Everything sounds better in English – part one

By | April 5, 2021

Writing lyrics is a chapter in itself, but is at least as important for a song as melody, harmonics and form. In previous posts, I have touched on the function of the different song parts, where a verse creates interest, the bridge enhances it, the chorus is redemptive and the track often has a more thoughtful or contrasting tone. To some extent, the lyrics should also follow the dramaturgical turns to make it feel completely cast. But we begin our text mangling at a completely different end.


When I was younger, I always wrote the lyrics first and then the melody, but nowadays it is the other way around. My previous post was about how the melodies are just like there, fishing in the sea, ready and ready to be picked up. Therefore, it is a challenge to find texts and phrases that fit in afterwards. I wish I could similarly find the inexhaustible sea of ​​text, to just scoop out…

In English, it is in any case much easier than in Swedish and I have wondered why. Let’s start with this romantic little phrase:
“Truth will turn their hearts to love.” Seven syllables, just one-syllable words.
In Swedish:
“The truth will turn their hearts to love.” Sixteen syllables, most multi-syllable words.

The fact that Swedish people generally need more text to say the same thing is not really the big problem, as long as you are not in the translation industry. No, what is troubling about it is that so many Swedish words itself are multi-syllable and thus have some kind of emphasis that can not be handled in any way. In English, lots of words are instead monosyllabic, and the only emphasis you may have to take into account is if some whole words in a sentence need a little extra weight, but it is not as musically critical at all.

You can take pretty much any melody and push a number of single-syllable English words there without it clashing with the phrasing. “This is what you need to know, I’m a worm and you’re the crow” fits Blinka Lilla Stjärna, straight off. Just to scoop on. Try to fit a Swedish version of that rhyme to the same melody, with rhyme!

But of course it does not stop at this purely technical difference, far from it. English has as many multi-syllable words as possible, but they are usually emphasized in a different way than in Swedish. And the language melody itself is different, ie how a sentence varies in pitch when it is spoken. Then we have not even touched on the content, what the distance to foreign languages ​​means – or the emotional…

So there is much more to be said on this subject. See you next week!