How to Write a Song Using Imagery
Your song needs to create a vision of the lyrics in the listener’s mind. It’s a crucial aspect of writing effective songs, and by doing it well, you can generate a story or paint a complex picture with just a few words.
Whether you are a new songwriter or have been writing for a while like me, you will engage with the audience more if you use “show and tell” with your lyrics.
Does it sound hard? It doesn’t have to be! Follow these tips to write a song using imagery.
Using Your Senses in the Song
Focus on your senses — taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell — to help you incorporate imagery as you write song lyrics.
Choose a personal experience and paint a picture of the situation, the people involved, and your feelings. Combine your senses, images, and language with rich emotions so your listener can step into your shoes and experience those feelings for themselves. This is what using imagery is all about.
When writing, consider what your words are doing. Are they engaging your audience’s senses? If you are writing about a cold day, can they feel the chill in the air or how warm it looks from a window? Use words that engage all the senses to captivate your audience.
Homework: Practice sensory writing every day for five to 10 minutes to keep writer’s block at bay and generate song ideas.
Small Moments and Imagery
When writing a song, I like to think of it as a conversation with a good friend. When you open up to your friends, you likely start by summarizing what happened and then delve into greater detail. It’s the same when you’re penning a song.
Your lyrics should have a more conversational tone. Start at the surface and then dig down, painting a vivid image of what happened for listeners.
Imagery Evokes Emotions
Using the right imagery can create multiple emotions and reactions. It’s not just for lyrics but applies with any medium. You can draw emotions and sensory inspirations from anywhere. Like, how this line, “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” from the British poet William Wordsworth. You can get picture it and feel the pain and slowness of moving forward.
The beautiful part of imagery is that with as few words as possible you will make your audience truly feel something.
Amp Up the Imagery in the Verse and Chorus
Think of the verse of your song as a small moment that will amplify the big message that is your chorus. In the verse, you are asking the questions that you will be answering in the chorus.
Verses incorporate “showing” language, and the chorus uses “telling” language that summarizes the main message of your song.
Use simple words spoken in everyday conversation.
Think about what your words are doing. Are you engaging with the audience’s senses?
Create word lists that show and tell.
Write and rewrite lines of your lyrics until you create something that imparts a powerful image with just a few words.
Remember, all song elements are partners. Lyrics need to be supported by the chords, melodies, and other instrumental choices that you make.
Although you may feel fairly satisfied with the song you just wrote, you know it could be a little better.
To polish your song, read your lyrics out loud as if you are speaking, and try writing the lyrics as complete sentences to ensure that you are using words that feel natural and authentic to you.
You may even want to try changing the tense of the song and change your point of view. Experiment with changing “I” to “you,” or “her” to “him.” These are tools for polishing your song and keeping your listener in the moment. Plus, it’s a great way to stretch your songwriting.
Try Using Imagery for Yourself
Imagery can be used in many ways, from creating a vivid picture for the listener to describing a specific emotion. Enhance the depth of your songwriting by incorporating imagery into your next song!
Check out my latest song, “Lightning,” on YouTube, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more writing tips and motivation!