impact to the chorus, which the entire song circles as its main focus.

You can experiment by singing your poem to a familiar pop tune to see if it works. And then create a new melody for your lyrics. It will be helpful if you already know how to play a musical instrument to accompany your lyrics. Otherwise, you can check out our music courses and get some input from our instructors. Be open-minded, experiment and have fun!

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Sep 30, 2022

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