How To Write Lyrics to a Song: Music Lyrics

Use These Tips to Create Your Own Words to Songs

Boy with guitar and laptop

The best lyric and song writers are able to express ideas of great beauty and truth.  Though you may not fancy yourself as much of a poet, here are several ways to help tap into your creative voice and write your own song lyrics. Here's how to write lyrics to a song.

  1. One of the ways to start finding your voice is to pay attention to other voices.  Study the work of lyricists whose work you admire.  Pay attention to themes, metaphor, and other elements of the music lyrics.  Consider the ways in which the ideas are communicated.  Is there a story that follows a narrative path?  Is it a commentary on a general notion?  How does the author use the elements of the music to communicate?
  2. In the same way, study the work of lyricists whose work you don't care for.  Ask the same questions of these works, and try to come to some conclusions about why you don't like them.  How would you improve upon this person's work?
  3. When it's time to start writing your own lyrics, make a space for yourself.  Some people write well in solitude; others work better when they're surrounded by people or nature.  You may want to write with a pen in a notebook, or you may prefer to type your ideas on a computer.  The idea is to create the physical and emotional space where your ideas can grow most organically.
  4. Alternately, you may want to create a space where you feel uncomfortable and unsure.  Many great lyrics have been written under these circumstances. 
  5. A good practice method is to take a familiar melody and to write new words for it.  Songs like "Happy Birthday" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" can be great starting points for your lyrics.  A song of celebration like "Happy Birthday" sounds happy because that's how we know it in its context, but with new lyrics, you'll see that it can be just as good as a song of desperation and sadness.  Challenge yourself to reinvent these simple tunes.
  6. Don't worry if you aren't comfortable with your lyrics.  Remember the first time you heard your own voice on a tape recorder?  It probably sounded different from how you had imagined it would sound.  It may take some time before you are comfortable with the sound of your own lyrical voice.  A well-defined style is the result of perseverance and honesty with yourself.
  7. Seek constructive feedback from trusted sources.  It may seem anti-artistic to talk about art, but it can be valuable to hear from other listeners.

While we tend to associate brilliant lyrics with some "muse" or other magical, supernatural force that inspires a writer deeply, the reality is that lyric writing involves a lot of hard work.  You will probably devote hours to one piece, and it's possible you will end up with nothing usable.  There may be other times when lyrics simply happen to you.  Be open to both types of experience, and allow them to shape who you are as a lyricist.  When you give yourself to your craft, your craft can begin to give back to you. Once you accomplish that, you may be well on your way to promoting your music and lyrics to the world to enjoy.

 

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