Repetition is an inherently catchy and important tool for a songwriter to understand how to use. Music is, at its core, about understanding patterns and being able to manipulate them appropriately. A chorus is a repetition of a familiar phrase. Some even argue that repetition is what makes music unique and causes songs to get stuck in our heads.
Tom Waits’ song “Clap Hands” uses repetition in the beginning of his verses (and in the chorus) to create a more catchy song. Each verse begins with a repetition on the first word. For example:
"Steam, steam a hundred bad dreams
goin' up to Harlem with a pistol in his jeans,
a fifty dollar bill inside of Palladin's hat
and nobody's sure where Mr. Knickerbocker's at."
Consider how Waits’ repetition at the beginning of each verse creates a more catchy lyric.
This trick is not a new trick, heck, Shakespeare used repetition of the first word to create dialogue that was easier for his actors to remember, for example, “Song of the Witches in MacBeth uses, “double, double, toil and trouble”.
The fancy word for this repetition trick is “ Epizeuxis,” or “the repetition of words with no others between, for added emotion or emphasis”.. And you can hear epizeuxis used in songs by songwriters as different as Jennifer Nettles and Queens of The Stone Age.
Today I want to challenge you to write a song that uses epizeuxis during the beginning of each verse. Bonus points if you use it during the chorus. Good luck!
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