Many songwriters find writing music easy but feel a deep sense of panic when it comes time to match their ideas with lyrics. Lyric writing is a skill that can be developed with time, practice, and experimentation. Try these three tips to hone your lyrical skills in songwriting:
Avoid the obvious and literal in your lyrics
Lyrics do more than fill up space in your verses and choruses. It has the potential to say something meaningful and connect you to your audience with a compelling story. For example, draw from a personal experience and tell your story in an engaging way. You can do this by injecting poetry or humor into your storytelling. No matter how you go about it, put yourself in the listener’s shoes and deliver a message that resonates with them. Paint a picture with your words and create a story to enhance the musical features of your song.
Strike a balance between what reads well and sounds good
There’s an art in creating strong lyrics that spin an interesting story and fit seamlessly into the musicality of your songs. Aim for the sweet spot where your lyrics tell a cohesive story while serving the unique feel of your song’s musical features. Doing this takes a lot of work, so don’t expect to nail it on the first couple of tries. You’ll typically get your best lyrics by writing down what sounds and feels natural. You can further edit your lyrics to distill an entertaining message that fits your music.
Incorporate freewriting into your songwriting process
Freewriting is the act of writing down whatever comes to mind without editing. It’s an exercise that will help unlock lyrical ideas and get you comfortable with putting your thoughts down on paper. This isn’t the same thing as writing lyrics, though you’re welcome to use what you come up with during specific sessions if you’re satisfied. Instead, freewriting is a good starting place if you’re not comfortable with writing lyrics. It’s also a valuable practice if you have plenty of experience and want to boost your creativity. Freewriting can easily be incorporated into your weekly songwriting routine. Jot down the first thoughts you have after waking up in the morning or take 15 minutes to do it before you start writing songs.
Writing poetry, short stories, or even just journaling regularly will help you write better lyrics. You’ll become a better lyricist and songwriter if you can weave personal writing into your daily routine. It’s also worth noting that writing lyrics is hard for some songwriters because it takes some level of vulnerability. If you can grapple with that and overcome your fears, you’ll be able to connect with your thoughts, experiences, and feelings in an authentic and creative way.
Kristopher Wayton - January 24, 2023
Great advice and observations. I would add “first pull from your own experiences”. It’s hard to come across as credible when you, uh, aren’t.
Steve Forshaw - April 6, 2023
Lyrics serve different purposes for different genres.
Catchy pop tunes don’t need Bob Dylan and hip hop rap grime benefits from well balanced people with chips on both shoulders.
The greatest songs tend to have onomatopoeic lyrics
Exemplified by the great writers of the mid twentieth century.Hoagy Carmichael is a good example.
Lyrics should not be an afterthought if you don’t want chip paper songs.