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Using Comparisons In Your Lyrics

Similes, metaphors, and extended comparisons

· Songwriting

Using comparisons is one of my favorite techniques for writing unique and interesting lyrics. With a well-written comparison, even the most over-used topic in the world can sound fresh and different.

There are two types of comparisons: metaphors and similes.

Simile

A simile is a comparison that uses the words “like” or “as,” making it clear that it is a comparison.

An example of a simile would be “Just Like Fire” by P!NK

Here's a great exercise to practice writing similes:

  • Write out 10 verbs and 10 adjectives.
  • For each verb, write a sentence using a simile. ("She walks like a penguin.")
  • For each adjective, write a phrase using a simile ("as smooth as silk")

Your similes can be as short or long as you'd like - feel free to make long sentences out of them! ("He was giggling like an 8 year old boy watching Spongebob Squarepants for the first time.")

Don't be afraid to make them silly and ridiculous - you don't actually have to use them in songs, but just the exercise of coming up with similes will help your creative chops! The more you do it, the easier it'll get.

Metaphor

A metaphor comparison that isn’t framed with the words “like” or “as.” It’s stated as fact – the reader must infer that it is a metaphor.

Lightening strikes every time that she moves – Calvin Harris ft. Rhianna

A metaphor is a much more subtle comparison than a simile, and you’re expecting your audience to infer the comparison and not take it literally. In this example, obviously literal lightening is not striking every time some chick moves. But the lyric is saying her moves have a shocking effect on people.

Metaphors are extremely common in our everyday speech and idioms. "Beat around the bush", "cold shoulder", "elephant in the room", and "spill the beans" are just a few. None of those phrases mean what they are saying literally - they are metaphors that represent different situations.

To practice metaphors, try this:

  • Pick 5 nouns.
  • Try to come up with metaphors comparing those nouns to situations in real life. Remember, don't use "like" or "as" or it'll be a simile!

Extended Metaphors

This is one of my favorite techniques - when you take a comparison beyond just a line or two and use it as a central theme of your song.

"Clean" by Taylor Swift is a great example of this: She uses getting "clean" (as in an addiction) as a metaphor for getting over a break-up.

The cool thing about this song is the metaphor isn't just a passing lyric, it's the theme that ties the whole song together.

So if you come up with a metaphor you really like, see if you can base an entire song off of it!

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