The Five Senses in Song Lyrics

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Good lyrics appeal to a variety of senses and use words creatively. Ideally, they draw us into the song or scene. Or provide an effect that makes us think. The ideal thing here is to have your own database of terms and scenery to draw on when you’re in the process of lyric writing. And this can be done quite easily. All you need for this is a notepad, a pen- or a good smartphone- some time and good powers of observation.

To keep sharpening our lyric writing skills, we need to exercise them regularly. Just as we need to use our muscles if we want to exercise them, we need to try our best on a daily basis to line situations as best we can. Take your song lyrics to the next level with situational writing. shows you how.


Describing song lyrics with all your senses

  1. Use any situation you find yourself in. For example, while you are sitting in a café, while you are walking, on the bus, at work, in the library, or while shopping.
  2. Try to describe the situation using all your senses. What does it look like? What does it smell like? Is there a taste? How does it feel? What do you hear?
  3. Be as specific and as non-specific as you can, associating words.
  4. Ask yourself about the story behind the situation.

This exercise is fun and you can use it as an excellent “pastime” in situations where you are waiting, for example, or otherwise have room for thought in some way.

Archive your ideas for song lyrics

Ideally, you’ll set up a notepad or small notebook and write down your analyses every day. If you use a smartphone, you can also use an app that might even further divide the scenarios. For example, “Situations ⇾ Summer ⇾ Park.” Or “People ⇾ Sad ⇾ Old woman in cemetery”.

Because by doing this you will have a rich fund of situations and associated terms sooner than you think. And building on this notebook, you effortlessly find good song plots that you can easily enrich with appropriate words through the associated terms. And you use words that involve other senses.

There is no right or wrong here. It’s your notepad. So don’t limit yourself and associate wildly. Of course, you don’t have to be in the scene to do the exercise. However, the result will be at least twice as good if you are actually in the scene. Because many details get lost when we imagine or try to remember a scene. On the other hand, when you are in the scene, you can pay attention to every detail and write everything down. In addition, you train your observation skills. After just a short time, you’ll notice things that others don’t. For example, when you’re walking through a meadow and you suddenly notice all the beautiful, colorful flowers that you would have just carelessly walked over in the past. This can even have something meditative about it.

Describe also not only sceneries, but also persons. Here, of course, be careful not to come across as a crazy stalker. But we meet people every day who are all unique. Describe what they look like. What makes them special. Do they have any quirks? Do you see nails bitten off, maybe? Do they wiggle their legs? Do they seem nervous? Quiet? Drunk? How does that manifest itself? What might their story be?
Below are a few examples to illustrate.

Words for songlyrics: walk through the park

  • Appearance: Lush green grass (many individual grasses pointing in all directions, makes a large meadow), silver-green trees (strong yet flexible, rooted, timeless, observant), colorful, fresh, breeze, peaceful, leveled path (gray, different, cement, destructive?, Civilization), avenue of trees (like on postcards, safety, green street), flower beds (colorful, variety, nature, beautiful), golden-yellow buttercups (oppulent, small, very many), yellow dandelions -> gray dandelions -> Wind (atmospheric, ephemeral, child blowing flower), fountain splashing (man holding head under water, woman taking a sip, No drinking water), scuffling dogs (one black, one white), calmly flowing stream (silver, transparent, stones, moss, rapids, shallow, deep, running, holding feet in water for refreshment), nature (green, free, survival of the fittest, living), tamed nature (fenced, penned, mowed, trimmed), lush, powerful, alive
  • Smell: Freshly cut grass, flowers, trees, reverberation of perfume of a passing lady, fresh wind, gentle breeze, warm breeze, moss
  • Sounds: Birds chirping (melodies, lovemaking, spring feelings), lawn mower in the distance (neighbors annoyed?, amateur gardener? Which person could it be?), children playing (what are they playing? Are they going to school? What dreams do they have?), sound of a stream (who lives in it, what has taken place in it? where does the water come from? Where does it go?), leaves rustling in wind (relaxing, sunbeams finding their way, many leaves, a canopy), dogs barking in the distance (are they friendly?),
  • Feelings: calm, peace, life, draw strength, idyll, safety, warmth
  • Further associations: love, life, rest, strength, close your eyes, trust, let yourself hang, spring, summer, freedom, fun, stress-free, just be.

Senses in Songlytics: ride the subway

  • Appearance: Sterile, run-down, modern cars, busy, yellowed tiles, electric departure boards, large billboards advertising Virgin Atlantic, dirty tile floor, someone giving up space, newspapers on seats, people reading, people trying to avoid eye contact, people holding each other as they depart, no one smiling, everyone preoccupied with themselves, no sun
  • Odor: Stale air, Warm air, Draft when driving in, Sweat, Perfume, Eau de Cologne
  • Sounds: Announcement (tinny, unintelligible, computer-generated), busker playing “Here Comes The Sun”, train coming in (whizzing, electric), people walking, sound of electric motor, draft through subway access ways
  • Feelings: Anonymous among people, Many people all alone, small kindnesses, in a flow of people
  • More associations: Stress, Rush hour, no sun ./. Busker playing “Here Comes The Sun” in artificial light underground, Busy, Gray, Colorless, Everyday life, 9-5 ./. Dream job (is that how they imagined it?)

Lyric Ideas: Woman on a plane

  • Looks: Dark, shoulder-length hair, well-groomed, red dress, armless, lightly tanned skin, freckles, brown eyes, angular face, between 40 and 50 years old, snub nose, red lipstick, discreet makeup, reads newspaper, well-groomed fingernails (artificial, white), head bent forward into newspaper
  • Smell: Slight hint of sweetness, not intrusive, barely noticeable
  • Noise: Relatively dark voice, breathing not audible, newspaper rustles when turning pages
  • Feelings: Calm, relaxed at first glance, drinks a glass of wine (because of excitement?), wet hands visible on newspaper ⇾ betray nervousness
  • More associations: Introverted, wants to be left alone, is excited, doesn’t want to let it show. Used to be very pretty when she was younger. Travels alone. Where is she going? Where is she from? What is her name? What name would fit? On her way to meet her family? First time on vacation alone? Visited the love of her life? Been on a business trip?

Another option is to call up an image (for example, via Google Image Search) and describe it in detail. These can be images from nature as well as portraits. In these cases, ask yourself what is the story behind the picture? Which features and which facial expressions allow you to draw conclusions about the story? There are no limits to your imagination. It’s your song and your story.

Every day you expand your lyric-writing archive

Thus, over time, a rich fund of good song ideas comes together. You then have character descriptions that are alive. As a listener, you can identify with them more easily. And at the same time, you have descriptions of situations that are also vivid. If a song that takes place in summer is about green meadows, that’s good. But if the smell of freshly mown grass is also mentioned, everyone can imagine what kind of scent it is. The song immediately becomes much more vivid. And when the sound of a lawnmower in the distance is described in the background, we as listeners immediately find ourselves in a summer scenario that we all know.