Prosody In Songwriting

Prosody In Songwriting

The Tunedly Team

When writing a song, we’re always trying or attempting to express an idea in the various parts of the song. The verses give us an insight or storyline as to what the idea is about, and the chorus gives us a more straightforward definition of the song. It’s usually the repetitive part of the song, the part that everyone knows. Without the verses, the chorus might become boring to listen to. So each verse might have a different direction but at the same time leads to a better understanding of the chorus, thereby giving it a more meaningful and interesting meaning.

Keeping the attention of the listener from the beginning of the song to the very end is the core of a well written song. The next verse is built on or based on the previous one. In attempting to keep the audience or listeners from getting bored from listening, it is important to also always keep the message of the song intact and coherent. Exploring diversity without expertise in a song could end up destroying its aim and beauty. It’s why the concept of Prosody is important and needs to be taken into consideration when song writing.

A song basically has 3 parts. The Words or Lyrics are the content of the song. They contain the message or idea that is being expressed. The lyrics are the bedrock of every song and they are meant to be handled with high regard. Without The Melody or Tune however, the lyrics of a song are just merely poetry. The melody is the vessel with which the lyrics travel. They are what make the song pleasing to the ear of a music listener. They help the listener enjoy the lyrics that have been written better. On their own they give an experience to the listener as well, melody without lyrics is just sonata. The final part of a song is the combination of both the lyrics and the melody, called Prosody.

Prosody is defined as the way all elements of a song work together to support the central message of that song. It is the appropriate relationship between all the elements useful for creating a song, to express the central emotion, the central idea, the central purpose of the song. It is essentially the way words and melody work together in a song, the way everything fits. It can be seen as the culmination of tone, pitch, meter, rhythm, tempo, loudness, softness, etc. in the delivery of the lyrics and music as a whole.

The way a line of a song is delivered is just as important as the line itself. A word can be said in different ways and it will be interpreted with different meanings based on the way it has been said. Finding the right way to deliver a song lyric and melody is what prosody is all about. The tone in which the word or phrase is said, the loudness, tempo etc are what help us deliver the central message a song is meant to pass across. These are the little things, beyond lyrics writing that Prosody helps us to achieve.

Prosody works on every level of the song. Each individual word or syllable has a way it can be said to stick with the song's message. One word can be changed to get it right, and the way a syllable is stressed or pronounced cannot be ignored. Words and syllables make up clauses, phrases and sentences. The way they are arranged as well help us to know where emphasis lies at every instant, keeping the song interesting and smooth sailing to the listener. The idea behind the entire song itself needs to have good prosody. Concepts and themes that are poorly decided on don’t give room for better expression of the song. Even the tone with which a song is sung, the mood it’s reflecting and the style in which it is expressed too are all elements of a song that prosody aims to take care of.

Good prosody for instance means that the words are pronounced correctly. When a word is pronounced quite differently in a song melody from the way it is pronounced when spoken normally, it tends to displace the listener away from the meaning the word is trying to convey in that sentence or line. Good prosody also means that each line or phrase of a song should match or express complete thoughts. That is, from each line, a listener should be able to derive a meaning. Depending on the concept of the song, the right words being emphasized in the lyrics also show a sign of good prosody. Emphasis can be shown on a word by using accented notes, higher pitch, holding it out longer when sung, putting a pause after it, etc.

When the lyrics are written, they usually have a tone with them. Matching this tone of the lyrics with the melody and rhythm is a way to get a better understanding of the song's concepts, thereby keeping prosody in check. Most times, for instance, angry lyrics will have an angry sounding melody. Enhancing the meanings of a song with melody is also a good way to express it better. Finding a way to get the melody to express the lyrics will give the audience a stronger connection and understanding to the song.

Poor use of Prosody will definitely cause distractions in the lyrics and cause the listener to lose attention. It could also cause cringeworthy moments in the listening experience. We desire for our listeners to have clarity of understanding the concepts being expressed in our songs. Poor prosody breeds a lack of clarity. Poor pronunciation can cause confusion over the meaning of a part of a song and can overall lead to listener disengagement.

The most effective vehicle for expressing prosody is stability and instability. Be it an idea or an actual lyric, verse or chorus, determining if it’s stable or unstable helps to create a sense of prosody in a song. A song can have both stability and instability and still possess prosody. It honestly depends on how it is used. Understanding tools like number of lines, matched or unmatched length of lines, rhyme scheme, rhyme types, rhythm of lines, tones and even stresses is important and can be used to create stability or instability. It furthermore helps in expressing prosody in a song.