Write Song Lyrics that Inspire Change | Stefanie Potter | Skillshare

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Write Song Lyrics that Inspire Change

teacher avatar Stefanie Potter, Music Artistry Channel

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Song Components

    • 3. Choosing a Topic and Forming a Hook

    • 4. Brainstorming the Rest

    • 5. Writing

    • 6. Tips

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


Is there something you want the world to understand?  Forget social media rants!  MUSIC is the language of the soul, communicating in ways that touch hearts and mold perspectives. I've been an inspirational songwriter for almost 15 years, developing my craft and learning from some of the best.  I've seen first hand how songs can move a person to tears, to hope, to compassion, to understanding something from a new perspective, and to a life change. In this class, I will teach you how to take an idea you're passionate about, and turn it into song lyrics that have the potential to inspire the change you wish to see in the world.

Meet Your Teacher

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Stefanie Potter

Music Artistry Channel


Stefanie Potter is a folk/soul singer-songwriter in Charleston, SC, with a background in social work and ministry. She's an "artist of the heart," writing inspirational story-filled songs from her heart to yours, about things that matter most in life.  She's been writing music and playing live music for over 15 years, developing her craft and learning from some of the best.

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1. Introduction: welcome to my class on writing inspirational song lyrics in this class, I will teach you how to take an idea that you're passionate about and turn it into song lyrics that have the potential to inspire the change that you wish to see in the world. I have been an inspirational songwriter for almost 15 years, and in that time I've been developing my craft and learning from some of the best. So I'm excited to share with you what I've learned. There's no experience needed to take my class, but I do recommend that you take additional song writing classes if you'd like to develop your craft further. So the main idea behind inspirational song writing is not being preachy, but it sharing the why behind your perspectives. And we do that. So people engaged in the story enough to feel the importance of what you're saying in this class. I will go over the components of this song so that you're clear and then I'll guide you through the class project, which will include choosing an inspirational topic and then forming a chorus hook out of that and then I'll guide you through brainstorming and writing and Finally, I'll share some tips that I've learned over the years. Of course, your class project is writing inspirational song lyrics, and I look forward to seeing those. Please upload those lyrics for critique from your fellow classmates and from me, so that we can build our community here off of developing songwriters. And once you feel like your song is as good as can be, I encourage you to share your lyrics on your favorite social media site, with or without music, so that you can see the difference that it'll make. I really look forward to sharing with you and seeing your projects. 2. Song Components: Some lyrics are basically a specific form of poetry that uses short phrases and concepts to form a cohesive whole. And these short phrases follow patterns of rhythm and patterns of rhyme. When I say rhythm, I mean the number of syllables per line, how the line up and then for rhyme, you're rhyming the ends of lines so you might rhyme every other line or lines that are next to each other. But once you create a pattern in a song, for example, in Averse, then you want to follow that same pattern in the second verse. And there's certain components of popular contemporary songs that being the chorus, the versus Sometimes there's a pre chorus and then the bridge, so I'll go into the purpose behind those now. So the chorus, also known as the Hook, is the main point of the song. This is what drives the concept home, and it's also the part that gets stuck in your head because it's catchy. You know, sometimes it's fun and just the thing that just gets repeated over and over again. Usually it's made very simple so that it can be made memorable. The verses take that main concept, but then explore it a little bit more. They talk about the thoughts in the situations leading up to the choruses message. And then, if there's a pre chorus, it connects the two concepts between the verse and the chorus, almost like a road that's leading you home. And then the bridge is taking everything that you've talked about before and seeing Is there another angle that we haven't looked at yet, or another side to this that we have not covered? Not necessarily an opposing side, but something else that we should explore in this song. So there's a common order with ease, and you'll see some repetition. So verse one, pre chorus chorus, verse, two pre chorus chorus and then you head to the bridge, which is totally different and then back to the chorus and the courses are always the same . Pre courses are usually