You can catch and keep your audience’s attention by writing interesting lyric sensual imagery: images and metaphors that evoke human sensations.
We experience the world through our senses, use this truth to tap into human psychology… grab them and keep them absorbed for your entire song!
The sense of sight is easy, most people go there first… but that’s only one of the human senses!
In this video lesson, you’ll learn
- Six senses you can use to hook your listeners,
- How to reference multiple sense to appeal to a wider audience, and
- How to use your best imagery instead of the first thing you think of!
There’s a complete transcript below the video lesson…
Lyrics: Sensual Imagery – Begin Transcript
Have you ever been writing a song but the lyrics feel flat…
Like there’s something missing.
Now you know if you’re bored by your lyrics they won’t move your listeners either.
They won’t even get past your first verse before they tune out.
So what’s the solution?
How can you grab their attention and keep it for the whole song? How can you get them coming back to hear it again?
Hi, I’m Trevor Dimoff a songwriter and a songwriting teacher. This is a sample lesson from my online songwriting course, the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart. If you can play songs you can learn how to write songs with the musical skills you already have. If this video grabs your attention and you learn from it, you can learn more about the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart by clicking this link.
One solution is to use strong imagery based on human senses…
Here’s the Lesson!
Using sensual imagery, lyrics that focus on the human senses, is a powerful tool to help your audience create mental images from your lyrics. Like emotional language and figurative language, you can create a strong effect in your audience with only a few words.
Humans understand the world through their senses, so write strong descriptions using sensation imagery. Make your song more immediate to your listener by writing with vivid imagery and use your audience’s senses to help them create a captivating world with you.
Descriptive language prompts your audience to create images in their minds. When I’m writing, I brainstorm for all of the senses and pick the best images and ideas. I make an effort to reference at least 2 senses in a song. The senses you can tap into are: sight, sound, smell, taste, and sensation. Sensation includes three categories, the sense of touch, internal feelings and external feelings or sensations.
Let’s “look” at each in more detail:
1. Sense of Sight
Sight is Visual, most people are visual first so be sure to paint pictures with your words. In Need Your Love I wrote: “Uncloud my judgement, fill my head with light/ Clean out my ears and give me second sight”
2. Sense of Hearing
Sound or Hearing is ironically, often ignored in music lyrics. The previous example from Need Your Love, combines sight and sound. The odd reversal of clean out my ears then giving me second sight adds impact to the line.
3. Sense of Smell
Smell is a primal sense for triggering memories. In the second line of Exotic Bean, I woke up in a musty motel bed. If you’ve ever stayed in a bad hotel room, the specific generality of this line gives you an image of disorientation in an unfamiliar, cheap stinky environment.
4. Sense of Taste
Taste is also often ignored in lyric writing. In Exotic Bean I compare Diner coffee to water. This is not a strong taste but illustrates that the weak coffee didn’t solve my problem. In Tremble, I use taste as an emotional metaphor, with the line “Taste of guilt and envy”
5. Sense of Touch
Sensation can be physical as in the sense of touch. Or you can refer to Proprioception, the awareness of your body’s position relative to itself, your body’s motion through space, pain or balance.
6. Internal and External Sensations
Internal Feelings are called Interoception. They are internal body sensations, like pain or hunger. External Feelings are called Exteroception, this is how you perceive the external world, like falling or flying.
The more you refer to senses and sensations, the easier it is for your listener to imagine the world you’re writing about. Use specifically generality to help them create mental images to understand your song.
Examples of Sensual Imagery from Exotic Bean:
In the first verse “Stranger in a strange town” is an allusion to the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. The first sensual image is in the second line “Woke up in a musty motel bed.” The smell helps the audience create an internal image of a cheap motel room without taking up several song lines for visual imagery. “My eyes are crossed, I’m falling down” shows my confusion through interoception, and falling down is an example of exteroception. The solution to all my distress is realizing that I: Need some bean to straighten out my head!
The second verse has a similar structure creating a pattern for the listener. I describe how I try “Diner brew (but it) tastes like water.” Then the “Fast food sludge twists my guts” creating a gross image of gut sludge and the internal sensation of twisted guts. The “Instant (coffee) causes mental disorder” or emotional distress because it isn’t pleasant or the solution. The last line of this verse also offers my solution because I “need good bean so I don’t self destruct.”
There are two links below the video (after this transcript) with optional reading about proprioception and human senses if you want to learn more about it.
Lyrics: Sensual Imagery – Summary
When you’re writing,
- Brainstorm ideas for each sense.
- Refer to more than one sense as you edit them down to the best ideas.
- Use specific generality in your sensual imagery to “show instead of tell” your audience through your lyrics.