Derek Lee Goodreid

Born to Raise Hell & Sing the Blues.

How Poetry Techniques Enhance Songwriting Skills

Poetry and songwriting share a symbiotic relationship, relying on language’s power to evoke emotions, tell stories, and capture the essence of human experience. Aspiring songwriters can sometimes overlook the wealth of knowledge and inspiration that can be gained from studying poetry and its various techniques. Songwriting is a journey of exploration where every word and note holds the potential to captivate hearts and minds. I was fortunate to study poetry at a university level not that makes me an expert but it definitely opened my eyes to a new world and a renewed love of wordsmithing. Before that my favourite poets were from the Wutang Clan and as awesome as they are I also learned and fell in love with the poetry of Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, EE Cummings, Edgar Allen Poe, Maya Angelou, Jackie Wang and many more. Drawing inspiration from the rich tapestry of poetry, songwriters can elevate their craft by incorporating various literary techniques. Here are some great examples from great songwriters:

Alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, adds musicality and rhythm to poetry and song lyrics. By incorporating alliteration into your songwriting, you can create catchy hooks, memorable phrases, and lyrical patterns that resonate with listeners. For example, in Joni Mitchell’s iconic song “Big Yellow Taxi,” the repeated ‘p’ sound in the line “”They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”” adds emphasis and lyrical cohesion.

Allegory is a literary device in which characters, events, or settings represent abstract ideas or moral principles. By employing allegory in your songwriting, you can imbue your lyrics with layers of meaning and depth, inviting listeners to interpret your songs on multiple levels. Take, for instance, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which uses biblical imagery and allegorical storytelling to explore themes of love, faith, and redemption.

Metaphor, a figure of speech that draws parallels between two seemingly unrelated concepts, is a cornerstone of poetry and songwriting. By crafting vivid metaphors, you can paint evocative images and evoke powerful emotions in your listeners. Consider Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” where she compares clouds to “moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,” creating a sense of wonder and nostalgia through metaphorical language.

Cadence refers to the rhythm and flow of language, a fundamental aspect of poetry and songwriting. By paying attention to cadence in your lyrics, you can create melodic phrasing and rhythmic patterns that enhance the musicality of your songs. Experiment with different syllable counts, stresses, and pauses to find the perfect cadence for your melodies. Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is a prime example of a song with infectious cadence, its simple yet rhythmic lyrics inviting listeners to sway and sing along.

Imagery is the art of using language to create vivid sensory experiences in the listener’s mind. By evoking sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, imagery brings songs to life, allowing listeners to immerse themselves in the world you create. Consider the haunting imagery in Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” where he paints a surreal landscape populated by characters like “the blind commissioner” and “Dr. Filth,” inviting listeners to visualize a world teetering on the edge of chaos.

Rhyme adds musicality and cohesion to song lyrics, creating patterns of repetition that engage the ear and delight the senses. Whether it’s the playful rhymes of a children’s song or the intricate schemes of a rap verse, rhyme lends structure and rhythm to your lyrics. Experiment with different rhyme schemes, from simple AABB patterns to more complex ABAB or ABCB structures, to find the perfect fit for your melodies. In Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” the tight internal rhymes and multisyllabic patterns propel the song forward with relentless energy, mirroring the intensity of the lyrics.

Symbolism represents abstract ideas or concepts using objects, characters, or events. By infusing your lyrics with symbolism, you can imbue them with layers of meaning and depth, inviting listeners to interpret your songs on multiple levels. Consider the symbolic significance of the rose in Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” which serves as a metaphor for love and loss, beauty and decay, all woven together in a tapestry of poetic imagery.

Meter refers to the rhythmic structure of language, determined by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry or song lyrics. By paying attention to meter, songwriters can create melodic phrasing and rhythmic patterns that enhance the musicality of their songs. Experiment with different meters to find the perfect cadence for your melodies, from the lilting iambs of traditional ballads to the driving trochees of rock anthems. In Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” the syncopated rhythms and fluid meter mirror the ebb and flow of the song’s emotional landscape, adding depth and nuance to the lyrics.

Each technique offers unique opportunities for creative expression and can help elevate your songwriting to new heights. From the haunting imagery of Sylvia Plath to the playful rhymes of Dr. Seuss, the world of poetry is rich with inspiration for songwriters of all genres and styles.

As a songwriter, your ability to weave words into melodies is your greatest asset. By learning from the rich tradition of poetry and exploring its various techniques, you can expand your creative toolkit, hone your lyrical skills, and unlock new possibilities for musical expression. Dive into the world of poetry, study its techniques with curiosity and passion, and let the magic of language inspire your songwriting journey. With dedication and practice, you’ll discover endless opportunities for growth and self-discovery as a songwriter. Embrace the magic of language, experiment with poetic forms and structures, and let the music of words guide you on your quest for lyrical mastery. With passion, dedication, and a touch of poetic flair, you’ll create songs that resonate with listeners and stand the test of time.

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About Derek

Derek Lee Goodreid began his songwriting in his twenties as a confessional exploring his own battle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression with punk acoustic influences.

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Underdog | 1st June 2023

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Derek Lee Goodreid

Perth blues, rockabilly and country musician, Derek Lee Goodreid, began his songwriting in his twenties as a confessional exploring his own battle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression with punk acoustic influences. After moving to Norway for love Derek’s music and lyrics evolved influenced now by Jeff Buckley, Elvis Presley, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Cash, and Robert Johnson. Derek’s blues-inspired rockabilly won his newly formed band, Howling Light, a place to compete at Notodden Blues Festival and several festival gigs in Norway and established venues such as Cafe Mono and Buckley’s Blues and Roots Bar. Since then Derek has released four solo albums and has returned to his home town of Perth Western Australia. He continues to write, record, and perform his own special brand of Americana, Delta Blues, and Rock with his howling vocals red, hot rocking guitar, and heart of gold. Follow Me On Facebook

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