Imagery In Your Song’s Opening Lines

Imagine yourself in a dark movie theater.

The movie starts to play, but there’s no video- just sound. You’d be disappointed- and you’d probably be confused as to what’s going on, right? Then why do we sometimes write songs that way?

In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about how imagery can be the slight edge that gives you big results (READ HERE). I’ve also detailed how a quirky image (“spork”) can really make your song memorable (READ HERE). Today, I’m going to tell you about a great opportunity that’s coming up. But first, let me tell you a little story…

Back in my first publishing deal at Major Bob Music, I was playing a new song for one of our songpluggers. It was a pretty emotive song. There wasn’t much of a story to it, just mostly emotions. He wasn’t crazy about it.

He said my song left him “floating around in space with nothing to hang on to.”

He said, “you’re just telling me how you FEEL.” I’d left him without an anchor. I wasn’t giving him any sense of the song’s setting.  I’d left him blind, searching for something to “see.”

Sometimes just one or two well-placed images in a song can give the listener something to hang on to so they AREN’T floating around. So why not give them that anchor at the beginning so they’re not waiting for it to get there?

Anchor

So, giving the listener an anchor is one thing. But, really, you want to go beyond just anchoring them. You want to hook the listener right off the bat. Right from the very first line, you want to be pulling the listener into the story, getting them curious… or furious… or whatever emotion is the point of the song.

That’s a really big opportunity and a big test for you as a writer.

Are you going to draw the listener in or lose them in your opening lines? If you lose them, they probably won’t stick around to hear your great hook and killer second verse or the surprise twist in the bridge.

A great image can really hook your listener.

I think one of the big reasons that my song (written with Erin Enderlin) “Monday Morning Church” got cut by Alan Jackson was it’s opening few lines.

“You left your Bible on the dresser, so I put it in the drawer. ‘Cuz I can’t seem to talk to God without yelling anymore.”

These few lines give the listener a lot of information, all through pictures. It tells the listener the person the singer is singing to is gone. That they were religious, but left the Bible. It also tells you that the singer is angry with God about whatever happened. It’s intriguing. It’s visceral. And you sure don’t know the whole story yet, but those first few lines are designed to really get your attention and make you want to know what happened- and what’s going to happen next.

My song, “Every Head Bowed,” recorded by Randy Travis (and written with Brandon Kinney), has the following opening lines:

“Sunday morning was a fight; I was running from that clip-on tie. It took Daddy’s belt to get me in my Sunday best.”

Again, these few lines give the listener a lot of information (and entertainment, hopefully). You get the sense that this is a young boy singing, you see him running from his parents, and you see his dad threatening him with a belt-whoopin’ before he finally clips on that dreaded tie. The personality of the main character is set up, and so is the mood of the song. Hopefully, the opening lines hook the listeners and gets them interested in “watching” what happens next.

And speaking of happening next…

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You know those videos I’ve shared with you over the past couple of days (WATCH HERE and WATCH HERE)? Well, they’re part of an online course that I’ve developed all about lyrical imagery.  It’s called:

“Use Imagery To Supercharge Your Songwriting (Like The Pros Do)”

It’s a course I’ve put together from my experience as a professional lyricist and songwriter with over 10 years in the music business. During that time, I’ve had cuts by legendary artists such as Alan Jackson and Randy Travis. I’ve also had cuts by Lady Antebellum and Joe Nichols, among others. I’ve written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 Single Of The Year in Canada.

This course is designed to make a huge positive difference in your songwriting.

Specifically, by the end of the course, you’ll gain the basic skills you need to:

  1. Effectively use both literal and figurative imagery.
  2. Make your story come to life using imagery.
  3. Prove your character’s… character using imagery.
  4. Make your listener connect to your character’s emotions using imagery.
  5. Hook your listener in the song’s first few lines using imagery.
  6. And begin more songs (more easily) using imagery as the start of your songwriting process.

Adding great imagery to your songs will help them stand out. It will also help your songs connect emotionally to the listener. And this course will even save you time, as I reveal techniques and thought-processes that might take years for you to learn by trial and error.

Years. Let that sink in for a moment.

But you don’t have to waste all that time. You can start writing better songs TODAY!

If you want to take your songwriting (and your songwriting career) to the next level… CLICK HERE.

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God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

2 thoughts on “Imagery In Your Song’s Opening Lines”

  1. I agree, Brent— hook them before your main hook and reel them in on the chorus.
    But, then, what about songs like Chris Young’s “The Man I want To Be” which is a prayer and has no imagery. He sets it up with a scene at a bus stop in the video, but it doesn’t show up in the lyrics.

    1. Good question! I believe they do start off with an image of the singer on his knees right in the first line or two. Literal or figurative, it’s an image. But that’s about it. There are exceptions to the rule, no doubt. But on the whole, you have a much better chance to have your song stand out against the crowd if you add in strong imagery, especially early on.

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