The use of imagery in songwriting is especially vital if you want to engage listeners on a high level, where they are tuned in to your lyrics with scenes being painted in their minds as they listen.
‘Sun and sand,’ for example, can trigger thoughts of a sunny day at the beach with children making sand sculptures and adults playing beach volleyball, among other things.
Using impactful images in your songwriting is not always easy but can be a skill that’s nurtured over time. Here’s how:
Re-work Familiar Images
If you listen to a lot of music, you will realize that some images are reused in different ways in many popular songs. You too can re-interpret often-used images by changing up the verbs and/or nouns to make newer images, or using additional lyrics to create a new spin. A lyric such as: “dancing in the club,” for instance, could be rewritten to say “moving our bodies on the dancefloor / we became one with the music.”
Use Associated Images
The images you paint with your words will affect every listener differently, but will have an effect nonetheless, because people relate differently to images and also depending on the song’s theme. If you use images that can be associated with a lot of things, you could be on to something. For example, saying “when the purple sky explodes / and the walls come crashing down” can be associated with actual disasters, doomsday predictions, as well as bad breakups and conflicts.
Contrasting two different people, situations, emotions, etc., can cause your imagery to have a good effect on listeners as well. You could, for example, use images to describe happiness at the start of a relationship in contrast to sorrow at the end, or to depict the outward appearance of someone, in contrast to their hidden personality. Remember, though, to use contrasting and not conflicting images, which could leave listeners confused.
Placing images inside your listeners’ minds, to play upon their imaginations, takes practice by putting real thought into how you describe feelings and actions. It’s about getting listeners to really stop and think and pay attention to your lyrics.