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Lyric Writing: Things to Consider

Lyric Writing: Things to Consider

When creating a song, one typically begins with writing the lyrics. While some may feel this is the easiest part of songwriting, there are a few elements to keep in mind that will allow you to create a song that will really resonate with the listener.

  • Have I said something worth saying?
  • Did I present my subject concisely and vividly?
  • Did I avoid or resort to using clichéd turns of phrase?
  • Does my lyric’s meter (verbal rhythm) sing well, and does it fit the song’s arrangement?
  • Is my title and refrain (hook) strong and appealing?
  • Did I do anything original, or was it all formulaic? Nothing is completely original.
  • Does my first verse set the scene well?

When considering a subject, make sure you are writing something worth saying. Topics like relationships starting and ending, traveling, feeling alone, etc, are popular in all genres of music because they relate to subjects that everyone has experienced. Always try and use concrete images instead of abstractions and “show” or “lead” the listener to your meaning with smart observation rather than “tell” the listener your meaning. The difference is the listener gets to participate and draw from their own experiences instead of passively receiving yours.

When conveying your message, figures of speech (called aphorisms) are often appealing because we already know them, and they can bring a smile, especially when inverted (“I’ve got friends in low places..”). On the flip side, try to avoid the use of clichés. Clichés take away from your intended meaning as they have been emptied of relevance. They suggest laziness on the part of the lyricist and are often the result of making lines rhyme. While no song will be completely original, staying away from obvious clichés is something to strive for. Use near-rhyme as well as true-rhyme, and try flipping your sentence around if you get stuck for rhyming options.

Once you have your basic lyrics, making sure your wording fits into a singable rhythm is as important as the words themselves. The meter of your lyrics, or “verbal rhythm,” is key. Your lyrics need to fit well into the song’s arrangement. Try reading your lyrics out loud and seeing the natural pace you use to emphasize certain phrases and words. This will allow you to see what parts of the song need to be repeated or emphasized and which parts are more of a decoration for the overall product.

In terms of the order of your lyrics, there is some strategy involved. The listener will remember the title of your song, the first verse, and the refrain (hook).  Although titles are not copyrighted, look for a fresh title where possible. The first verse should set up the overall scene of your story or point. What mood are you trying to convey? Allow the listener to feel what you felt when writing the song (show them, don’t tell them).