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Understanding the Anatomy of a Great Lyric: Elements that Make a Song Stand Out
When it comes to writing a captivating song, one cannot underestimate the power of well-crafted lyrics. The words that make up a song can have a profound impact on the listener, evoking emotions and telling stories like no other art form can. Whether you are an aspiring songwriter or simply have an appreciation for music, understanding the elements that make a song’s lyrics stand out is crucial. In this article, we will delve into the world of written lyrics and explore what sets apart great songs from the rest.
The Power of Storytelling
At its core, every great lyric is built upon storytelling. Just like in any narrative medium, a compelling story within a song engages listeners and keeps them hooked from start to finish. The story can be personal and introspective or take on universal themes that resonate with a broader audience. Regardless of the subject matter, effective storytelling through lyrics requires clarity, coherence, and emotional depth.
One key aspect of storytelling in songs is creating vivid imagery through words. A well-written lyric has the ability to transport listeners to another time or place, painting pictures in their minds with every line. Metaphors and similes can be employed to add layers of meaning and create memorable visual associations. By tapping into sensory details such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, songwriters can create an immersive experience for their audience.
Another crucial element that makes written lyrics stand out is their ability to establish an emotional connection with listeners. Music has always been closely tied to human emotions, and lyrics play an integral role in intensifying those feelings. Whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, love or any other emotion under the sun – well-crafted lyrics have the power to evoke strong emotional responses.
To establish this connection with listeners through words alone requires authenticity and vulnerability. Great lyrics often stem from personal experiences or genuine emotions. When songwriters are able to tap into their own emotions and translate them into universal themes, listeners can relate on a deeper level. This emotional resonance is what makes songs timeless and allows them to transcend cultural and generational boundaries.
Poetic Devices and Wordplay
A great lyric is not only about the message it conveys but also the way it is delivered. Poetic devices and wordplay add an extra layer of sophistication to written lyrics, making them more memorable and impactful. Techniques such as rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and repetition can create a sense of rhythm and musicality within the words themselves.
Rhyme, in particular, is a powerful tool used by songwriters to enhance the flow of their lyrics. Whether it’s perfect rhyme (words that sound exactly alike) or slant rhyme (words that have similar but not identical sounds), a well-executed rhyme scheme can make a song’s lyrics feel cohesive and polished. Additionally, wordplay – clever twists of language – can add depth and intrigue to the meaning behind the words.
While personal experiences are often at the heart of great lyrics, songs that endure the test of time often touch on universal themes that resonate with a wide range of listeners. Love, loss, hope, longing – these are just a few examples of themes that have been explored in countless songs throughout history. By tapping into these universal emotions or shared human experiences, songwriters can create lyrics that have lasting impact.
Furthermore, great lyrics often possess an element of relatability. They capture moments or feelings that many people have experienced or longed for at some point in their lives. This relatability creates an instant connection between the listener and the song’s message.
In conclusion, understanding what makes written lyrics stand out is essential for anyone involved in creating or appreciating music. From storytelling and emotional connection to poetic devices and universal themes, the elements that make a song’s lyrics great are diverse and interconnected. So next time you find yourself captivated by a song, take a moment to analyze the lyrics – chances are, they possess the power to move you in ways you never thought possible.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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How to Write Song Lyrics
If you don’t know how to write song lyrics, it can be overwhelming to imagine where to start. I often hear from my online students how relieving it is to bring structure and tools into the mix as we delve into lyric writing. Within the first four weeks, most students have much greater clarity about what makes a good lyric, and how to craft one.
I’ll outline a few ideas here to get us started, and suggest the online courses Lyric Writing: Writing from the Title , Commercial Songwriting Techniques , and Lyric Writing: Tools and Strategies for further study. Here are five tips for writing song lyrics:
1. Start with what you want to say.
The first tip when learning how to write lyrics for a song is get familiar with journaling and using your senses. Taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, and movement are descriptors that help bring your listener into an experience of a small moment. A small moment is a snapshot of life, a scene where your song is set within.
We hear these small moments all over in songwriting—the singer’s bedroom at 2 AM, driving down Santa Monica Boulevard, or hot-wiring a stolen car. It’s these moments that place the listener in the heat of the moment. Try choosing a small moment and writing about it using your senses of taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, and movement. Don’t try to rhyme, and don’t write with a particular rhythmic pattern. Just write.
2. Read lyrics from other artists (don’t listen to the songs!).
Notice how much repetition, simple language, and how clean and clear is the main message in the chorus. What message do you want your listener to walk away from the song knowing? This is your chorus. What small moment shows a great example of that main message? This is your first verse.
3. Notice the conversational quality.
The third tip for writing song lyrics is write like you speak. We speak English, we write English, we tell stories from our lives, and have meaningful conversations with friends. But for some reason as soon as we start lyric writing, we believe those skills are not enough.
