On Songwriting: Showing vs. Telling

You probably remember your high school English teacher talking about how you should show more than you tell. Still, let’s cover it here. It’s easy to gloss over and think you’re doing it. But if you really comb through your song and try to hear it from the listener’s perspective, you’ll probably find that you’re telling too much and not showing enough. 

Ok, let’s make this a little more concrete. 

It’s ok to tell a bit. “I love you.” That’s telling. 

“I think about you everyday” is showing. 

But you could show more. “I daydream about your smile.” That’s more. Or even more: “The car behind me honked me out of a daydream about your smile.” 

Do see what I’m getting at? 

Think of telling as a claim. Think of showing as evidence you need to backup your claim.

If you’re going to do more telling, do that in the chorus. Choruses––especially in popular music––are a great place to tell more than show. You don’t want to bog your listener down with too much information in the chorus. Keep it simple and singable. 

But in your verses, you have more freedom to show. Use imagery, get descriptive. Take the listener into your world and let them get lost in the moment.