There are many elements to creating a song. Considering rhythm, instrumentals, structure, harmony, and many more aspects are essential for producing a coherent track. Outside of these technical musical components, there is the issue of lyrics. Writing lyrics can be tough when tackling them head-on. Whereas there is no secret recipe for becoming a skilled lyricist, there are a few tips and steps to follow to help the creative process. In this guide, we give you advice on how to write lyrics successfully, including the do’s and don’ts of the process.
Lyrics add substance to a track. Of course, we can fall in love with a song purely for its catchy beat. Lyrics, however, elevate a track and give it deeper meaning. The purpose is for the songwriter to express themselves musically. Whether it’s emotions, an experience, a message, whatever the source, lyrics should have meaning and a purpose. It is storytelling in the form of music. Getting all the right elements to ensure the narrative is easily perceived is the challenging part.
In this guide, we wanted to help you understand the process behind writing music lyrics. Some songs have lyrics so powerful and relatable that they become legendary. The words used become more famous than the track itself. On the flip side, some songs we listen to and don’t even consider the lyrics. There are certain influences that can help you achieve the former.
How To Write Lyrics
1. Lyrical Trends
Before diving straight in, you need to consider what type of lyrics you want to accompany your song. If you are producing a rap song, you will want substantial lyrics. Lyrical trends are the way in which current and popular lyrics are being written. Looking at how are lyrics written usually can help give you a starting point.
2. Use Less Words
This is usually used for electronic songs. If the focus on the song is the actual musical elements then you won’t want it packed with lyrics. In a similar vein, you can use repetitive lyrics might which can make a song catchy and easy to listen to.
3. Match With The Song Structure
This is when your lyrics are technically accompanied by the song structure and influences of the track. The lyrics change with the chorus for example. Usually, lyrics will involve rhyming when using this trend.
4. Start With The Melody
You usually don’t want to start writing lyrics until you have the music down. You want solid verses, a chorus, and bridges before you get started. This will help give you a base for your lyrics and something to work towards. Your lyrics, in the end, should flow naturally with your melody. Doing this the other way round will make producing the melody extremely hard, trying to fit it around the lyrics.
5. Make It Relatable
You want to consider the overall impacts you want your lyrics to have before you start writing them. Listeners want to relate to the words and express themselves through listening to them.
The base to your lyrics may be something deeply personal. Even though that experience or emotion may be unique to you, a good lyricist can make that narrative relatable to anyone. The message you are trying to convey needs to mean something to the audience as well as you.
This will be the overall theme of your lyrics. Consider this at every point in the process. You don’t have to stick to the original theme, but it gives you a conscious story to follow, almost like an anecdote.
6. First Words
Getting the first word or line down can be the most difficult stage. You may have a general idea and concept for your lyrics, but thinking of the very first words is high pressure. You want it to be impactful, catchy, relatable, all sorts of specifics. How on earth do you convey that in just a few words?
The inspiration for this can come from anything. A certain phrase that has stuck with you. A word you saw on a TV advert. This doesn’t necessarily have to have a deeper meaning, it just has to ease listeners into your song somehow. Give them something to contemplate.
7. Mock Lyrics
Now you’ve got your song ready, it’s time to start thinking of the actual lyrics. For now, don’t try to follow any structure, jot down whatever comes to your head first. Listen to your melody and see what words come out. They don’t need to make sense, but what lyrics come to mind when listening to the melody will be a result of how the tune makes you feel. Your random lyrics, even though it might not appear so to you, will be a result of what emotions and feelings the melody evokes in you.
None of these lyrics might end up in the final song, but they give you a start.
8. Pick Your Mock Lyrics Apart
You should now have a load of messy, nonsense lyrics with a general idea for what you want your lyrics to be about. The next stage of how to write music lyrics would be to pick out what you want to keep. Are there any phrases or vowels that jump out at you? Use them to lay down the foundations of your lyrics.
This is where you would want to create your chorus. With choruses being the most significant part of lyrics, you want this to be the focus of your song and base the rest of the lyrics around it. This leads us to the next section.
9. How To Get The Structure Right
So you sort of have some final lyrics down now. You have a draft chorus, an opening line, and a relatable narrative. The rest of the lyrics should come relatively naturally. You build them around the key factors you have already decided on. Like making a movie you now have a plot, time to make that plot coherent.