We get obscenely abstract and poetic, contorting the language to get our rhymes to fall at the ends of the lines even when the content no longer makes sense. We forget what we’re really trying to say in the first place, trying to give the song a breadth and meaning that DaVinci himself couldn’t capture in the expression on Mona Lisa. Why? Because we almost failed high school English class? Perhaps. But keep in mind that the most important quality of a great lyric is authenticity. Write like you would if you were relaying the story to a small group of people who care about you and what you have to say.
4. Lengthy lyrics compound problems.
Try writing a simple verse (such as four or six lines) moving into a chorus with lots of repetition. Or, try starting a song with the chorus. Simplicity is hard to master, but worth pursuing. The longer a lyric becomes, the greater the potential for confusion.
5. Collaborate as frequently as possible with good lyricists.
Soak up some of that good lyric writing energy, and you’ll soon realize that you have good ideas too. You’ll also soon realize how closely linked lyric rhythm is to melodic rhythm, opening up a whole new area for your melodies and lyrics alike.
Learn more about studying songwriting online with Berklee.
Berklee is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education "NECHE" (formerly NEASC).
Berklee Online is a University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) award-winner fourteen years in a row (2005-2019).
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How to Write Song Lyrics
Last Updated: October 31, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Amy Chapman, MA . Amy Chapman MA, CCC-SLP is a vocal therapist and singing voice specialist. Amy is a licensed and board certified speech & language pathologist who has dedicated her career to helping professionals improve and optimize their voice. Amy has lectured on voice optimization, speech, vocal health, and voice rehabilitation at universities across California, including UCLA, USC, Chapman University, Cal Poly Pomona, CSUF, CSULA. Amy is trained in Lee Silverman Voice Therapy, Estill, LMRVT, and is a part of the American Speech and Hearing Association. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,334,686 times.
There’s something magical about good song lyrics. They’re relatable, or poignant, or they just really make you feel a certain way. We all know great lyrics when we hear them, but what exactly makes them so great? How do you write your own song lyrics that convey your message and help people connect with your music? In this article, we break down the songwriting process step-by-step, from getting inspiration to crafting the perfect lyrics to pairing your lyrics with music. Once you know the basics, you'll be ready to write a song whenever inspiration strikes.
Understanding Common Structures
- An Introduction - this is the section at the beginning which leads into the song. Sometimes it might sound different from the rest of the song, might be faster or slower, or it might not exist at all. Many songs do not have an introduction, so don't feel like you have to use it.  X Research source
- A Verse - This is the main part of the song. It is usually fifty percent to twice the number of lines as the chorus but it does not have to be. What gives away a section of a song as a verse is that the melody is the same but the lyrics are different between the different verses.  X Research source
- A Chorus - The chorus is the part of the song that repeats without changing: both the lyrics and melody are unchanged or nearly unchanged. This is usually where you try to fit the catchiest part of your song (usually called the hook).  X Research source
- A Bridge - The bridge is a part that exists in some songs but not all. Usually coming sometime after the second chorus, the bridge is a part of the song that sounds completely different than the rest of the song. It is usually short, just a line or two of lyrics, and will sometimes lead into a key change.  X Research source
- C usually signifies a bridge, other letters that you see cited elsewhere likely just mean that that section of the song is none of the traditional parts and is unique to itself (sort of like taking a verse from a different song and putting it in).
- Do your exercises every day to help you brainstorm . In time, this may help you write better lyrics.
- What you consider to be a good song might differ from someone else's preferences. Focus more on what you like because that's what's important.
- For practice, you might try writing different lyrics for a song you like. You might change a few lines or create a totally new version.
- If you're not sure what kind of music you want to write, give your favorite songs a listen and look for similarities.
- Find the song writers who penned your favorite songs. Then, check out their body of work to look for trends and to evaluate their style.
- Songwriting is an art-form, so it's good to develop your own style. Don't feel like you need to do what everyone else is doing.
- Lyric writing may go through stages. Don't worry if what you're putting down on paper doesn't look like a song at first. You'll be able to shape it later.
- Keep everything. If you write a single sentence of a song down, it always leads to something else sooner.
- It's okay if your songs aren't very good at first. You can always revise them to write better lyrics.
- Journal entries can be a big inspiration for a song. For instance, when you're going through hard times, you might write song lyrics that encapsulate your frustration, despair or hope. This will help your listeners relate to you.
- You're probably going to get writer's block, as it happens to everyone. The best way to get past writer's block is to just get words down on paper. Don't worry if they're good or not.
Keeping Music in Mind
- Think of a section of music as being like four cups of water. Now, you can pour half of one of the cups into a fifth cup, but that now means that you have two half-full cups. The first doesn't get any more water in it. You similarly can't add extra beats without making it up somewhere (usually with a pause).
- A good example of this is the USA's national anthem, after the line "For the land of the free". There is a pause before "And the home of the brave", which allows the singer to recover from the very powerful previous few bars.
