Of all the senses, touch is the most visceral. It’s a kiss on the cheek. It’s a punch to the solar plexus. It’s hot tea coursing down your throat. It’s an ice cube slipped down the back of your shirt. It’s sandpaper. It’s silk.
You can use tactile imagery in a lyric to give your listener heat, chills, pleasure, or pain. Make your listener feel–physically feel—something, and your lyric will have real impact.
There’s no better way to immerse a listener in the world of your song than with sensory imagery, and touch is one of the most immediate and powerful senses.
As we did with the other senses in previous posts, let’s take a minute and unpack some aspects of touch that we experience so often that we don’t even notice them anymore.
We talked a little about texture back in the visual post, because texture can be both visual and tactile. This time, though, we’re talking specifically about texture against the skin: sinking into a velvet armchair, touching steel wool with the fingertips, stepping outside to feel blades of grass under your bare feet. Adjectives come to our aid here, too: leathery, feathery, squishy, gritty, smooth, brittle, crumbly.
Temperature might not be something you describe often, but when it works it’s a powerful way to set a scene. Consider the spreading sensation of warmth that comes with blushing. Or cool water rushing over your body as you dive into a swimming pool.
Here’s where verbs come in. What’s the exact gesture of the touch? Kiss, scrub, slap, brush, pet, squeeze, slap? How gradual or sudden was the touch? How much pressure? How hard?
The part of the body that a gesture lands on. Particularly sensitive areas: lip, tongue, scalp, collarbone, nape, ear, belly, inner arm, fingers, the backs of your knees, and the bottoms of your feet.
- body part
- Just being aware of these dimensions of touch will help sensitize you to sensations throughout the day. They can also come to your aid while writing: if your song’s about the beach, you can make it vividly real to your listeners by describing the softness of the sand or the pain of goose-stepping across hot rocks. The cold water from the pump we use to rinse the sand off our feet. The feeling of sticking to our seats in the car.
A well-chosen bit of touch imagery could add a whole new level of realism and impact to your lyric–or trigger your own memories and associations to spark whole chains of new ideas.
As always, stay alert for the quiet little ideas that surround us everywhere we go. The world is your sense palette.
chilling ice cube photo by stevendepolo