Have you ever noticed that the more times you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it? Repetition is so common in songs that you won’t find a hit song without it. All great songs are a combination of familiarity and contrast, and that familiarity comes from repetition.
While repetition can be easy enough to include in a song, too much can make a song overly predictable.
Here are unique ways to use repetition in lyrics:
Use Repetition to Emphasize Rhythm
Lyrics can highlight rhythm, much like a percussive instrument. For example, there is a heavy amount of repetition in the song “Hey Ya!” by OutKast. Specifically at the bridge, we hear lines upon lines of “Shake it, shake, shake it, shake it.” This part of the song is purely rhythmic and emphasizes the beat. This is a great method to keep interest while repeating the same lyrics.
Another example is in Queen’s “We will rock you.” In this song, lyrical repetition works alongside rhythmic repetition. While Queen is singing “We will, we will rock you”, the iconic boom boom clap rhythm is heard underneath the vocals.
Emphasizing rhythm with lyrical repetition is a great way to energize your song. This is especially fit for more upbeat songs.
Add a Call and Response
Call and response is a fun way to add flair to your songs. Let’s take a look at “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. Aside from the whole song being littered with catchy hooks, one particular hook calls out “I’m too hot (hot damn).” This call and response is repeated four more times within his hook with a line between each one.
Even though it’s a call and response, it’s significantly more fun to sing “I’m too hot – hot damn” as if it was one line. You can make both your call and response easy to sing by leaving a beat or two between them. This way the words won’t overlap or people won’t run out of breath as they try to sing it. Adding call and response is great in energetic songs that have a fun vibe.
Make the Hooks Repetitive
Hooks like one in the TikTok famous song, “Material Girl” by Saucy Santana often gets stuck in the heads of those who encounter the sound while scrolling. Each phrase of the hook is preceded by the exclamation, “Material girl!” which is heard in the same intonation each time. The consistent repetition of this lyric causes this part of the song to pop into people’s heads most often.
Writing repetitive lyrics for hooks helps reinforce the catchy part of the song. So if you’re ever relaxing in your home, then all of a sudden you hear “Material girl!” pop into your head, then the song did its job.
Repeat lyrics over changing melodic elements
While repetition in a song is important for the sense of familiarity, contrast is equally important in order to maintain that level of interest throughout the song. Changing elements little by little can act as ear candy, and can keep your audience listening without realizing what’s pulling them in.
You can easily achieve this by keeping the lyrics the same, maybe even the melody, but change the chords underneath. In Harry Styles’ “As It Was,” the chorus features the title lyrics “as it was” three times in the same melody. However, the chords underneath are changing each time.
Throwing in subtle changes like this will support your lyrics when they are repeating. That way, you won’t bore your listener out by having them hear the same thing over and over.
The next time you listen to your favorite song, pay close attention to its repetitive elements. Repetition is more commonly used in songs than we may realize. Leverage repetition in your songs to take your songs to the next level.