Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.
Phrasing is the rhythm of the lyrics (and the spaces in-between) as they fit into the melody. You could say it’s the “bounce” of the words.
Phrasing could be melodic and slow, like the chorus on “Drink A Beer” recorded by Luke Bryan and written by Chris Stapleton and Jim Beavers. It could be more like a rap, like the verses of “Boys ‘Round Here” recorded by Blake Shelton and written by Craig Wiseman, Thomas Rhett, and Dallas Davidson. Or it could be somewhere in between. (And I’m not talking about lyrical CONTENT here. I’m not telling you what subject matter to write. I’m just talking about the rhythm and spacing of the words, whatever those words happen to be.)
It’s hugely important to keep your phrasing interesting.
(Back when I was starting out, I had a pro songwriter- the son of my church’s music minister- listen to some of my songs. He said, “I can tell you grew up Baptist. The songs all phrase like Baptist hymns. You need to make your phrasing more interesting.” My reaction was… “what’s phrasing?”)
Play with your phrasing. Mix it up. If you’re not great at writing uptempo songs, try writing faster, more interesting phrasing within your slower tempos. Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford did this well when they wrote “Dirt Road Anthem,” which went on to become a #1 country single for Jason Aldean. The tempo wasn’t that fast- the song felt really laid back. It’s the rapid-fire phrasing on the verses which really gives the song its energy (instead of giving it a power chorus or a fast tempo).
You don’t want your lyric to have the same “bounce” all the way through.
Mix up the phrasing between your verse and your chorus. This will help you vary the melody between the verse and chorus, too. That’s really important. Also, make sure your verse doesn’t have the same bounce to every line. Mix it up there, too.
Right now, rap-like lyrics are pretty popular in country music, but who knows how long that’ll be the case. My best advice is to just keep it interesting, whatever you do.
What do you think? What are YOUR thoughts or questions on phrasing? Do you have trouble mixing it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Hey, ya’ll! Several of you have been asking about 1-to-1 coaching opportunities. Well, over the next few weeks, I’ve made a few sessions available. It’s our chance to sit down together (over the phone or over the web) and discuss your songwriting goals, dig into a few of your songs to see how we can make them stronger, answer questions, whatever. If you’re interested, just click on the image below or go to the “STEP THREE” tab at manvsrow.com. Thanks!