the same, are pretty different. Umm ous faras words but similar and rhythm and rhyme. And then the verses will follow those same rhythm and rhyme patterns but explore different things. And then the bridge again is kind of totally different. So in the next portion we're going to think through an inspirational topic, and I will help you figure out how you're going to form that chorus hook 3. Choosing a Topic and Forming a Hook: in this section. I'm going to guide you through starting your project. First, I want you to think back to this week this month or this year, however far back you need to go to think of important lessons that you've learned personally. What would you tell the world to make it a better place, or even just one person? If you were mentoring somebody, what would you tell them? What search of things need to be communicated to people right now, start to brainstorm some ideas, write them down and then pick one. That means a lot to you because that's what's going to help your song lyrics flow out of you more naturally. So once you pick one concept, it's important to stay with that concept. We want to say one thing in a song so we don't confuse people and overwhelm them with all sorts of ideas. So well, concepts like listening and loving and serving and going the extra mile are kind of related . It would be better to say those things in multiple songs than trying to throw them all into one song. So once you've come up with that one concept, I want you to come up with a creative way to say it. It's also important that it doesn't come across as if you're preaching to the world. Think about if you were to go up to a random stranger and give them this piece of advice, they probably wouldn't respond as well as you would want them. Teoh because they don't know your story. They don't know your authority in this area are any of your expertise or life experiences? So they're saying, Well, who are you to tell me how to change and how to live my life? So we want to say it, considering all of humanity on the same level. Okay, so we're sharing our hearts experiences. So as an example, this is an excerpt from my song Heartbeat. My main idea Waas Hey, let's listen to each other and care for each other like family. Now if I had sung that, it wouldn't quite be as impactful as the actual course I came up. It sounds a little bit, um, preachy. Like I'm trying to tell people what to do. Maybe, like, I'm looking down on them as if they're not, um so I switched it around to be from my perspective and me promising people that I will listen to them and I will care for them like family. And I came up with a creative way to say it regarding like the heartbeat of a person that's like the internal organ that really feels like you're connected. You have to be close to someone to hear their heartbeats. So my chorus hook became a promised. I will hear your heartbeat, my brother and I repeat that in the chorus. Very simple, very straightforward. So I encourage you take Take that one concept that you choose and right, Ah, hook line of your chorus, Then experiment with different ways of saying it. It can either be a full chorus or you can add to it later once you've brainstormed the rest of the song. But just starting here will be so essential for you to continue unto the rest of your song . So next we are going to go into brainstorming so that I can help you learn how to complete your son. 4. Brainstorming the Rest: Now that you have your chorus hook, you can begin to brainstorm the rest of your song. So think back to how you learn that lesson. What's your story? What are your experiences? Story telling can be an effective way to communicate through song lyrics. For example, this is a way that I use storytelling to create a concept of, um, caring for the poor. So this is from my song knocking Two pretty girls born into the world with big dreams. They both love to sing, so I'm comparing myself to somebody else. One got toe learn while the other went toe work out begging on the streets so she could buy herself something to eat. One had a sister to play. The others was sent away when Mama couldn't pay to Pete, keep them both alive and then the pre chorus. But I'm sorry I am too poor to help you stay alive. But look now I'm rich enough to improve my life and then the chorus if you knocked on my door What? I want to help you more in this accident of latitude. So you see how I'm using storytelling, even if it's not necessarily my own. But I can relate to this story because I'm imagining the other girl's story and comparing it to my own. Another thing you can brainstorm is certain metaphors or similes that you can use throughout this song. It's generally a good idea to use one metaphor throughout the whole song. So in my song baggage, I kind of compare baggage to like the baggage and luggage you're carrying through an airport. So the verse says, You've got baggage. You know it's true, weighed down with sticks and stones that make you walk so slow you try to hide the load inside, but it stabs me like a knife. So you see multiple metaphor and simile, but with the same overarching metaphor there. So then the pre chorus says, there's no shame with me. We will carry our load together on the way to the gate, where we