Finding Your Words
- A good example of an alternative to this "I'm so sad" thing is from Damien Rice's song The Animals Were Gone : "At night I dream without you, and hope I don't wake up; 'Cause waking up without you is like drinking from an empty cup".
- Brainstorm some ideas so you can see what you have and choose or even build off of an existing idea. It is probably best if you have an inspiration.
- Good: "You make me feel real again/You just have to smile and I know/The sun's coming out - Amen!"
- Bad: "I really love my cat/My cat is where it's at/Her tail looks like a bat/She's getting kind of fat..."
- Of course, there are some genre considerations. Rap often has far more rhyming than other genres, but even then it's not required. It's just stylistic.
- For example, Macklemore's Same Love uses many examples of assonance rhymes and other non-standard rhymes: lately/daily, anointed/poisoned, important/support it, etc.
- Try to write a great first line to hook the listener.
- Revising your song is the best way to write better lyrics.
Getting Extra Help
- With practice, you may be able to teach yourself how to play a musical instrument . However, you might prefer to take classes. This will make it easier to learn proper techniques and concepts like chord progression.
- Learning to write music will help you write a whole song rather than just writing song lyrics.
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Never dismiss an idea for a song as "too stupid". Many of the best songs are about the most outlandish topics. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- It's good to have a song writing notebook or perhaps a file on your computer. This helps you organize your thoughts better. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Think about who you want to hear your song. What is it that you want them to hear? Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1
- Don't plagiarize a song somebody else wrote or you could get in some serious legal trouble. But it's good to pick a style of lyrics or music you like. So if you like Katy Perry, write pop like her. Or if you like Taylor Swift, write lots of love songs. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Example : My life is horrible and I think it is horrible because I left my cat at my Grandma's and she won't give my cat back so what am I going to do ohhh yeah... What am I gonna do? (that was bad)
Things You'll Need
- An instrument - the guitar,the piano or whatever you can play (recommended to have on hand to create the melody)
- Pencil or pen
- Paper or computer (depending on whether you choose to write or type your lyrics)
- You can also use your mobile phone instead of pen and paper
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://www.songstuff.com/song-writing/article/aaba-song-form/
- ↑ https://www.careersinmusic.com/song-structure/
- ↑ https://www.fender.com/articles/play/parts-of-a-song-keep-it-straight
- ↑ https://online.berklee.edu/takenote/how-to-write-song-lyrics/
- ↑ https://thinkwritten.com/poetry-writing-inspiration/
- ↑ https://lens.monash.edu/@politics-society/2019/07/19/1375851?slug=the-future-of-music-notation-in-a-digital-world
- ↑ Amy Chapman, MA. Voice & Speech Coach. Expert Interview.1 April 2020.
- ↑ http://songwritinglessonsonline.com/howtowritemusiclyrics.html
- ↑ https://www.secretsofsongwriting.com/2017/03/01/how-to-know-if-your-song-is-good/
About This Article
To write song lyrics, try writing down everything that pops into your head for several minutes without stopping. Then, take a look at what you've written to see if anything inspires you. You can also try looking at different songs and poems for inspiration and to get an idea of what kind of lyrics you enjoy. As you're writing your song, focus on describing how you feel in interesting ways as opposed to just telling people, which will make your song more relatable and memorable. To learn how to organize your song, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write Song Lyrics: An Expert's Simple 9 Step Guide
My name is Dean Fields, I’ve released 6 albums, performed over 1000 shows, and been been #1 on the Texas radio charts. After writing hundreds of songs and reviewing and critiquing thousands of lyric submissions, here are the 9 steps to writing song lyrics that have emerged as my most tried and true methods.
1 . Just Start Writing
The number one tip to writing lyrics is to write them. And write often. Sit down. Stand up. Use a pad and paper. Use a computer. Play a guitar. Play a piano. Just do the thing: write! You’ve got to put pen to paper if you’re going to learn how to write lyrics!
Start with a riff, a cool lyric phrase, a drum loop, or a hook. Personally, I like to write from a hook. I haven’t always done it that way. But ever since I started writing from a hook my songs have been more focused.
Whatever you do, just get started.
Your hit song ain’t gonna write itself. Yes. Some songs come to us in dreams. Some feel like they pour out of us as if we’re just vehicles for the song angels. But I believe that even those moments are the result of being open, practiced, and ready for when a great idea shows up.
So, write! And then write again.
2. "Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken" - Oscar Wilde
We don’t need another Ashley Gorley or Finneas. They’ve got that covered in spades. And you’ll never out Brandi Carlile Brandi Carlile. She’ll beat you every time. But, No one anywhere is going to be as good at being you as you can be.
Your truth, your story, your life experiences are a well to draw upon. And collectively they are 100% unique to you. Write what you know. You can never go wrong with the truth. When you can write your truth you will do a much better job of writing someone else’s. And when you can write your truth and make it feel like someone else’s truth…well, that’s worth paying money for.
