How to Write Song Lyrics

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Many seasoned musicians find the prospect of writing song lyrics daunting. After all, unleashing your heartfelt lyrics on the world can feel scary and awkward, particularly if you’re addressing sensitive topics. So, what’s the best way to approach this tricky task? The good news is that almost anyone can write song lyrics if they put their mind to it. Whether you’re struggling with writer’s block or have never written a song in your life, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you create pieces which you’re genuinely proud of. You never know – you could end up penning the next big hit!

First things first: Why do song lyrics matter?

Do you tend to focus on the beat and melody of a track rather than the lyrics? If so, you may be tempted to write a few generic lyrics for your song. However, taking your time to compose meaningful or well-crafted lyrics could significantly enhance others’ enjoyment of your music and ensure your track is played over and over again. The first step to becoming a great songwriter is to understand why lyrics are so important and how they impact listeners. With this in mind, here are just a few reasons why song lyrics are so vital:

1. Lyrics could make your song more memorable

There are some song lyrics that virtually everyone knows, regardless of their age, background, or musical preferences (“Hello darkness, my old friend…” or “At first I was afraid, I was petrified”, for example). Striking, unusual, or catchy lyrics can capture your listener’s attention and ensure that your song remains in their head for several hours or even days. Whether you’re hoping to make it big or want to write songs as a casual hobby, creating music that people remember feels hugely rewarding!

2. Lyrics help people bond

There’s no better feeling than singing along to your favorite band at a concert or festival. Lyrics aren’t just an expression of a single songwriter’s experiences – they’re also about shared experiences and feelings between people. It doesn’t matter which topics you choose to address. Whether you’re writing about personal struggles, societal problems, or even your favorite color, authentic lyrics will resonate with your audience and make your song more meaningful.

3. Lyrics help listeners place your music within a specific genre

All musicians have a unique set of artistic influences, even if they believe themselves to be wholly original. Your lyrics will help to establish your song within a specific genre, reassuring people interested in your style of music that they’ll enjoy your creations. If you’re unsure about the kinds of lyrics your favorite artists write, it’s time for an in-depth listening session!

4. Writing lyrics could help you discover something about yourself

Okay, we realize this may sound a little cheesy, but writing song lyrics can help you access thoughts and feelings you never knew existed. Artistic creation represents one of the most chaotically beautiful processes we can try, often producing unexpected miracles. However, creating these happy accidents requires time, dedication, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Tips for writing fantastic lyrics

So, now you know why lyrics are foundational for many music styles, how should you approach the writing process? While everyone has their own creative processes and quirks, there are a few steps you can take to get started with songwriting, including:

1. Start by thinking about what you want to say

Nobody can write a song out of thin air – you need some kind of inspiration or impetus to get your creative juices flowing. Here are a few starting points to consider:

  • A memoryConjuring a strong memory will give you something meaningful to write about. Don’t worry if you don’t want to remember something painful or unhappy – music can also be about joyful experiences! When writing about the memory, think about small details, such as the smells, sounds, and tastes you experienced. What did you feel? What were the surroundings like? Was there anything unusual about the scene? Brainstorm a few ideas before you start writing if it helps you organize your thoughts.
  • Universal experiencesListeners love to hear songs that resonate with their own experiences – just consider how many lyrics revolve around unrequited love or infatuation! Songs about universal experiences can include personal anecdotes, general musings, or even more abstract and creative allusions to feelings like desire, love, friendship, or pain.
  • A color, flavor, artist, TV show, or building: Songs can also focus on a single object, place, or concept. Good examples include the Rolling Stones’ ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’ or David Bowie’s ‘Andy Warhol’. Feel free to think outside the box and surprise your listeners with elaborate descriptions of even the most mundane objects.

2. Write your melodies before adding lyrics

This advice is a little contentious, as many singer-songwriters adapt melodies to suit existing lyrics. However, as a beginner, writing lyrics to suit popular and catchy musical structures without the aid of a melody can be very tricky. Start by creating a melody for your verses, then create sections for the chorus and bridge, ensuring that your chord progression suits the overall mood of the piece.

Once you’re happy with your tune, start improvising lyrics while playing along. Vocalize any nonsense lyrics that come into your head, as this will help you discover the kinds of sounds you like. Over time, you can start incorporating the final lyrics into your song, eventually landing on your final piece. Don’t worry about rhyme schemes. While rhyming couplets may work well for your piece, unrhymed lyrics can sound intriguing, modern, and authentic.

3. Try not to get too literal

While many great songs speak plainly about their subject matter, overly literal lyrics can seem flat and awkward. Think back to your high school English lessons, as you probably had to study poetry at some point. Both poets and lyricists use a range of devices to make their language more evocative, such as metaphor, simile, alliteration, imagery, personification, allegory, and juxtaposition. Remember to employ some of these methods in your songwriting, as it will help your lyrics seem more professional, polished, and esthetically pleasing.

