For many beginner songwriters, starting to write lyrics on your own can seem like a hard process. Opening yourself up and putting your thoughts and feelings onto the page can be a daunting thing. With the help of these tips, however, you unlock the secrets to lyric writing. Whether you’re writing a rap or a love song, much of the process can be similar.
Write everything down
The most important thing to note is you’ve got to do is make notes. Notes about anything and everything. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s a lyric or not, just write stuff down.
There are a few very good reasons why writing everything down is so crucial. First and foremost, it’s practice. You wouldn’t expect to first pick up a guitar and start shredding like Eddie Van Halen so, like any skill, you need to hone your craft with time. Get used to documenting your experiences and emotions. It’s all about being able to make a snapshot of life at one particular point in time.
Even if you’re just writing down simple, matter-of-fact observations about your experiences, when you go back through her notebook to re-read it, you’re immediately taken back there. What would seem at first like a completely mundane event eventually could become the inspiration for a song.
One of the things people can struggle with when writing lyrics, especially about things that have happened in your past, is trying to keep it authentic. After a while, our memory of events can fade and blur and writing it down will really help ground you and make writing lyrics after the fact much easier and much more real.
The first thing to decide when writing lyrics is what the song is going to be about. This can be very general about a feeling or mood, or about a much more specific single event.
Once you’ve decided on an overall theme, you can then go through the notes combing through for any words or phrases that can be pulled out – look for things that fit that mood in some way or have a double meaning that you can play on.
If you’re going for a more confessional style of writing, of course you want to base everything in truth but there may also be times when you want to embellish and add other elements.
There are of course as many different styles of lyric writing as there are people to sing them. You have to find what works for you and what is authentic to you. A lot of people will be tempted to fill their page with flowery poetry and convoluted metaphors but, if that's not the way you are, it can come across as inauthentic.
While there is very much a place for more abstract writing, it’s very easy to overdo. Never underestimate the power of simply writing like you speak. There can sometimes be a sense of trying to hide behind dense writing but one of the most valued things in any art, and especially lyrics, is keeping it real. The listeners will be able to tell when it comes from the heart.
A big hang-up that writers can have when trying to get lyrics down is making them rhyme. Rhyming is important but it's not so important that you should focus on it at the expense of everything else.
Sometimes it can be powerful to come off a rhyme or use a half-rhyme instead. Too much rhyme can sound almost childlike, as though you’re singing a nursery rhyme. This feeling of deliberately avoiding a rhyme can create a bit of a break in a structure and be a bit of a surprise for the listener.
Where you put rhyme in the song is important too. Typically, you’ll want your chorus to rhyme more strongly. It’s memorable and the crowd need something to latch on to and (hopefully) sing along to. In the verses and other sections you can maybe have a little more room to move around with rhymes.
If you’re struggling to think of something that rhymes, don’t be afraid to go online and use resources such as WikiRhymer – plenty of pro writers use tools like this for inspiration. The first few results may be a bit too obvious and best avoided but it’s a great way of finding more obscure rhymes or part rhymes.
The order in which you write lyrics and melodies can matter too. Do you write lyrics or music first? Like just about any aspect of making music, there are no right or wrong answers here. Some people will like to leave the lyrics until the end when they’ve got a fully fleshed out melody and some will use lyrics as the very first sparks of a song. Both can produce amazing results.
In more hook-focused pop music, it's often the melody that comes first. What singers typically do is just get the melody and improvise some sort of fake lyrics as a kind of placeholder. Most of the time, it will be complete nonsense (although sometimes you might happen across something that makes it all the way to the final song). You can then go back and write some more fitting lyrics after the fact. This gives a clearer guide as to how many syllables you need in each line so you can get the words to fit like a puzzle.
If this guide to lyrics has got you in the songwriting mood, best-selling artist Shura has the perfect course for you. She shares her secrets of how she writes her hit tunes, right from getting the first sparks of inspiration to fleshing it out into a full track.
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