3. Know Your Goal Format
If you want to hear your songs on country radio, listen to country radio. If you want to write for tv and film watch shows and movies. I don’t mean exclusively. But even if you just check in from time to time you’ll keep your finger on the pulse of what is succeeding in your target market.
It’s like basketball players watching game tape. You don’t have to copy everything everyone else is doing. But know your competition. Figure out what is working in the top tier of songs so that, if you’re inspired to, you can adjust your writing accordingly. If nothing else, it will keep your eyes on the prize.
4. Find a Co-Writer
This can be a tough threshold to cross for some folks. Myself included. Initially I didn’t want to co-write at all. I had released 4 albums and performed 1000 shows of my own songs. I thought “I don’t need anyone’s help.”
But co-writing is more than just asking for help to write a song. It is: 2 collections of ideas 2 imaginations carving out the story 2 jukeboxes of influences 2 lives of experiences to draw from
But more than that, co-writing is a front row seat to seeing someone else’s writing process. Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been takeaways from a co-writing session. Maia Sharp taught me to consider every idea. Chase it down the road a ways. Say it out loud. And then make the judgement to keep it or kill it. Lori McKenna taught me to follow the energy and not to edit while you’re getting inspired. Michael White taught me to have the patience to wait for the best hook in the room.
They didn’t sit me down and teach me any of this. I observed it while I was writing songs with them. If you’re lucky you’ll not only leave a co-write with a great song but you’ll have a new tool to utilize when you write your next song.
5. Now Start With the Hook
The hook sums up the central idea of the song. Typically, but not always, it is at the end of the chorus. Not all hooks have to be heartbreaking or clever. It can be one word like Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic.” But the point is that the song remains focused toward that hook. If our song is not focused, how can we expect the listener to focus on it?
Remember when you were in grade school learning how to write a paragraph? You had a topic sentence that states the point of the paragraph followed by all of the supporting sentences. Same idea for how to write a hook. The hook is the topic sentence of your song. All other lines should support or “point” to your hook.
I co-wrote a song called “Raised by the Radio” with Mitch Rossell. The point of the hook is that the radio taught him everything he needed to know. Every line had to be a lesson learned from a song on the radio when he was a kid. We had a couple lines that were killer but missed the mark in the context of the hook. So we had to nix some of our favorite lines. It was a drag, but the song as a whole was much better. And it went on to be the title track of the album, produced by Garth Brooks. And Mitch performed it in front of 15,000 people every night opening for Garth that year. So, needless to say, I don’t miss those lines very much.
6. Then Focus On the Story, Before Worrying About Rhymes
Rhymes are important in songwriting. Most songs rhyme. They do so because our ears love hearing the pattern of familiar sounds while we soak up the song. But just because a line rhymes doesn’t mean you’ve struck gold as a songwriter. It is the story that keeps us interested and listening.
I’m not talking about just the songs that are literally a story like “Cats in the Cradle” and “Boy Named Sue.” All songs have a story to tell of some kind. Even if it is just about a feeling or a moment, there is a story there. And it is our job as songwriters to move that story along.
If we ignore the story for the sake of a rhyme, we’ve digressed and diverted the listener to potentially being confused or not caring anymore. So, I always like to read through each line and consider – Does this contribute to the story? If not I’ll rework it. Usually I’ll chase the existing rhyme. But if I can’t get it with the same rhyme I might have to adjust another line or 2 as well. And oftentimes, I’ll land on something altogether better.
7. Structure Your Lyrics with Clear Form
Form is the roadmap of our songs. Listening to a song without a clear form feels like a flea riding a Labrador in heat. We have several elements at our disposal to break up the song into digestible pieces: verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge. Most songs have at least 2 of these: Verse and chorus. And the goal is to repeat them in a way that best delivers your lyric.
A couple years ago I was commissioned to write a song for a Bayer commercial that had only one verse and one chorus. Sia’s songs have as many as 5 choruses in them. My buddy, Grammy nominated songwriter Adam Wright, wrote one of the best songs I’ve ever heard called “Billy, Get Your Bike” that has no chorus at all. You can put your song together in whatever form you want, but it should be clear to the listener which section is which.
8. Establish a Groove with Stressed Syllables
You can feel the groove of a good song when you read the lyrics. There’s a pocket of stressed syllables that allow us to just ride the words and phrases. It is a powerful tool for us songwriters because it creates expectations for the listener.
As an example, here is the first verse of my song “ Armadillo ”. The underlines show the stressed syllables on each line:
When the stan ding joke just stares
Making faces at the mirror
While your nose and ears count the years
And you’re stuck on what to wear .
