Ok So after the deletion of my blog the hosting company can't get back the content so... I have most copies on my computer. Over the next several days I will be re-posting the content and maybe gain some new readers!
So let's start learning how to write songs for Film & TV. One thing that Film & TV needs are lyrics that are Universal.
So what is a Universal Lyric?
In the book “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV “ by Robin Frederick, she defines Universal lyrics as:
“A lyric that a large number of people can identify with or relate to.”
“A lyric that will not conflict with the specific content of a scene”
It took me a while to grasp the meaning of this and start incorporating it into my songs. Before I started writing for Film and TV I was writing a lot of story songs, or songs that have a lot of detail in them. When writing like this, the song paints the picture. In Film and TV, the show paints the picture and the songs helps bring out or supplement the emotion of the scene.
For example: In one of my songs Just Who I Am! Here are my lyrics for the first verse:
Just Who I Am! © 2011 Shell Sings Publishing
I got dirty clothes on the floor
A kit kat clock hangs on my door
Sometimes my hair is red, or styled in dreads
I like to wear sneakers with my Sunday best.
Ok, so that is VERY detailed and descriptive, no emotional elements and you are visualizing in your head right now my room and how I might look. This would not work well for a TV scene. It is too detailed. The song is telling the story.
Now as we move on into the Chorus
That’s Just Who I am, what you see, is what you get
That’s Just Who I am, I know I’m crazy, can’t change me baby
I’m nobody else but me, Just Who I Am.
The chorus is more universal… very general language, non descriptive and could be used in scenes displaying confident women. It is still a little specific however and would only be able to work in specific scenes.
Now let’s take Ingrid Michaelson’s song Everybody
Everybody – Ingrid Michaelson 2009, Cabin 24 Records
We have fallen down again tonight
In this world it's hard to get it right
Trying to make your heart fit like a glove
What it needs is love, love, love
Everybody, everybody wants to love
Everybody, everybody wants to be loved
Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
Happy is the heart that still feels pain
Darkness drains and light will come again
Swing open up your chest and let it in
Just let the love, love, love begin
These lyrics are very universal lyrics and they use imagery to represent certain feelings. This can and has been used in TV, Film and Commercials. It is being used for many different types of scenes that depict love and happiness.
Is this starting to make sense? It takes a while to grasp it and to begin to incorporate it in your writing.
But one mistake we don’t want to make is thinking that this type of writing is “dumbing down” the song. Robin Frederick says, “ A lyric that moves a lot of people is one that is original, vivid, and believable. Most importantly it communicates with listeners.” You want to create a mood for the audience, or an experience. The on screen action will take care of the telling the story and providing the details.
For fun, (before your assignment below) Here are a couple of my songs that were used in an advertisement and a TV show.
My song Everybody Smile! Was used in this advertisement
And my song with fellow writer Paul Otten, called Live, Laugh, Love in Color was used for a wedding show
Ok So now for your assignment:
Write a Universal Verse and Chorus lyric for one of these two options
1. Pick a TV show you like, find a scene and mute the sound. Watch it for about a minute and a half. What kind of lyric might you write to express the emotions of the scene?
2. Here is a scene that I wrote for you.
Scene fades in on a woman leaning against her dusty blue corvette. She is on the side of a dirt road that seems to never end. In the distance is a mountain range and the sun is just about to go down. The orange and red colors begin to transform the dessert into something of beauty. The woman is in her 30’s; long brunette hair is flowing a bit in the wind. She is wearing a plain blue T-shirt and jeans. She is looking toward the sunset and a tear rolls down her cheek. She goes to wipe it away but instead kicks the dirt with her boots, gets in her car and tears down the road toward the mountains.
Write a verse and a chorus that is Universal and evokes the emotion of the scene
Please feel free to ask me any questions and leave comments!
Michelle Lockey is a multi-award winning singer-songwriter sharing the knowledge she has learned over the years writing for Film & TV.
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