can leave it with the captain and fly into the sun, which is the chorus hook. So again, keeping with that same metaphor but saying a lot through those small phrases, Verse two says As we walk hand in hand, the gate is drawing close. Some stones turned to gold and your sticks are catching fire. The ashes left behind as we walk hand in hand. So then I go back to the pre course in the chorus. So you see how I'm telling this story of walking with somebody through They're the pain of their baggage and how it affects both of us. But just letting them know like, Hey, I'm with you. I got some baggage, too. But as we walked together, we're going to figure this out, and we're gonna walk towards that gate where we can experience freedom. Another thing to brainstorm is senses. So the five senses and emotions, um, think of what you see, what you hear, what you feel. Um, certain emotions that air stirred as you think of this story and how you learned those lessons. This is from my song Legacy of Love. Another night with painful size and beeping machines next to walls of what his pain controlled. The words he spoke. He didn't mean all the anger he showed, but she never left his side. She loved him with all her might. So you see how the senses and the emotion really bring that song Toe life. Here's an example of some lyrics that kind of pull all of use together. This is from my song Tears Fall, which discusses, um, abuse says you were there with no one else around, and you were scared with every fateful sound, and you didn't know how somebody could find out where you were hiding. But soon enough you found out it wasn't worth fighting. So you see some elements of story, some emotions there she heard some sounds she was hiding. And then verse two, you're treated like a body with no name. There's a similarly out of sight so broken and ashamed, more storytelling, more emotions. And you didn't know how somebody could find out what they were hiding. But soon enough you found out it's certainly worth fighting. So you see how, um, the pre chorus suit. The soon enough lines are similar, but the first time it's that immense feeling of lack of hope. Within the second time, it's finding that hope. So as your brain storming, I would encourage you to take some time with this. If you need help, you can ask the class. You can ask your friends kind of what they think of when you talk about this certain topic once you have ah, whole bunch of stuff on paper. As far as storytelling, metaphors, senses and emotions highlight what really stands out to you for exploring your message and song. This is what you need to focus on and make sure gets in that song. Not everything will be included in your song. So you want to highlight the best stuff If you're not there yet, you're not finding great stuff. You should keep brainstorming and you might even start to write and then find you need to go back and brainstorm some more. Now, here you might find ways to edit your hook or chorus, or you might just leave it as it is. Brainstorming can go on for weeks, muds years. So something that I do is I keep an app on my phone that has, like, a little notebook. So when I'm reminded of a song that I'm forming, Aiken just add whatever metaphor I see out in the world or whatever story I think of to go back to when I start to write that song. That way I have plenty of ideas because you never know when inspiration will hit So you want to be ready to capture those ideas for your song. So from here, we're going to go on to writing in the next section. 5. Writing: when you feel like you have enough brainstorm to start to write, I encourage you to clear your mind. Set aside some time where you won't have any distractions and have time to play with the words to make them into a quality lyric. So first you want to make sure that your chorus is what you wanted to be. You might need to finish developing it. Or it might already be that memorable main point that you can just sing twice or once, and you might feel good about it already. And that's okay. So I'm going to go through my song Heartbeat, which I had introduced when talking about the chorus. So again, reviewing my chorus hook was I will hear your heartbeat. My brother and icing met twice. Next, you're going to right the verses. So versus are typically four or six lines. Um, so once you come up with a certain rhythm for a line, you want to repeat that rhythm throughout the verse, and then you want to repeat that rhythm in the second versus well similar to the rhyme pattern. You want to make sure that your rhyming pattern is the same in the first verse as the second verse. So whether you're rhyming the 1st 2 lines and then the 2nd 2 lines or skipping lines, I meant it might be different than your rhyme pattern in the chorus or the bridge. And that can kind of be good to switch things up. But it's good to be consistent from verse to verse on your patterns. So ah, heart be example for the verse. Divided colors are surrounding me. Black and white and blue and red are all I see stick to their sides and never cross the line shouting at each other cause they know they're right. So that's the main four. And then I kind of go on a little bit more. They know they're right. They know it all and that they're