That has a 3-3-4-3 groove of stressed syllables. When that groove is established it is best to stick with it. Sometimes that thing you want to say just doesn’t quite fit. So we speed up a word or 2. Or, in the case of the example above, we can add a pick up, loading them up at the beginning of the line before the first stressed syllable.
All of this is fair game. But if you find yourself with too many lines that don’t follow a stressed syllable pattern it can be hard for the listener to follow. Imagine if it was this instead:
When the stand ing joke just stares at you
Making funny faces at you at the mirror
While your nose and your ears keep count ing all of the years
And you can’t decide what to wear .
That says almost exactly the same thing. But it is a 4-4-5-3 pattern. The groove is nowhere to be found. And it feels funny reading it doesn’t it? When possible, try to commit to the number of stressed syllables in a line and you’ll keep your listener in the groove with you.
9. Just Write It Like You Say It
If you wouldn’t say it like that, don’t write it like that. Or, if the song’s narrator wouldn’t say it like that, don’t write it like that. Some songs are written with more poetry than others. Some have simple language. Great songs are written from both sides of that spectrum and in between. But randomly using words that don’t fit with the language and dialect of the narrator can feel like hitting a pothole to the listener. Your speaking voice is the best guide for how to write lyrics.
Another example is “Yoda talk” – putting the subject after the verb. Usually we do this to force a rhyme. You wouldn’t say “So in love we were.” Or, “Of all my ghosts I am free.” It sounds backwards. Yoda might speak like that but most of us don’t. So as a listener it can feel odd and difficult to follow. Write it like you’d say it. You might have to tweak a line or move something around to make it work. But you’ll make the job of the listener much easier.
About The Author
Dean Fields is a singer, and songwriter, as well as a mentor at American Songwriter. His songs have been No. 1 on the Texas radio charts, featured in film/tv and commercials, recorded by Lori McKenna, and produced by Garth Brooks. He is also director of American Songwriter’s dynamic Membership Hub where members get access to exclusive content, a community of songwriters, and the tools to take their songwriting to the next level.
© 2023 American Songwriter
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How to write song lyrics in 5 easy steps
So you want to learn how to write lyrics? Whether you’re looking to pen the next big hit or you’re just hoping to tell your own story in an authentic way, writing lyrics can be a fun and highly cathartic creative process. Lyric writing can also be a scary task to take on if you’ve never written a song before!
As a professional songwriter of 12 years, I still have days where my mind is just as blank as the page in front of me. In all my years of songwriting, I’ve learned some useful songwriting tips that I can’t wait to share with you!
In this article, we’re going to go over five steps to help you write your first song along with some of my own lyric writing tips that have helped me to write lyrics that truly resonate with listeners over the years.
Learn how to write song lyrics:
- Choose your story
- Brainstorm ideas
- Structure your song
- Put your lyrics to music
- Refine and edit your lyrics
How to write song lyrics
1. choose your story.
Lyric writing, at its core, is about storytelling. So it makes sense to know what story you want to tell before you begin! Start by choosing a topic or theme you want to write about. It could be a personal experience, a feeling, or a message you want to pass on to the listener.
If you’re trying to write your first song, my advice is to tell a story that you’ve actually lived through. This will help to give your lyrics a sense of authenticity. There’s a reason people say “write what you know.” Most listeners can tell when song lyrics are authentic and honest (or not).
For example: unless you’ve actually partied in Ibiza, it’s probably best not to write about it. But, for Mike Posner , the opening line of “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” really comes off quite honest and vulnerable.
The best lyrics tend to be more “emotionally charged.” This helps the listener to feel what the writer was feeling. So if you want your lyrics to really connect with others, it helps to choose a story you truly care about.
When learning how to write good lyrics, try to use imagery and metaphors to create a more vivid and engaging story. This can help your audience connect with the emotions and experiences you’re describing. Try to focus on activating multiple senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) in order to bring the listener into your world.
For example, rather than saying “the tea tasted like lavender,” you could say “the lavender lounged on my tea-soaked tongue.” Although both are relaying the same facts of the story, the second version allows the listener to activate more of their senses.
2. Brainstorm ideas
Once you have the story you wish to tell, start brainstorming some ideas around it. Write down any words, phrases, or images that come to mind. Don’t worry about making them rhyme or fit into any specific structure at this point. The key here is to just get your ideas out onto the page so you actually have some pieces to work with.
When you’re brainstorming ideas, make sure to focus on the audience. Ask yourself “who is this song for”? Is it for you? Your friends? A room of metalheads moshing their brains out?
Obviously, you’ll want to use words, phrases, and lyrical styles that are fitting for your audience. But, even the lyric “put your hands up” carries a totally different meaning when you’re talking to one person, versus a thousand. Keeping your audience in mind will allow you to better speak directly to them.
Brainstorming can also happen at any time in the songwriting process. Inspiration doesn’t always just flow the second you sit down to write a song! It helps to have a way to store your creative ideas when you’re on the go. Whether you bring along a physical journal, or simply record voice memos in an app on your phone, having a way to jot down your ideas on the fly will provide you with a useful collection to look back on when it is time to sit down to write.
