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18 Tips on How to Write Song Lyrics

The method for composing lyrics, more than any other discipline in music, is exceptionally private to the lyricist. Each songwriter has a unique method, and what will work perfectly for one lyricist won't really work for another. Some people can compose an entire tune in a short time, whilst for others it can take months.The most crucial thing to remember is that like with other art forms, there is no set-in-stone method that will guarantee success. Trying the tips suggested below will help, but remember that the rules can be broken here and there. Most importantly, your words should come from the heart. They should resonate and stick with the listener long after the song has finished.

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Abigail Elias
  Abigail Elias  —  Music & Lyrics Tips


1. Get Inspired

Finding inspiration is frequently the greatest obstacle when learning to compose song lyrics and surprisingly, experienced lyricists consistently battle with it. Finding something to write about sounds simple in principle, but practically speaking, it tends to be a troublesome and disappointing thing.

Rather than simply staring at a blank page, use the world around you for inspiration. By going for a walk, listening to music or watching a film, or even seeing friends, you are able to take the pressure off your brain and allow creativity to come to you naturally. During these activities, keep your psyche open to the emotions you feel, and allow yourself time to articulate these emotions on paper. 

2. Write What You Know

For some, it’s easiest to compose lyrics when you’re impassioned by something you can connect with. While it doesn't necessarily need to be something you've experienced, it tends to be useful for it to be something truly personal. If not, it could appear to be inauthentic and will be considerably more challenging for you to figure out what you want to convey in your lyrics.

You can draw inspiration from past experiences or emotions, or look to the outside world to address a common problem in your lyrics. As long as your inspiration comes from an authentic place, and is something you personally have felt or been through, your lyrics will feel real and will be easy for your listeners to connect with.

3. Find Your Hook

A hook is the part of a song that is repeated over and over and makes the song easy to remember. Hooks can be instrumental or lyrical, and are often borne in a flash of inspiration. The hook should be both melodic and memorable. It’s the most essential part of a song, and is what your listeners will remember most. A decent hook can make or break the success of a song, and is therefore where you should put your main focus.

For some, it is easiest to find a beat, harmony or melody around which to create their lyrics. To those more musically-minded, a melody may come to you naturally, and you can work from there.

However, for many songwriters the lyrics will prevent themselves first. By finding a central theme of your song and creating a line that encapsulates this theme, you begin filling out a chorus for your song.

4. Listen to Other Songs

If you’re still struggling with composing lyrics, look to your favourite songs and musicians for inspiration. Each craftsman writes in their own style. By paying attention to the music that resonates with you personally, you can gather an enormous amount of inspiration. 

Do whatever it takes not to duplicate anybody's strategy precisely, rather find what you like best about every musician’s style. Then, at that point, consolidate what you have learnt in a way that will help you tell your own story.

5. Begin With a Title

For some, it helps to think of a title for your song and go from that point. Customarily, the title is an expression or word that embodies what's truly going on within the melody. By concocting a title first, you can use it to inform your lyrics, and to refer back to during the creative process. This ensures that each verse you compose is coherent, and there is a linear quality to the lyrics.

Obviously, this is only one method for beginning. There's no standard that says you need to begin with a title. A lot of times you'll deal with a song for quite a long time and have no clue about what to call it, and that’s alright too.

6. Decide What You Want to Say

Songwriting is basically narrating. When you think of it this way it makes sense that if you’re not sure what you’re trying to say, it will be more challenging to compose your lyrics. The best thing you can do is create an outline of everything you are trying to say. As you do this, split it into the segments that make up your song, in other words, the main message, the underlying themes and the final idea. When you’ve done that, go through each section and format what you want to say into verses. It will be a lot simpler now that you've appropriately mapped your thoughts.

7. Settle On a Structure

Before separating your melody into areas, you need to settle on an appropriate model for your tune. One of the most famous song structures is the following:

Ø  Intro
Ø  Verse
Ø  Chorus
Ø  Verse
Ø  Chorus
Ø  Bridge
Ø  Chorus
Ø  Outro

There are a lot more configurations out there to use, as well as extra segments, for example, pre-themes and post melodies. If this exact configuration doesn’t suit your style, feel free to edit it, but ensure there is a central point or theme that your lyrics circle back to.

8. Use a Thesaurus

When writing your lyrics you could simply say you're "cheerful," but this is boring and overused. Instead, look at these other options:

Ø  Bright
Ø  Content
Ø  Euphoric
Ø  Thrilled
Ø  Tranquil

Do you see how each synonym creates a different idea? When you picture these emotions, "cheerful" may be a smiley face, however "thrilled" is somebody loudly giggling, and "elated" is somebody bouncing all over! Then again, "quiet" and "content" are all the more smooth renditions of "cheerful."

