How To Make Your Lyrics Sing

“A poem is meant for the eye, while a lyric is meant for the ear.”

[caption id="attachment_223463" align="alignnone" width="768"] Leonard Cohn said the concept of singability was at the heart of all the melodies he composed.[/caption] “Singability," said legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn, “is the difference between a poem and a lyric … Once I have written a lyric, the uppermost and final consideration is, ‘Does it sing?’ And not only sing, but sing effortlessly?” Sammy, who wrote lyrics to 87 songs sung by Sinatra, knew that lyrics needed more than poetry. They had to sing well.  “A poem is meant for the eye,” he said, “while a lyric is meant for the ear, but both reach the mind and touch the heart.” Therein lies the fundamental dynamic. Songs exist in connection with melodies, with rhythm, and with the human voice. Certain words that might be beautiful on the page can sound awkward and contrived when sung. The aim is to create a lyric that sings with a seamless rightness, avoiding any words that can get in the way. As Cahn said: “Shakespeare, though he was a master poet, would have made a poor lyricist. Just try to sing ‘Love can laugh at locksmiths.’ Locksmiths is unsingable.”  Because songs are heard within a fast passage of…

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