Monday 24 March 2014

Ticket 23: Use Fewer Words

Using an ultra limited vocabulary can give an almost hypnotic or childlike quality to your song

Examples (with word count)

Don't Let Me Down – 40
From Me To You - 45
I Wanna Be Your Man - 18
I'll Follow The Sun - 46
Little Child – 46
Love Me Do - 19
Magical Mystery Tour - 36
Mother Nature's Son - 50
Sexy Sadie - 62
Why Don't We Do It In The Road - 14
Wild Honey Pie - 5
You Know My Name Look Up The Number - 8 (41 with adlibs)

See also

Religious mantras, 'negro spirituals' (e.g. Dem Bones) and advertising jingles


All The Tired Horses - 16 (Bob Dylan)
Autobahn - 32 (Kraftwerk)
Bijou – 27 (Queen)
Do The Hustle! - 4 (Van McCoy)
Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime - 21 (The Korgis)
Fly Robin Fly - 6 (Silver Convention)
Get Up and Boogie - 6 (Silver Convention)
God Damn Job - 17 (The Replacements)
I Feel Love – 18 (Donna Summer)
It's a Rainy Day Sunshine Girl – 7 (Faust)
Know – 11 (Nick Drake)
Let's Go – 2 (Ventures)
My Sweet Lord - 37 (George Harrison)
Pick Up The Pieces – 4 (Average White Band)
- 1 (The Champs)

The One I Love – 29 (REM)
We Did It Again – 4 (Soft Machine)
Wipe Out
– 3 (The Sufaris)
Words Of Love - Buddy Holly

See also

Ticket 24: Use Parallel Lyrics
Ticket 30: Emphasise Key Lyrics By Having The Whole Band Drop Out
Ticket 54: Unify Your Lyrical Imagery
Ticket 67: Repeat Verse 1


The Band Who Were Men Of Few Words
See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

Thanks to The Beatles Bible and Martin Quibell, Nancy Rost, Rod Downburst Johnson, Rob Stevens, Andy Getch and Geordie Robertson for examples via the Beatles Songwriting Academy forum


  1. Not to be picky, but this should be, "Use FEWER Words."

  2. This is really insightful, Martin. I'm predominantly an instrumentalist, so I'm a reluctant lyricist. I always seem to come back to the initial verse, because that's usually the first thing I jotted down in my pocket notebook. It's usually the subject line and all lines are exploring or departing from that phrase. Coming back to the initial verse is the 'Oh, that's right this is what the song is all about' moment.. Again, very cool, thanks.

  3. Thanks Jeff, you're welcome. (It's Matt by the way...)

  4. One of the things I love about Buddy Holly (sorry if I've said this before) is how simple his songs are. Like "Not Fade Away," which is verse 1, verse 2, repeat verse 1, done. Or "Words of Love" (Beatles connection, which have the following as lyrics:

    Hold me close and tell me how you feel
    Tell me love is real
    Mm, mm, mm, mm

    Words of love you whisper soft and true
    Darling I love you
    Mm, mm, mm, mm

    Let me hear you say
    The words I want to hear
    Darling when you're near
    Mm, mm, mm, mm

    Words of love you whisper soft and true
    Darling I love you
    Mm, mm, mm, mm
    Mm, mm, mm
    Mm, mm, mm

    1. ... which is two lines, mmm, two lines, mmm, three lines, mmm, repeat verse 2. And it's a lovely song.

  5. Great cover of that song here, by the way:


  6. Great examples Rodii - Buddy Holly was a massively underrated pioneer and still has a lot to teach

  7. It's hard to believe that only three years elapsed between the time Buddy Holly signed his first record contract and the day the music died. And he was only 22!