Understanding Perspective

Perspective is the voice of the speaker, informed by their beliefs, upbringing, cultural heritage and most importantly for a song, how they’re taking in the situation.  Are they thinking it to themselves, or saying it out loud to others?  What’s communicated can change significantly depending on the perspective.

Point of view focuses on the “who” while Perspective focuses on “how the speaker is seeing” the scene. For example, is the main character’s voice Internal (thinking to themselves) or External (talking to others).

In songwriting, we spend a lot of time talking about POV, but understanding perspective will unlock a whole new world of lyric writing for you.

Perspective Change Exercise

Identify the following:

  • What is the current point of view?
  • What is the current perspective?
    • Internal/thinking to themselves
    • External/talking to others
  • Is the perspective consistent throughout?
    • If it’s an internal conversation, is it internal all the way through, or are some things being said out loud, while others are deep internal thoughts?
    • If not consistent, change the lyric so it is
  • Now switch the perspective to the opposite and rewrite the lyric
  • What doesn’t make sense anymore?
  • What becomes more interesting?
  • Does a verse need to change?
  • Has the chorus’ meaning changed or does it still work?
  • Does the emotional engagement increase or decrease?
  • Overall, does the song idea become stronger because of the shift in perspective?

Ideally, you’ll do this exercise for a song in first personsecond person/direct address and third person.

Take a few minutes to go through each song (read the out loud or play them).  You can also send then to a songwriting buddy, play them live, or try them out on your family members.

Get some responses and then write down the answers to the following questions:

  • Which version is the strongest?
  • Why?
  • Did your listeners note anything specific that resonated with them?
  • Which one will be your keeper?

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