You don’t just have to take notes from your own experiences either. Pay close attention to the lyrics in songs you like. What makes their lyrics do it for you? Do they use a unique rhyme scheme or is it their poetic imagery that you like? Perhaps it’s the subject matter of the song that really helps it hit home for you. Whatever the case may be, start listening to lyrics analytically and try to figure out how to implement what you enjoy into your own writing style.
Some of my favorite songwriters I draw inspiration from are K.Flay , Julia Michaels , Dean Lewis , and SYML .
When in brainstorming mode, it also helps to have some music software tools at the ready. If you’re just getting into the world of songwriting, I would recommend checking out KOMPLETE START . This free bundle of synths, sampled instruments, loops, and other sounds is sure to spark some inspiration.
Get KOMPLETE START for free
3. Structure your song
Now that you have a bundle of decent ideas to work with, it’s time to start polishing and piecing them together into a completed song with proper song structure . Keep in mind that structuring a song is always a subjective process and there are different ways to approach it depending on the genre and your own personal preferences.
Most songs typically include these sections:
- Intro : The beginning of the song, usually instrumental or with minimal vocals, to grab the listener’s attention.
- Verse: The section that sets up the story or message of the song, usually with a consistent melody and chord progression.
- Chorus : The section with a catchy melody and lyrics that the listener can sing along with. The chorus usually contains the main message or “hook” of the song.
- Bridge : A section that provides contrast to the verse and chorus, both musically and lyrically. It often serves as a transition between the two and adds more depth and dynamic to the song.
- Outro : The end of the song, which can either be a repetition of the chorus or a unique ending.
Many song writers typically save their best lyrics for the chorus. After all, you do want the chorus to be the catchiest bit. But it’s often a good rule of thumb to start your song off with something that’ll “hook” the listener.
The opening sentence of a book is arguably the most important, because that line determines if the reader will keep on going. Since the main goal of writing good song lyrics is to get the listener to keep listening, you’ll want to start with a strong, opening line. Grabbing the listener’s attention right off the bat will mean you’ll have a better chance of keeping them around to hear the rest of your story.
And when piecing your various lyrical ideas together, feel free to re-order the typical song sections above to your liking. The main goal of this process is to experiment and find a structure that works best for allowing your lyrics to flow smoothly. Think back to the story you’re trying to tell. What sort of structure would help you tell that story best?
4. Put your lyrics to music
Once you have the structure of your song pretty well figured out, it’s time to put your lyrics to music.
Choose a chord progression for each section of your song. Keep in mind that it’s pretty common to use the same chord progression for the verses and chorus, but typically the bridge section switches things up at least a little bit in order to build tension between the verse and chorus.
Unless you’re writing rap lyrics, it’s important that your lyrics also follow a strong melody . But again, the point is to play with it and see which melody fits with your chord progression AND your lyrics.
We’ve been talking about chord progressions, melodies, and song structure—all key components of songwriting. Understanding music theory as well as these concepts obviously helps when it comes to crafting chord progressions and melodies for your lyrics to pair with. If you’re brand new to the world of songwriting, take a look at this introduction to music composition .
5. Refine and edit your lyrics
Once you have a draft of your song lyrics, take the time to refine and edit them. Look for ways to improve the flow, rhythm, and structure of your song. Try to eliminate any unnecessary words or phrases, unless they contribute to the overall cadence you’re needing in order to tell your story best.
Arrange, rearrange, and fine-tune your lyrics to make sure they’re easily singable. It always helps me to practice singing or reciting the lyrics out loud because this lets me identify any awkward phrases or sections that need revision. Keep reworking it until you’re happy with the final result!
And it’s important to remember this when learning how to write good lyrics: If your lyric writing is lacking inspiration, don’t be afraid to take a break, go out into the world, and have some experiences worth writing about!
I’ll often go in phases of songwriting. Sometimes I’ll write three songs in a day. And other times I won’t write anything for three months. It all just depends on the state of my life at the time. I’ve found that if you’re itching to write some new lyrics and nothing is flowing, there’s no shame in taking yourself on an adventure to go find some fresh inspiration.
Start writing song lyrics
Remember, songwriting is a process that takes time and practice. I’ve been writing songs for nearly 25 years, but I feel I’ve only been writing good songs for the last decade.
It’s a technical art that needs to be honed, crafted, molded, and nurtured; but, the goal of writing great lyrics should always be to share your own story. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things—that’s how you’re going to bring your own, unique voice into the world!
For further reading on the subject, check out this guide on songwriting basics . And if you haven’t already, get KOMPLETE START for free to get access to tons of sounds, instruments, and more to inspire your songwriting.
