Try this at home – summarize your lyrics

I just discovered an eye-opening way to get clarity about my own lyrics and improve my writing. I learned that when I try to summarize a song of mine in a sentence or two, I am able to nail the meaning much more clearly, which then gives me the option to repair or refine the lyrics. Of course, it would be even more helpful had I done this at the beginning of the lyric writing process.

Here’s how it happened. I signed up for an account with one of the online music communities, where I posted mp3s of my songs. For every song I posted, I was prompted to answer questions about the song. I suppose they do this so their search engine can categorize it and make it easier to find.

Here are some of the questions they ask. For each song you post, they want to know the genre, the tempo, the mood, the subject matter and names of two similar artists. Then they ask for a short description of the song, a long description and finally they give you the opportunity to tell the “story behind the song.”

I posted seven songs and each time, the exercise of writing a one sentence description and then a longer description had me looking at my lyrics from a whole new perspective. I somehow found a succinct nugget that not only summarized the meaning I intended, but sometimes said it better than my lyrics.

It also became clear that in some songs, the meaning I originally intended was not the same as the meaning the final lyrics portray. I also noticed for the first time that several of my songs say basically the same thing using different words (nothing wrong with that).

Try this with some of your songs and let us know how it works out.

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