Tips For Writing Lyrics, Part 1

1) Know what you want to say in both your lyrics and your music

The very first, most important thing you need to know before you start writing lyrics is what you want to say. It sounds obvious I know, but many beginners neglect this step and start scrambling around maniacally for words to fit the latest awesome riff or groove they’ve produced. This generally doesn’t work. That said, there’s nothing wrong with writing the music first, then the lyrics. If you are a lyricist and someone else writes the music then this will always be the case! You just need to ask yourself how the music makes you feel and use that as a starting point for the words. You can then connect the feeling/starting point to a real life situation (or a random newspaper clipping if you’re David Bowie…). already better, if you understand the situation that prompted you to create the music then you can use that in your lyrics to good effect.

Once you have a starting point – a feeling – that is shared to both the music and the lyrics, then often words and notes alike will flow!

2) Start with a Catchphrase

If you have a feeling or a thought as a starting point (as described in tip 1), it can often be useful to summarise it as a catchphrase. It could be as long as a associate of sentences or as short as a associate of words. This will often form your chorus lyrics. So for example, Stevie surprise, when writing about his daughter Aisha, sang ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. He wrote a whole lot of other lyrics in that song but I bet that line was the first one he thought of. Everything else most likely flowed from there.

3) Decide on a Person and a Tone

Who is it who is singing this song and who are they singing it to? Are they singing it to a lover as in Barry White’s ‘Just The Way You Are’ or are they describing a woman to someone else as in ‘Maneater’ by Hall and Oates? What is the tone of the singer? Angry, tender, sarcastic, wistful? Deciding who is singing to whom and in what tone they are singing makes the time of action of writing lyrics a whole lot simpler. If you’re feeling really confident you could already alter these characteristics between the verse and chorus for contrast. This will happen naturally in a duet such as Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ but it could easily happen to good effect in a solo performance too!

In part two we will be dealing with tools that can help you (rhyming dictionaries and thesaurus’) and the space in your life where you write!

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