How to Write Song Lyrics

Song lyrics have the power to express powerful thoughts and evoke emotions.

Whether they’re about love, having fun, or protesting the government, learning how to write awesome lyrics is easy once you understand the fundamentals.

Songwriting Has A Rich History

All of the most popular songs in music history have talented and rich songwriters behind them.

Paul MacCartney has earned $800 million making some of the most popular songs in rock music history – with 32 songs charted at number one.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stunning Broadway tunes have netted him $1.2 billion, making him the most successful songwriter in history.

Understanding Song Structure

Understanding song structure can make it easier to write fitting, beautiful lyrics.

Most songs have some combination of the following sections within them: verses, chorus, and a bridge.

You can choose which to add to your own songs, and what order they appear in. Verses take up the most space in a song.

They sound similar melodically, but use different words in each one.

The chorus, or hook, is the main part of the song, and often the catchiest.

The bridge section is short, and most commonly appear after the second chorus.

It usually sounds different than the rest of the song, and can be used to set up a key change, if desired.

You can organize these sections to create your song’s overall structure.

The easiest and most common structure is AABA, where A represents verses and B the chorus.

This is the pattern often used in pop songs.

As you advance, you can try other structures, like ABABA, ABACABA, with C representing a bridge.

Keep experimenting until you find something you like.

Guide to Writing Song Lyrics

There are many different aspects to consider when writing songs.

From inspiration to using the correct words, the process can be tedious or even daunting.

But writing lyrics gets easier with time and practice.

Find Inspiration

Inspiration can strike anywhere at any time, so carry a notebook with you wherever you go.

Do writing exercises each day, like stream of consciousness writing, or picking a topic and writing down everything you like about it.

No matter what your mood is or how much Writer’s Block you have, make a point of just doing it for 15-20 minutes each day.

The best writers are those who read often, so peruse lyrics from your favorite songs or artists, along with poetry and books, and apply what you like to your own writing.

The more voices you are exposed to, the better you will be able to express yourself, but don’t fall into the trap of copying other artists, as that limits your creativity.

Use Better Language

Channel your inner English professor by using stronger and more precise words.

For example, don’t say you are sad, say you are despondent or feel powerless.

Writers are always encouraged to show rather than tell, and using an expressive vocabulary helps paint a picture by adding depth to your story.

How to Speed Up The Songwriting Process

You can write song lyrics faster by practicing writing more often.

The more you write, the more your brain gets used to being in a writing mindset.

You’ll more easily notice things that inspire you if you always have one eye open for inspiration.

Also be willing to rewrite lyrics that don’t fit.

Having a melody and song structure already laid out also helps speed up the process, as it gives you an idea of the emotion and tempo and overall feel of the song.

Playing a core musical instrument, like piano or guitar, makes it easier for you to knock out a melody or pair lyrics with a melody quickly, as does understanding music notation and how to read it, especially if you’re working with other musicians.

What to Avoid in Songwriting

For all the things you should do while writing lyrics, there are just as many things you should avoid.

Poor or ineffective language is the most important. Avoid boring and generic words, cliches, and aggressively trying to make rhyming work. Opt for metaphors instead of similes.

Your listeners will also be able to tell if you are an inexperienced writer, so be sure to practice writing as often as you can.

Being unwilling to rework awkward lyrics, rhythm, or syllables is another big point.

Don’t rush yourself, and take the time to revise your lyrics until they fit the emotion or story you are trying to convey.

And if you need to write lyrics before the song, make sure that they fit each other as well as with the singer’s vocal range.

As stressed in our podcast, The 5 Minute Podcast for Musicians, when writing song lyrics, stay true to yourself and don’t let copying your favorite artists become a crutch.

And although there is a point where you can throw the rulebook out the window, it is worth learning the fundamentals.

With these principles in mind, you’ll be on your way to songwriting stardom in no time!


Craig Kelley

About Craig Kelley

Craig helps indie artists book more gigs, promote their music and submit to record labels @ GigFaster. He recently released his 7th album, Not So Blue. His band has supported Grammy artists including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rick Derringer, Gary Hoey, Joan Jett, Fuel and many more. He is also the host of The 5 Minute Podcast For Musicians.

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