View Full Version : Advice from songwriters/music writers requested

05-23-2007, 02:31 AM
Hi, I really need the advice of any songwriters or music writers/composers out there, because I have a question:

I have just been commissioned to write words for a song. The music is expected to be approximately 8 minutes in length. I confess my utter inexperience in this form, and would like to know this:

What is the ratio between instrumental music and the written word? Or, in other words, for 8 minutes of music what should the length of the text ie. poetry or lyrics be? 8 minutes? 4 minutes? 3 minutes? Should I simply be noting the total time as I read aloud the completed written text?

05-23-2007, 01:32 PM
I'm not an expert, but here's my two cents: It depends on the type of song really, and the type of music and lyrics. If you take something like Lady of Shalott the lyrics take presidency, but in some forms of rock and alternative music for example a song can go on for that long with hardly any lyrics at all. Talk to the composer about it so you're on the same page.

05-23-2007, 04:29 PM
Rivana, thanks for the advice. It's true that the style of the song should dictate the length of the text. I've already spoken with the composer, and he prefers that I write the lyrics first before he can set them to music (piano). The composer and I plan to meet with the singer, who's the one who has actually hired us, as well as the pianist. Hopefully between the four of us, we can hammer out a time framework for the song.

05-24-2007, 01:49 AM
You're welcome and that sounds great. Best of luck. ^o^

05-28-2007, 06:45 AM
Weird assignment. Eight minutes is an awful long song. Perhaps the singer would let you know if he expects long interludes of solos.

Since they seem to know what they want, I would suggest to them that they do a melody first and let you write to it. But if you're stuck with this set up, it sounds like you have a carte blanche to do what you want. If not, be sure you get it stipulated first.

One thing I'd REALLY suggest is doing a couple of verses first to see how they play. If you hit something that works for them, write more. If not you haven't wasted time writing 8 minutes of song for nothing. (Have you figured out yet how many words or verses 8 minutes is? For comparison, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot (nominated by many as the longest dullest song ever played on the radio and winner of several awards for sending listeners screaming out into the night) goes on forever and has seven 8 line verses, but only runs 6 and a half minutes. Demand a drum solo.

05-28-2007, 08:00 AM
Just to demonstrate the possible variability, there's this infamous, fun song that has quite a bit of text, but when performed "properly" is much less than 8 minutes long:

A more realistic example would be a longer popular song such as "Stairway To Heaven." I forget how long that was, but it also includes a longish guitar lead near the end.

I'd suggest writing a chorus with maybe a word or line in the chorus that's different every time you sing it. This variation will be especially important presuming the chorus is going to be sung many times through the song. A chorus in a "regular" song might be sung from two to seven times, and I'd guess you don't want to go much beyond seven times.

You might want to write lots of verses, more than you need, and make them semi-independent so some of them can be dropped to bring the song down to eight minutes. Perhaps write two verses of a bridge (a few bars that are musically different from both the verse and the chorus) to help break up the monotony. And yes, it seems an instrumental break would also be a neccesity in something this long, again to help break up the monotony of a large number of verses.

And that Lightfoot song reminds me of the song that goes, "Someone left the cake out in the rain", oh now it comes to me, the title is McArthur's Park. That's a fairly long (it always seems way too long!) song, and it has instrumental breaks and stuff that help keep it from abso-f'in'-lutely driving people crazy being too boring.

05-28-2007, 08:39 AM
If you're writing lyrics first, something that I personally do very sparingly, you control every aspect of the song. I personally haven't had much luck with this approach, but I can see how it might work for some people.

Since you're writing the lyrics, make sure they're fairly metered and they alliterate or rhyme well. If you want to make a good song, make it easy for your friend. Also, give him/her license to cannibalize your words. The chances of a good, catchy melody matching your precise syntax is highly unlikely.