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Writing Lyrics: How To Write Song Lyrics You’re Happier With
Author: Caleb J. Murphy
Last updated: Aug 23, 2023
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter/producer based in Austin, TX, whose music has been on ABC, NBC, NPR, and in hundreds of indie film projects. His advice for musicians has been featured by Digital Music News, Bandzoogle, BMI, and ASCAP. He also sends a twice-monthly newsletter called 5 Things To Help You Keep Going that features five resources from the internet that will help indie musicians. FULL BIO
Table of Contents
Familiarize yourself with the parts of a song
Study your favorite songs, read these books, 1. do stream-of-consciousness writing, 2. find the title, 3. write the chorus, 4. structure the song, 5. let it sit for a day, re-write someone else’s song, re-write one of your old songs, focus on the story, write like you speak, be authentic, stay consistent.
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People also ask
How do you write a song for beginners?
Is writing lyrics a hobby?
Can a 14 year old write a song?
Do songwriters need to sing?
How do you write a verse in a lyrics?
Are there any rules for songwriting?
Writing lyrics is hard.
Every songwriter agrees. You want to write lyrics that change people’s lives, but you end up writing garbage (or so you tell yourself). So this post will walk you through some tips and steps on how to write lyrics. Hopefully, this will help you write lyrics you’re happier with.
Before You Start Writing Lyrics…
Before we dive into the steps you can use to write lyrics , let’s cover a few things that every songwriter should do first.
Songwriting has no rules , but if you’re having trouble writing lyrics, it can help to know the parts of the song. Here’s a quick refresher:
For an in-depth look at the parts of a song, check out this guide .
Are there “rules” when it comes to songwriting ? No, of course not! This is art, not math or science! There aren’t any actual, official rules songwriters must follow, though there are plenty of traditions and best practices that some may refer to as rules. These are tips and tricks that have worked countless times for a plethora of artists, so many rely on them as if they were rules. Structures, melodies, notes, rhyme schemes…these are all examples of “rules” that the most successful songwriters employ when crafting hits, so while nobody needs to adhere to them, they should be learned and kept in mind whenever anyone is writing a tune for public consumption.
Here are a few examples of some songwriting “rules” (which, again, aren’t really rules) according to SoundFly :
- Follow A Tried-And-True Structure – The vast majority of songs–and almost all hits–follow the same structure, so shouldn’t you?
- Keep Your Verses Consistent – Whatever structure you decide to go with, just stick with one for each song. So, if verse one employs a specific rhyming pattern, the others shouldn’t differ.
- Repeat Your Choruses – Similar to your verses, you want to keep your choruses the same…only this time, I really mean the same . Use the exact wording in each instance you write a chorus, though once you’re a bit more familiar with songwriting, you can play with this “rule” slightly.
- The Same Tempo & Key and Chord Progressions – Consistency is a fantastic way to make any song more pleasing to the average listener. Just as you want to stick with one structure and the same chorus, you should make sure your tempo and both key and chord progressions (you can research those terms if you don’t know what they mean) are never-changing.
- Rhyme – Yes, this has to be said! Sometimes, skilled songwriters with years of experience can get away with verses or even chrouses that don’t rhyme, but this isn’t to be tried when you’re just starting out.
Pull up the lyrics of your favorite songs and just read the words. Why do you like them? What kind of analogies, metaphors, similes, or stories do they use? Take what you learn into your own writing.
Try these tips for writing lyrics: 1) free write (no editing yourself) for 5 minutes, 2) start with the song title, 3) re-write someone else’s song, 4) tell a story, 5) write like you speak, and 6) stay authentic.
There are two books I think every songwriter should read: Songwriters On Songwriting and More Songwriters On Songwriting , both by Paul Zollo. It’s a collection of 50+ interviews with some of the greatest songwriters in modern music.
For most songwriters, yes writing lyrics is a hobby. For some songwriters, it becomes their career, whether as an artist or a songwriter who writes for artists. But even the songwriters who do it for a living still enjoy writing lyrics.
5 Steps for Writing Lyrics
Writing lyrics is a totally subjective practice. So I’m not going to say “THIS is how you HAVE to write lyrics.” But just to make things simple, here are five steps you can follow and see if it leads to lyrics you’re happier with.
Of course! You don’t even need an instrument – you can write a song with just your voice , a melody, and lyrics.
This is one of the most helpful exercises for getting lyrics out, especially if you’re feeling stuck. Stream-of-consciousness writing is when you write non-stop for a set amount of time, like 3-5 minutes. I like doing this on my computer because I can type way faster than I can write by hand. I just write without thinking, even if it’s gibberish. Once the time is up, I look through what I just wrote for song ideas, titles, and lyrics.
The title is kind of like the thesis of your song. Every lyrics points to the title, so it helps guide you as you write. So finding the title can really help you discover what your song is about.
