by Clay Mills
May 31, 2017
The set-up line is the line just before the title or hook of your song. It is probably the most under-valued yet crucial lyrical line of most songs. Yet, I am constantly reminded in my mentoring sessions of how few writers are aware of this element of a song.
Here’s an example of a verse from “The Song Remembers When” by Hugh Prestwood; It has a great set-up line followed by the payoff line (the hook.)
We were rolling through the Rockies
We were up above the clouds
When a station out of Jackson played that song
And it seemed to fit the moment
And the moment seemed to freeze
When we turned the music up and sang along
And there was a God in Heaven and the world made perfect sense
We were young and were in love and we were easy to convince
We were headed straight for Eden, It was just around the bend
THE SETUP: And though I had forgotten all about it
THE PAYOFF: The song remembers when
I’m personally a student of great set-up lines. It is one of the best ways to deliver an emotional punch to your song. And this songs sets up the title brilliantly. Even if the whole world forgot… the song remembers… Just WOW!
Conversely, a weak set-up line can leave even the best of titles lifeless. Mastering this part of your craft will dramatically improve your writing and the way your songs connect on an emotional level with the audience!
Write On! ~Clay
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