Like with any writing, the structure is important. The structure of lyrics is no different. Again, this next section is only a guide, not a strict regime. This is the usual way lyrics are structured:
10. Writing Verses For A Song
Verses are what draw us in and grab our attention. They show us rather than tell us. Sensory details are very common within verses. What are you seeing, smelling, tasting, touching? They set the mood for the song and build us up to the chorus.
11. How To Write A Chorus
We already mentioned choruses but it’s a crucial aspect. The main thing about how to write a chorus for a song is that it needs to be is memorable. Verses set the mood but choruses are what we remember most. This needs to be the most passionate and meaningful part of your lyrics.
You’ve given listeners substance and a starting point, they now need the conclusion to that build, a release from the tension. Of course, your chorus needs to be repeated, only further highlighting the need for it to be perfect.
So, how do you write lyrics for a chorus? Firstly, you want your chorus to stay true to the overall theme of your lyrics. It should be the protagonist of your story, the most significant influence. Secondly, it needs to match perfectly with your melody. This is the part people will sing along to, having it match the melody is essential for it to be catchy enough for people to learn. You know those songs where you can remember the chorus after hearing it for the first time? That’s the impact you’re looking for.
12. Avoid Filler Lines
Filler lines are short musical phrases that are used to fill in the gaps between sections of a song. They are often added to make a song sound fuller and more interesting. Filler lines can be used to introduce a new section, provide a transition between sections, or add a bit of extra interest to a song. However, you should only really use them in the mapping of the structure of the song and really make each line count.
13. Natural Lyrics
It is very important to read over your lyrics time and time again. When writing, we tend to sound unnatural and complicate language unnecessarily. It’s too easy to try and sound abstract and philosophical. This takes away the relatability of the song from the general audience. Listeners never want complicated lyrics that they have to analyse to understand. The meaning and message of the lyrics should be clear as day.
14. Singable Lyrics
This is a surprisingly important point that can often be forgotten. You may have a strong message, beautiful wording, perfect structure, but are your lyrics singable? Some worlds naturally do not flow into each other. Even though they may be in separate lines, having an abrupt change in words can take us out of the illusions. Like the last section, read over your lyrics time and time again. Every word should follow naturally into the next.
This can get very technical and something top lyricists are amazing at especially rappers. Scanning is where you line up words in patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. Getting this right can really make some basic lyrics into the next hit song.
15. Rhyming Scheme
You should check if any of the rhyming schemes seem unusual.
Rhyming schemes are used in music writing to create a sense of rhythm and flow. Common rhyming schemes include AABB (where the first two lines rhyme with each other and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other), ABAB (where the first and third lines rhyme with each other and the second and fourth lines rhyme with each other), and ABCB (where the first, third, and fourth lines all rhyme with each other). Other rhyming schemes can also be used, such as AABC or ABAC.
Whereas these words may still flow, they will leave the lyrics feeling disjointed. A rhyming dictionary can be a good reference and help you check this.
16. Finalise Your Lyrics
You now need to fill in all the gaps. You have every essential aspect ready, the rest of the lyrics just need finalising. This should happen quite naturally. This is a more simple stage compared to the others, but probably a long one. You will end up tweaking your draft many times. You want the lyrics to be perfect, so scrutinisation will be extreme.
Only finish when you are 100% happy with your lyrics. Saying this, it is important not to be too picky. There will always be something you aren’t happy with when it comes to your own work. Make sure when making changes they are not dramatic and don’t change the overall theme.
17. Choose Your Title
Your lyrics should be all complete apart from one crucial aspect, a title! You may well have already decided on this. If not, the mainline from your chorus is a usual pick. Mainly, you want people to be able to think of your song and the title comes straight to mind. It shouldn’t be complicated or hard to remember. Whatever you pick, make sure it does your song justice!
Now You Know How To Write Lyrics
That was our guide on writing song lyrics! We know there are a lot of sections to follow, but creating lyrics is no small task. Following this guide will help you produce them concisely.
There is no correct way of writing lyrics, but there definitely is a wrong way. Your lyrics need to be relatable, flow well, and are memorable to listeners. Now it’s time to put pen to paper and get working on your own lyrics!