The chorus (or the hook ) is the the most memorable part of your song, and it encapsulates what the song as a whole is about. So it’s a good idea to write the chorus before you write the other parts of the song. The chorus needs to be the strongest part of the song, so it’s best you nail it before writing the verses.
The verses typically support the chorus, meaning they support the idea of the song. But you can approach writing verses in many ways. They often tell a story while the chorus talks about the lesson from the story. Or they can paint the opposite picture of the chorus to make the chorus stand out more. A verse can take many forms!
No! In fact, there are thousands of professional songwriters who make their living penning tunes for others without singing a single note on their own. Some people wanted (or still want) to perform, but things didn’t quite work out that way, so now they’re songwriters. Many others never aspired to be the ones on the stage, but they do love making music . These days, most, if not all of the most successful stars are also co-writers on their own tracks, but take a look at the liner notes and credits on an album by a chart-topper and you’ll see quite a lot of unfamiliar names. Those are all songwriters, and few of them have singing careers of their own.
Once you’ve got a great chorus, it’s time to structure the rest of the song. Try outlining the song so your verses lead up to or point to the chorus in some way. Start writing verse one, then verse two, then see if you feel like the song needs a third verse, bridge , tag, or an outro.
After you’ve written a draft of the song and recorded at least a voice memo of it, let it sit for a day or two. Then come back to it with fresh ears and just listen to it. Take notice of what sticks out to you as not working or what could be stronger. Then edit and revise the lyrics.
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Tips for Writing Lyrics
As you work through the above steps for writing lyrics, below are some general tips that could help you. These are tips that have helped me write lyrics I’m happier with.
This is one of my favorite methods for finding songs. Look at the lyrics of a song I like, rewrite them in a way I would say them, then put them to entirely new music. Try and this and what you’ll end up with won’t sound like the original, it will sound like you.
How do songwriters get paid?
This is a complicated question to answer, and an entire article could be written on this topic (and many have). Any song you’ve written can generate revenue via a number of different avenues, such as when it’s recorded by a singer , when it’s played on the radio, streamed on Spotify , used in an ad, and many, many more. What every songwriter needs, though, are two things: a publisher, and a PRO.
Here’s what copyright.gov has to say about music publishers:
“Songwriters partner with music publishers to help get paid for the use of their songs. Music publishers can license a songwriter’s works, register the songwriter’s songs with performance and mechanical rights organizations, monitor use of the works, and collect and distribute royalties . These music publishing licenses can include using musical works in sheet music, in recorded music, in commercials, television and movies, video games, bars and restaurants, and many other possibilities. Publishers may also help a songwriter with other matters, including advances, securing commercial recordings of the songwriter’s music with recording artists, providing career advice, and enforcing the songwriter’s rights when their works are infringed.”
Some artists join a publishing company , while others found their own. Whichever way they go, they’ll also almost certainly need to partner with a performing rights organization, or PRO, as they’re known in the business. Here’s a bit more about those groups–the most popular being ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC–from the same source:
“PROs help both songwriters and publishers by licensing, on a non-exclusive basis, musical works’ public performance rights. PROs most commonly bundle performance rights from different songwriters and license all of those rights together to AM/FM radio stations, television, streaming services, bars and restaurants, arenas, and to other users who want to publicly perform musical works. For a songwriter or publisher to get paid by a PRO, they must sign an agreement that allows the PRO to license their musical works (or musical work share) and collect and distribute that share of musical work performance royalties. PROs typically pay songwriters and publishers their royalties directly, as opposed to the publisher collecting the full amount of royalties and then paying the songwriter.”
Steal from yourself. Look at your old songs and, like most songwriters, you won’t be 100% witht them as a whole. So you can take the bits and pieces you like and put them into your new song . No one will ever know but you.
Humans get pulled in by stories. So try just telling a story in your lyrics. You can write out a story as if you were writing part of a book. Then rearrange the lyrics to fit your song’s structure and consider making the lines rhyme. Boom, you’ve got a song.
You and any potential listeners may connect with your lyrics easier if you write like you speak. It’s easy to try really hard to sound poetic. But that can end up sounding fake, and it can make it harder for the lyrics to resonate.
In Songwriters On Songwriting , Paul Simon has some words about writing authentic lyrics.
“The only thought that I give to it is: ‘Is that something that I really believe?’” he said. “It doesn’t have to be insightful or anything. It just has to be not a lie. I can’t say, ‘I’m setting out to write a really deep, philosophical song.’ I would never say that. I have no idea.”
The key to getting better at writing lyrics is to keep doing it. Songwriting is a muscle. It’s a craft. You have to do it in order to get better at it.
So I’d suggest putting yourself on a schedule. Even if you only have 20 minutes in the evening to write, then write. Small steps are better than standing still.
And to be honest, if you really love songwriting, you don’t need my external motivation. If you’re really a songwriter, you’ll have an internal drive that will have you collecting things you can then put into songs.
Just don’t forget your love of songwriting.