Composer’s Compass: Lyrical Paraphrasing

by admin on February 22, 2012


Paraphrasing, or the rewording of something written or spoken by someone else, is a great skill to learn.  Often a deeper meaning of the work is achieved through the basic steps of paraphrasing.  I have found this to be an exciting songwriting technique when working with individuals with special needs.  Often my students have a specific artist or group of songs that they want to listen to or perform over and over again.  For some of my student’s, teaching them about lyrical paraphrasing is a great way to validate their song “favorites” while incorporating new skills into their session.  Here are some basic skills to address when paraphrasing lyrics:

  1. Select one or two phrases or lyrical sentences from the song.  Read it until you understand it’s meaning or overall message.
  2. Take away the visual or written line.  Jot down the key words or points on a piece of paper or white board.
  3. Create synonyms for the main key words by using a thesaurus or other resource, or look for new words within a catergory.
  4. Look for ways to shorten or lengthen the phrases or sentences.  Write out or type your new ideas and lyrics.
  5. Repeat these steps as you move throughout the song.

Example: “Superman” by Taylor Swift

Tall, dark and super manly
Puts papers in his briefcase and drives away
To save the world or go to work
It’s the same thing to me 

He’s got his mother’s eyes, his father’s ambition
I wonder if he knows how much that I miss him
I hang on every word you say.

Here is the lyrical paraphrasing created by one of my students:

Athletic and smart and always a mystery.
He zips up his jacket and walks away from me.
He’s probably off to some sporting event, flying away on this private jet.

He’s got his mother’s smile, his father’s personality.
Does he realize how much I love, will he look my way?

Here’s the completed song with lyrics by K. Hansen.

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