Finding other options for words you are leaning on to convey meaning can add more profundity and importance to your lyrics, allowing you to create a more complete picture for your audience. Using a thesaurus will expand your vocabulary and allow you to create more evocative lyrics for your listeners, as does using descriptions.

However, it is equally important that you don’t unnecessarily overcomplicate your lyrics and make them inaccessible because of your word choices. It is generally best to keep it straightforward, and allow the melody to transform your lyrics.

9. Compose Conversationally 

Lyrics aren’t intended to function like literature or poetry. They don’t need a legitimate structure, or even full sentences.They're intended to be a discussion between the artist and the crowd, so you should write like you would talk, in a more stream-of-consciousness style.

By reading your lyrics aloud after writing them, or discussing them with someone, you can find opportunities for refinement. Successful songwriters often use rhyme and wordplay in their lyrics, but these are things that often come after the initial writing stage.

Keep singing your lyrics as you write to ensure they don’t sound excessively stodgy or constrained.

10. Compose Consistently

Like every craft, songwriting is not something that comes naturally to most people. You may write a hundred bad songs before finding one good one. Try to meet a goal of songs to compose monthly, but try to avoid burnout so your work doesn’t become stale. Persistence is key!

11. Flaunt Your Personality

Your lyrics will stand out if you inject your unique character into what you are writing about. If you have a phrase you often use, or a colloquial way of speaking that you like to use, include it in your songwriting. Many artists and producers also have a tag that they include in their songs to distinguish their work from others, like an artist’s signature on a painting. Focus on what makes you unique in yourself, and reflect that in your lyrics.

12. Know Your Genre

Each genre has certain norms that its songs generally adhere to. Decide which genre you feel your music fits best into, and then make sure you’re adhering to these norms. For instance, pop, rock, and hip-hop songs don't need to rhyme. Often those genres focus more on rhythm and movement. However, for slower more soulful songs, the lyrics are often the focal point, and therefore a rhyme scheme may be preferable. Try to ascertain what listeners of your chosen genre look for in their songs, and attempt to stick to these rules.

13. Try Not to Be Discouraged

Try not to be discouraged if your lyrics aren’t perfect in the first draft. Successful songs are often co-written by groups of expert songwriters, and are tweaked and played with countless times. As a general rule, melodies aren't born from nowhere, they require hard work. Try not to expect that a song should show up fully- grown; they sometimes take time and require lots of reworking.

14. Pay Attention to Your Words

Words have an innate sound to them which is often articulated differently when sung rather than spoken.Some words sound spikey, some slow, some open, some monotonous, some roll off the tongue. Take account of the sound of the word as well as its meaning when composing.

Think about the notes in your melody, and use that to inform your lyric choices.Different genres of music often mimic different speech patterns, and remembering this will allow you to make more natural-sounding lyric choices.

15. Rhyme Scheme - Yes or No?

It's vital that how 'appealing' your tune is not simply a result of the melody and tune; it must also come from the lyrics, particularly the musicality and rhyme scheme. However, if you choose to rhyme, try to avoid cliche rhyming pairs that are overused in songwriting. The more unique and carefully crafted your rhyme is, the more it will stand out from other songs.

16. Take Breaks

Composing lyrics without previous experience can be confusing and exhausting work. Ensure you keep taking short breaks to refresh yourself, and go outside of your writing space when you take these breaks. Sometimes inspiration will strike more naturally when you aren’t overthinking something.

17. Go Back and Rewrite

Your first draft will likely never be perfect, and that’s okay, in fact, it’s preferable! Make sure you are constantly revising and reworking what you have until it sounds as natural as possible, and has a consistency to it. 

Great lyrics sound effortless, but usually have an enormous effort behind them.

18. Request Feedback

When you feel you have done as much as you can alone, take your work to someone you trust. Often when we have been working on one thing for a long time, we no longer register things that to other people may be obvious mistakes. By getting a fresh perspective on your song, you effectively have a trial audience before you release your music to the wider public.

Entrusting your work to other people also allows you to open up your creative process, and see if anything that other people do when they write will help you.

You’ve Written a Song, Now What?

Once you have gone through all these steps, you will be left with a polished song that is ready for a larger audience! Make sure you keep practising and writing new songs. Consistent work and searching for inspiration in your life is what will help you write songs at a higher level.

We would love for you to share your songs on Lyrics.com! You can also add your lyrics to our Promoted Songs to have access to a wider audience, or try to sell your lyrics on our Song Lyrics Marketplace.

Good luck with all your songwriting endeavours!

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