Top Tips on Creative Lyric Writing
Dive in to our top tips on creative lyric writing
Many essential things make an excellent song: the melody, the harmony, and the vocals. However, lyrics are also one of the most important aspects of building incredible songs.
They act as the song’s anchor, enabling the audience to identify with you. Therefore, you need to write the best lyrics to appeal to your audience.
Some of the best songwriters include John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Elton John, Chuck Berry, Freddie Mercury, Damon Albarn, Mick Jagger, and Neil Young.
They all have one thing in common: the ability to pull the audience together with their incredible lyrics—resulting in extraordinary music.
In this article, we will teach you creative lyric writing and how to write incredible music that encapsulates your audience.
What Are Lyrics?
Let’s begin with the basics. Lyrics are simply the words of a song. Simple, right? Anyone can write words, but not everyone can craft beautiful lyrics.
When people refer to a lyric, this is simply one word in a song.
Certain sections of a song may involve repetitive lyrics, such as the chorus. In addition, some artists—especially rappers—will use rhymes to make their lyrics flow.
Traditionally, the artist or band member responsible for lyrics is also the vocalist. However, there are many songwriting professionals who you’ve never heard of.
Bernie Taupin was Elton John’s songwriting partner; he wrote many of Elton’s most successful songs, including “Candle in the Wind” as a tribute to Princess Diana after her death in 1997.
You can also perform lyrics in other ways than singing. Punk artists will often scream their lyrics, and rap artists will often rap their lyrics.
Another way to deliver creative lyric writing is through speaking, which artists sometimes use in sections of a song. However, it’s not always common with certain artists.
What is a Lyricist?
Although the performer of the lyrics is often called the vocalist, the person who writes the lyrics is the lyricist. Another popular term—perhaps unsurprisingly—is songwriter for someone who writes lyrics.
However, there can be more than one lyricist in a song; John Lennon and Paul McCartney were co-lyricists on many songs.
But they often wrote songs alone, such as John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be”.
So let’s break it down once more:
- Lyrics: the phrase lyrics refers to the words of a song.
- Lyric: the phrase lyric can refer to a single word or a phrase of a song.
- Lyricist: someone or a group of people who write the lyrics of a song.
How To Write Lyrics
So now you understand what lyrics are, it’s time to learn how to write them. Songwriting is a mysterious process for many people. And many musicians have different methods for creating excellent lyrics for each part of the song.
Some will wake up in the morning and simply write perfect lyrics, whereas others must be in specific locations—such as the middle of a forest—to write their best lyrics and song form.
Here’s the moral of the story: like many creative pursuits, you must find out what works for you. In many cases, unconventional methods work the best.
However, we’re going to give you 7 steps to get you off the ground:
Determine Your Lyric Goals
Before putting your pen to paper, it can be useful to determine the goals of your songwriting process. Perhaps choose a few topics that naturally inspire you, such as personal love or heartbreak.
In addition, think about who will sing or speak the lyrics of the song. Are you writing your song as an emotional monologue or writing directly to the listener? Or is it simply a narration of an experience?
It can be easy to overthink at this stage. The most important thing is to get started.
However, you’ll be well on your way to writing a full page of lyrics if you have some idea about the end goal.
Just Jot Your Thoughts Down
Although it can be good to write down an end goal, the first way to create superb lyrics is by jotting down your thoughts.
You must think freely when writing down your thoughts. Don’t worry about writing nonsense lyrics.
Taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound are descriptors that bring your listener into an experience of a small moment. A small moment is a snapshot of life (i.e the scene where your song is set).
You can hear these small movements throughout the music, and it’s these moments that place a listener in the heat of a moment.
Try thinking of a specific moment in your life and writing about it. Describe what taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, and movement you felt during this time.
It doesn’t need to rhyme yet; you can get to that later. Just write, write, and write some more. Write as crazy as you want. You just need to practise getting your thoughts down on paper.
Have a Starting Point for Your Lyric Writing
The songwriting process isn’t always linear. In some sessions, you might write the second chorus first.
Whereas you might use a more chronological approach in other sessions by starting with the initial verse and following up with the pre-chorus and chorus. Always be fluid with yourself before you start writing.
Your lyric writing and song structure will go through different iterations before you achieve the end product.
So don’t stress about finding the right words for your starting point yet. Let yourself start wide open, and know that you’ll edit as needed later in the process.
If you participate in other art forms within music, you might find creating song lyrics easier after creating a melody of a beat. You might find it easier to start some songs with lyrics alone.
