Lyric writing is a personal process, just like any other music discipline. Every lyricist has their own approach and what works for one person may not work for the other. While some can create a song in five minutes or less, others can spend months writing it. We have some tips that will help you no matter what style or genre of music you use or if you are really stuck.
These are not rules, but guidelines. It’s not standard college work with a haunting refrain in your head: “If I’ll do my assignments without following guidelines, I’ll get a bad mark”. It’s art, and you are free to create in a way that you feel is right. There is no right or wrong way. This is true for all art forms. Try out the tips, tricks, and dos and don’ts listed below. But remember, sometimes the rules can be broken.
1. Practice! Lyric writing can be improved and learned like any other creative skill, such as programming synth sounds or playing guitar.
2. Don’t let anything discourage you. Professional writers often rewrite lyrics several times before they are recorded. So keep going! Songs are not born (usually), they are created and sculpted. You shouldn’t expect songs to be perfected overnight. They can take time to create and they will require you to put in the work.
3. You can always move on if you don’t know how to express yourself in a certain line. This will save you from spending hours pondering one line that may seem insignificant within the larger context of the song. Again – it’s art, and you can start from the end if it feels right for you.
4. Elevator pitch. Get a good idea of the song’s purpose. The song’s essence should be summarized in one sentence. Except for ballads, maybe.
5. Make the research. Analyze other songs to find the similarities in lyrics between your favorite songs and yours, and then apply any lyrical techniques to your own work. Check the songs made from the poems of renowned writers, you may catch a trick of turning any text into lyrics.
6. Structural work. Make sure that the song follows a specific structure. This is especially important for narrative songs, which are songs that tell a story. You can quickly test this by reading the song from beginning to end and asking yourself, “Does it make sense?”
7. Use context. Add a story behind the elevator pitch to make a call to the listener’s emotions. Perspective is key. For instance, you can describe an event in the first line, then add perspective by writing the second verse about how it affected you. A simple point can be interestingly reframed by another perspective.
8. Vary the approach. We are sure you noticed that choruses and verses are wholly different things, hence they amplify each other. Choruses need a different approach than verses, especially for pop songs. These verses are often more simple and easier to remember. Common tricks include writing “the setup” in the verse and the emotional “payoff” in the chorus.
9. Experiment. Experiment with the rhythm of a line. You can give a line its own rhythmic flair or bounce, but it should still be consistent with the overall rhyme scheme. Try different tense styles. It’s fun to use a variety of tenses in writing.
10. It is possible to use light and shade. As we said before, the context is important: A joyful chorus can be added to a solemn verse to make it more upbeat.
11. Use only a few adjectives or descriptive words. Although they are essential for a songwriter’s writing, too many adjectives can make a song less concise.
12. Use imagery with care. Don’t be afraid of it. It can be used well to evoke emotions and moods that cannot be achieved by simply using a plain description.
13. Take care when using an abstract. For example, “I want to feel free” could be used. Complex emotions can be difficult to express. It’s often more effective to use imagery or context to convey the emotion than just stating it.
14. Keep it simple. The listener might not understand a word or a line. You shouldn’t rely only on one line to place the entire song in context.
15. You can sometimes overcome creative droughts by changing your lyrics’ outlook. You don’t have to be your best, but it’s a good idea to experiment.
16. Try out pronouns. Songs don’t have to be written with ‘you’ and ‘I. A song can have a completely different feel if it uses plural pronouns like ‘we’ or ‘they’. It is best to avoid using multiple pronouns within the same song. This can lead to confusion.
17. Avoid using too many words. Cramming a sentence with words that don’t belong together can cause each word’s impact to be lost. It’s better to rewrite the entire line than to try literary Tetris.
18. Some words sound like they are stodgy or graceless. Others sound open, light, blunt, or roll off the tongue. When writing, consider the sound and the meaning. Use ‘clever’ language or excessively complex words with care. These words can look great on paper but don’t always go well into the song. Aside from the danger of alienating people who don’t understand what a word is, you also run the risk to offend them.
19. If there is a rhyming system, it is worth considering. It is important to remember that the song’s “catchiness” is not only a result of its music and melody but also the lyrics and the rhythm.
20. Filler is not recommended! Filler lines should be avoided if you want rhymes to work. Filler is fine when you are laying out the song’s structure, but it is best to avoid using any subsequent rewrites. This will allow you to make every line count as it should.
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