Scar Tissue - The deep scar tissue of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Jeder Gedanke ein Labyrinth.” Every thought a labyrinthSchmyt
Are you a (budding) songwriter and want to take your expression game to the next level? Then I really want to bring you closer to the subject of metaphors in songwriting. Metaphors are wonderful for presenting complex topics in a simplified, apt, clear and understandable way.
They have the potential to conjure an image in the minds of your listeners and thus also provide a projection surface for your own topics, problems and ideas. In this article you will find out how you can also use metaphors successfully for your own songwriting.
Examples of metaphors are words like “money laundering,” “heartache,” or “word flow.” Phrases like “breaking one’s heart” or “building a wall of silence” are also metaphorical expressions.
The word “metaphor” comes from Greek and means something like “transmission” or “transport.” The aim here is to combine two different ideas in a meaningful way so that a coherent picture emerges. This always illuminates a special aspect of a complex whole and covers the rest.
Metaphors are intuitively very easy to understand, and yet it takes some brain power to understand how they work and how they can be formed. It therefore makes sense to take a look at how it works using an example.
Let's take the following German metaphor as an example: “Ich stehe auf dem Schlauch” (“I'm standing on the hose”). This expression is used when someone does not understand something. The blockage of an imagined hose is equated with the state of a blocked mind.
The water or the information is blocked on its way to the goal by an indefinite something, so that penetration is not possible. In this way, information and water (content) are equated and related to one another through the specific idea of flow (effect). There must be a connection between content and effect.
Metaphors are suitable for describing, for example, inner states, conflicts, relationship situations or stories. This takes place on a level of abstraction, in which complex facts are broken down into specific inner images.
They are therefore also very suitable if you want to address very personal things, but do not want to reveal too much about yourself. Moods can also be deliberately created in this way, the content of which remains vague and mystical. In this way you can leave yourself and the audience room for interpretation, which can be very attractive.
You can listen to a successful example by Schmyt, in whose lyrics metaphors play a major role, here.
You can definitely create your own metaphors, even though it will probably take a little practice at the beginning. It is important to think associatively, which can take some time to get used to, depending on previous experience. The ABC method according to Vera F. Birkenbihl is particularly suitable for this, which I would like to briefly explain.
The first step is to choose a topic that interests you. It can be a specific artist, animal species, natural phenomenon, craft, or anything else. The topic doesn’t need to have anything to do with your song.
Now, for example, choose a video, book, or podcast episode on the chosen topic. To make things a little clearer, let's pretend you've chosen a documentary about birds. For example, the subject of your soon-to-be song should be your current emotional state. You can also make a note of this, but it is not yet relevant.
Next, take a piece of paper and a pen and create an ABC list. This means that you write all the letters of the alphabet, one below the other, in order to later fill them with suitable words for your topic. While you are now looking at your documentary, write down at least one word that suits you for each of the letters. For example, the word “feed” to the letter “F” and “Territory” to the letter “T.” If you can't find any words for certain letters, don’t sweat it.
Now look at your list on the subject of birds and see which words you can think of, for example, when it comes to the word “feed.” What can you feed? Maybe the word “boys” will be the first thing that comes to mind, but feel free to go one step further and think about what else needs “feeding” on a more abstract level. For example, you might come up with words like “ideas,” “piggy bank,” or “relationships.”
You can do the same thing when you look at the word “territory.” A territory is a specific area in which, for example, birds of prey such as eagles are very familiar. However, a territory could also be a topic about which one has very specific, distinctive knowledge. What's your territory? What are you good at? What other properties do territories have? Based on these examples, you will certainly succeed in forming your own associations.
Now choose one of the words or word associations that particularly appeals to you. Let's take “territory” as an example. Now try to relate what you have worked out with your word to your song theme (current emotional state). For example, you can write both words next to each other and think about what they have in common or how you could connect them.
For example, you could equate your “territory,” to which you have also associated the word “appearance” or “shape,” with your current emotional state. What would your territory look like and how would you describe it (light/dark, clear/overwhelming, small/big, high/low, etc.)? The goal here would be to create an appropriate metaphor that reflects how you are feeling.
This can happen on a thoroughly abstract and artistic level. For example, Schmyt used the following metaphor in his song Poseidon, which fits this example quite well: “Gefluteter Raum, du bist so tief” (“Flooded room, you are so deep.”)
Each metaphor illuminates part of the truth and obscures the rest. The more metaphors you have, the more aspects of a complex reality you grasp.Vera F. Birkenbihl
As described in the quote above, it makes sense to find and use several metaphors on a topic at the same time (in our example it was the current emotional state). The more metaphors you have, the more detailed you can be with your current topic. And the associations based on your texts can be all the more visually stunning.
Keep in mind that this is a very creative process. Try to embrace it and approach it with fun and ease. I therefore wish you a lot of joy in finding and discovering your own metaphors.
If you're having trouble getting into the creative flow, feel free to check out the following blog articles on songwriting or coaching, or feel free to contact me. As a coach, I support artists in dissolving creative blocks and getting back to work. I work with methods from NLP and with hypnosis. In addition to my offer, you will also find blog articles, a free workbook and free hypnosis to try out on my homepage.
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Originally published on July 14, 2022, updated on December 15, 2022