Advice on writing lyrics for singers/songwriters
Songwriting is something anyone can achieve if they put their mind to it, but it’s important to understand that writing lyrics takes a lot of discipline and dedication. Writing lyrics is a very personal process, everyone will have a different style and approach but here are some basic principles to help writing lyrics efficiently.
- You will find it much easier writing lyrics if you sort the melody first. Every songwriter is different, but more often than not the melody will come more naturally than the lyrics!
- If melody is not your strong point then look to work with a musician, someone who can play the guitar and/or piano to assist you.
- Searching or listing online is a good way to source like-minded songwriters to work with.
- Once the melody is down, get writing lyrics! Write whatever comes into your head and don’t edit your thoughts. Write down any of your thoughts or record yourself talking over the melody.
- Alternatively try rewriting the lyrics of other people’s songs, its good practice and will help you work out how others structure writing lyrics.
- Write until no more words pop into your head. Once the basics are down, you can start tweaking the words you have written. Even if they don’t make sense at first, eventually the right lyrics will jump off the page!
Tips for writing lyrics
There is no right or wrong when it comes to writing lyrics but it’s likely everyone will suffer from songwriter’s block at some point! So don’t worry, be patient!
- Writing lyrics that are forced will come across as such to your fans. Be patient and wait for inspiration.
- Don’t expect immediate results. It will take lots of goes until everything gels, so don’t be too critical of your work, to begin with.
- Be prepared to pick lyrics apart and rewrite sections until your happy. A good song can be written in one draft, but a great song will take time and commitment.
- Don’t be afraid to leave a song if you’re not feeling it, great songs take chemistry so no need to force it, just start a new song.
Focus on quality not quantity
Writing good lyrics can be hard. If you want to write something amazing, you have to just practice and keep doing it.
The more you do it, you’ll find that writing lyrics isn’t as hard as you think.
You don’t need that many words
Count the words of your favourite songs. If you look at some lyrics, you might be surprised to see that songs tend to have between 100 and 300 words. The reason why you don’t need a lot of words is that the music also carries a huge part of the narrative’s weight.
Lyrics are obviously important, but they need to be well thought out, not overly explanatory.
How do songwriters write songs?
Think of a theme
Thinking of a musical and lyrical theme is a great place to start. It’s the basis of what your fans will be relating to when they listen to your song.
One way to think of a theme is by starting with an existing line, thought or idea and expanding it. If it really resonates with you then now is your time to start brainstorming.
Alternatively, you can just think of an experience, person, or thing and choose to expand a narrative on it.
To brainstorm ideas, think of more words and phrases connected to your chosen topic and let your creativity take over. Start expanding by moving around different aspects of your topic, but try to keep it all relating back to the topic at hand.
Use emotive language
When writing lyrics, use emotive language that will trigger some intense feelings inside the listener and of course yourself when you hear it.
How are you feeling currently? Are you feeling lonely, happy, excited, confused, or angry? When you really focus in on one emotion, you can create a clear story that takes the listener on a journey.
How do you write music for a song?
Relate the music to the lyrics (and vice versa)
This aspect is so important to understand when you’re just starting out as a songwriter.
If you struggle to write lyrics, start with the music instead. Listen to songs that currently exist to get some inspiration and see where the music takes you.
To make a great song, it’s a good idea to make sure that the lyrics gel with the musical ideas that you form from listening to music. Most professional songwriters think about this a lot when they’re creating their songs.
Make it gel
Try to match up your lyrics with your music. If it’s a happy song then perhaps write a faster song with higher energy. If it’s a sad song lyrically then perhaps write a slower song in a minor key.
‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars is a perfect example of this – the lyrics ‘uptown funk gonna give it to you’ is reflected in the funky aspects of the music such as the dance tempo. It’s also high energy and it’s in a major key.
Some writers completely defy these conventions, but as a beginner, it’s best to stick to matching the feel of the lyrics with the music.