4. Read lyrics by other artists

Reading lyrics to your favorite songs will give you a much better sense of the craft than listening alone. With words laid out on the page, you’re more likely to spot lyrical tricks such as repetition and alliteration. Plus, it will give you a better sense of the length for which you should aim. Broadly speaking, simple verses should be around four to six lines, and your chorus should be short and catchy. While it’s tempting to fit as many ideas into your song as possible, less is certainly more when it comes to lyrics.

5. Avoid formality and complicated words

While poetic rules can help you produce more beautiful language, it’s vital not to be too formal with song lyrics. Sometimes, poets use long and unusual words to add intrigue for a highly literary audience. Songwriters, on the other hand, tend to write more simply and conversationally to ensure their work appeals to a wide audience. Avoid thesauruses and dictionaries when you’re writing your songs, instead choosing words you commonly use in conversation. Singing in the tone you use with friends will make your songs seem more authentic.

6. Collaborate with others

Jamming alongside your friends and fellow musicians could provide the inspiration and good vibes you need to create fantastic lyrics. If you’re part of a band, crack open a beer with your bandmates and have fun experimenting with new melodies and lyrics. If you’re a solo artist or looking for bandmates, don’t be afraid to suggest an improvisation session with others. Many musicians enjoy working alongside others and attend creative meetups to fuel their creative energies. You never know – you could end up meeting your future bandmates!

7. Focus on simplicity

Think about your favorite songs of all time. Are their lyrics short and sharp or long and complicated? In all likelihood, your favorite songs are simple, punchy, and catchy. Focusing on creating simple, fuss-free lyrics will help you write an earworm that sticks in people’s heads for days. Think carefully about how many syllables you’re packing into every line, chopping and changing as you go along.

8. Tap into your stream of consciousness

If you’re experiencing writer’s block (we’ve all been there!), there are certain tricks you can use to tap into your creative reserves. One of the best ways to get your brain into gear is to write everything that comes into your head on a piece of paper. Also known as stream-of-consciousness writing, this technique will capture some of the emotions and thoughts you didn’t even realize existed. Feel free to write for as long as you like and, when you’re starting to feel a little more creative, put your pen down. While the vast majority of your finished product is likely to be unusable, there may be nuggets of brilliance nestled in your writing. Try to weave these into your lyrics.

9. Practice writing lyrics for a song that already exists

If you’re struggling to write lyrics for your own melodies, why not try adapting a song that already exists? Practicing changing your favorite tracks will help you get to grips with the most popular techniques that artists use to create beautiful and memorable lyrics. Plus, it could help improve your ability to write catchy melodies that fit with your lyrical style.

10. Redraft (and redraft again!)

You’re unlikely to create a perfect song the first time around. Crafting lyrics is a tricky process involving several stages. Once you’ve created your first draft, put it in a drawer and return to your desk a few days later. Taking time away from your lyrics will allow you to look at them from a more critical perspective. While redrafting, you may wish to be ruthless and cut out whole sections of your original piece. While making significant changes may feel like you’re undoing all your hard work, it could make your final piece more compelling.

11. Ask for feedback

It’s almost impossible to know how others will react to your work. As such, it’s worth asking trusted friends and family members for honest feedback. Do they like the song? Is there anything they would change? Are there any sections that sound a little off? Are there some sections that could be construed as offensive or crude? While you don’t necessarily have to take others’ advice, asking for feedback will give you more confidence in your work and could help you perfect your lyrics.

12. Practice singing

Writing lyrics can be painful if you’re embarrassed about your singing abilities. To overcome this problem, why not enroll in singing lessons with a qualified teacher? One-to-one sessions will offer a safe space to improve your vocal skills and bring your lyrics to life.

13. Share your songs

Sharing your creations with the world will help you ascertain whether they resonate with others and could help you develop a strong following of fans. Don’t be shy! You could be the next big thing.

Keen to pen your first masterpiece? There’s no time like the present!

So, now you know how to write song lyrics listeners will love, it’s time to put pen to paper. While the process can feel a little daunting initially, it gets easier with practice – trust us! Of course, once you start recording and editing your songs, you’ll want to find ways to unleash them on the world and earn money from all your hard work.

This is where Novecore comes in. We help distribute artists’ work across all major streaming platforms, including Apple Music, Deezer, SoundCloud, and Spotify. We’re committed to helping upcoming musicians reach a broad audience while earning rewards for their creativity. As such, we’ll handle all the tricky administrative tasks associated with distribution. To find out more, visit our website and sign up today.

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