right. So, um, you see how I use some visual aids, some story telling to kind of bring my concepts toe life. Verse two is, you know, exploring this similar concept, but in a different way. So quick to anger and so quick to speak. Arguing with brothers like an enemy. We all have scars that show our share of pain, and if we cut them open, we all believe the same, and then I go on. We all believe the same from our share of pain from the other side. So next you're going to write your pre chorus, which again connects the verses and the chorus. If you feel like there's something missing between your first and your chorus, so in heartbeat it's pretty simple. It just asked the question. It says We've all got a lot to say, but who's gonna listen? So then it goes on to the chorus. I will hear your heartbeat, my brother. It's a response to that question, saying I will, and basically I hope you will do. Then you're going to write the bridge. And again, this is another angle on the main point. Not an opposite point of view, but an important point not yet explored in the rest of the lyrics. So I take the opportunity to ask questions to start to think through these what ifs. What if I listen? Instead of trying to change your mind? What if I took the time to see life through your eyes? How can I love my brother if we don't understand each other and help to heal the pain, and then I continue on to the final course. So I promise you I will hear your heartbeat, my brother. So it's kind of looking at the concept from a different angle and asking those questions to start to think through this issue, I encourage you to take some time to analyze your favorite inspirational songs. That way you have a better idea of how you like to be inspired and maybe how other people like to be inspired. I hope my song was a helpful example for you, Um, and I'm happy to give feedback on yours, and I ask that you look at your fellow classmates projects is well and share that same feedback in a constructive, loving way. Next, we're going to go on to the tips that I've learned over the years, but I think you'll find helpful. 6. Tips: So here are some tips that I've learned over the years about inspirational song writing. First off, think of your audience. You want to make sure that the concepts in your song are generalize. Herbal enough for many people to relate. But I also think more specifically of who you're writing this song for. Who is your listener? Make sure you're building community with those listeners through how you phrase things. So rather than pointing out faults or offending, make sure they know that you care and that you have a story to share. Once they know you care, they're more likely to listen. Second off, I've discussed this a couple times, but don't be preachy. You want to engage them by making your worldview come alive. Everyone has a history and a story to share. Maybe they haven't heard your story before, and it might open up their perspectives. So depending on the song, it often works best when it's from your perspective, rather than saying you should or you do this or don't do that because that kind of sounds like attacking, judging, pointing certain people out or again, preteen. Um, we want to be on the same level, So avoid weird Tichy phrases as well. Um, and avoid cliches. So one time I heard a line. I use positive reinforcement, and that just sounds like they're trying to teach us something. And that kind of shuts down people from actually engaging with the experience of the story that you're communicating. Questions are really great ways to engage with people. I've used questions and songs like We've all got a lot to say, but who's gonna listen? How could somebody heard another so deep? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Will we grow tired of our love, or will we build our home to last forever? So questions are showing that honest struggle and again building community with your listener and, of course, be willing to grow asked for feedback from fellow students. I'm still growing after 15 years in my songs even changed to this day, so definitely be willing to grow in this craft 7. Final Thoughts: I'm so glad you enrolled in my class, and I hope it inspired and equipped to you to inspire other people. If you feel like you need more basic song writing dreaming, check out some other skill share classes available from my fellow teachers. Don't forget savings creatively. Use stories. Use the five senses. Use metaphors and use emotions to bring that story to life and don't preach. Share the message from your own experiences. That story telling is what's going to make the difference and change people's perspectives and hearts on the matter. When you're done with your first draft, go ahead and upload them to the project section so that your fellow classmates and I can give you some feedback and then feel free to upload any edited version so we can review them. Also, if you want to collaborate with any musicians on putting your lyrics to music, that could be another fund project. But most importantly, we want you to get out there and share your lyrics. Go to an open mike night or a share on social media so that your lyrics can begin to inspire the change that you wish to see in the world