There isn’t a universal method of writing lyrics that works for everyone. It depends on many factors, including music genre, mood and style of a given song, as well as the author’s unique perception and background.
The struggle to come up with good lyrics is real for artists on all levels. Beginners naturally don’t have as much experience to create great lines right away. Professional artists, even with mad writing skills, are no strangers to writer’s block.
Luckily, there are some tips you can follow to raise the chances that your lyrics are memorable and relatable for listeners. Below you can find some of these recommendations and use them to create a killer song. It’s time to make some lyrical miracles!
1. Start Small
As much as you want to come up with something complex and borderline genius right off the bat, it’s highly unlikely that this is how things will actually go. Begin with a simple structure and work your way up step by step.
The most common song structure is AABA (A – verse, B – chorus) where there's a first verse, second verse, chorus, and then a final verse. Practice writing lyrics using this basic structure, then you can move on to add other components and change their placement as you see fit.
2. Make the First Lines Count
What you start with sets the mood for the entire song. Opening lines have the power to either immediately grab the attention of listeners for the rest of the song or make listeners skip the song and search for something else.
The first couple of lines is also an anchor for you as a songwriter – it’s an idea you can build a whole song on. Get one or two lines written down and then think of several directions you can sail to with it.
3. Use Imagery
Being straightforward and saying everything as it is can be great, but the “show, don’t tell” approach works better in music. It engages listeners and makes them use their imagination and creates an immersive experience. This allows listeners to feel the song on a deeper level, connect with it emotionally, and as a result, remember it better and want to return to the song time and time again.
Instead of just saying that the song character is sad, set the scene, and use metaphors and stronger adjectives to illustrate the situation and the feeling. Get descriptive and more poetic, give your listeners something to visualize. Leverage the power of our imagination – don’t be afraid to write about something otherworldly. Sometimes it’s even easier to convey a message through an unrealistic scene than via something that’s a common occurrence in real life.
4. Break the Rules
Musicians tend to create rules for themselves with the number of syllables in a line, rhymes, rhythm, structure and such, and then force their writing to fit these rules. Calibrating everything like this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s convenient to have a mold and organize your songwriting, but on the other hand, this approach often makes musicians go in circles trying to create something that fits the rules.
The goal is not to follow the rules but to get the message across. Always prioritize your ideas over rules, especially self-imposed ones. Firstly, figure out what your song is going to be about, write down a couple of lines you want to include, then build the song around them. If you can’t maintain the same rhythm or structure, or if things don’t rhyme too well, let it be as is. Let the message and the story lead the way, they hold more significance than anything else.
5. Write More
Getting into the habit of writing is absolutely essential. Just like with any other skill, you have to practice and build habits that get you into the discipline of songwriting. Pave the path by consistently writing and don’t focus too much on the quality at first. The beginning is the toughest part of learning how to do anything new, so don’t be hard on yourself and try to push through.
Make a list of themes and topics you want to write about, and select one topic at a time. Get down several sentences that revolve around the topic, build them into paragraphs, and then turn the narrative into verses. The more you write, the better you get at it. After all, it’s a learned skill and with some effort and consistency, you can master it!