Whatever you choose, be confident in your lyrics and your style. The best songs and writing lyrics are made by artists who are willing to adapt their process but are always confident they can create the right end product.
Read Lyrics From Other Artists (Not The Songs)
It’s a great idea to read lyrics from other artists. Who are your favourite artists? Find the lyrics to their songs on Google and read them.
Look at how the lyrics use repetition and simple language. Also, look at how they communicate their message concisely.
Most importantly, what message does your listener walk away from the song knowing? That’s your chorus. What small moments show a superb example of that main message? That’s your first verse.
Once you master writing lyrics, you can listen to your favourite songs in more depth.
Look at the Conversational Quality of Writing Song Lyrics
Perhaps the most important tip for writing sensational lyrics is to write as you speak. That’s how the listener can connect with the artist.
We write in English, we speak English, and we have meaningful conversations and stories in English. Unfortunately, as soon as people start singing lyrics, we believe our skills aren’t enough.
Many aspiring songwriters try too hard to create poetic language. They become obscenely abstract and poetic. As a result, they forget what they’re trying to say in the first place, resulting in lyrics that don’t connect with listeners.
Repeat this to yourself: the best quality of a songwriter is authenticity. Write like you would if you were telling a story to a small group of friends who enjoy what you say.
Choose Your Song Structure for Lyric Writing
If you want song lyrics that make sense melodically and rhythmically, you must understand basic song structures.
Therefore, determine which phrases and words to choose in your chorus, your bridge, first verse, pre-chorus, etc.
Here’s how the most popular song structures go:
- VERSE – CHORUS – VERSE – CHORUS
- INTRO – VERSE – CHORUS – VERSE – BRIDGE – CHORUS
- VERSE – CHORUS – BRIDGE – CHORUS
Although many songs stray from these three song structures, it’s a good idea to stick with the tried and tested song structures above.
That’s until you’ve mastered the ability to write song lyrics, of course. The most important action here is grouping your thoughts into their own subsections.
Here are some essential parts you’ll want to focus on:
- The hook: The hook is a short musical phrase that presents itself within a chorus. They are memorable, catchy, and encompass the sentiment of a song within a few words. The Beatles were masters of a good hook.
- The chorus: The chorus is the catchiest section of your song, so the lyrics must be on point.
- The song title: The title of the song will draw a listener to the song. Therefore, you’ll want to make the song’s title central to the theme of the song. It’s also a good idea to incorporate the title of the song in your hook.
However, always remember that not all components of a song are important. But you’ll always need to give extra attention to the hook, chorus, and song title when writing songs.
These are the make-or-break aspects of a song, and they’ll draw your listeners in and keep them listening.
Ensure Your Song Has an Arc
Once you have a basic song structure, ensure your song lyrics convey a story. Do your lyrics build tension, and do they tell a story that guides a listener from one point to another? Any excellent song has a clear beginning, middle, and end. The lyrics will mould into these sections.
Therefore, scan your chorus, verse, and bridge. Do they all work independently? If not, you’ll want to refine your sections.
Look at which lyrics stick with you as a listener. What makes them emotionally impactfully? Take your time to analyse the lyrics.
Don’t Try to Write Long Lyrics
Some aspiring songwriters want to write long lyrics. However, writing a simple verse—i.e four to six lines—is a great place to begin. Alternatively, start a song with the chorus and craft your verses from there.
However, simplicity can be challenging to master. The longer your lyrics, the greater the chance of confusion.
Work With Other Songwriters
Collaboration, especially with better songwriters than you, is crucial for becoming an excellent songwriter.
There’s a greater chance you’ll become a better songwriter if you bounce your songwriting energy with other songwriters. You’ll soon realise how closely linked lyric rhythm is to a melodic rhythm.
However, try to make collaboration as frequent as possible. That’s how you’ll truly learn how to write lyrics.
Put Your Lyrics to the Melody
Once you have a draft of your lyrics, it’s time to start matching them to a melody if you haven’t already.
If you have some experience as a musician, it can be very helpful to try a chord progression on the instrument of your choice to find the perfect melody.
If you don’t play any musical instruments, it’s a smart idea to collaborate with someone who does. In the worst-case scenario, look up a chord progression online and try to put a melody to it.
The process will be intuitive, so don’t let it scare you as many people do. Many famous melodies only include new notes, so it doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. Just ask Paul McCartney.
Fine Tune the Lyrics for Singing and Catchiness
The first verse you create likely won’t be the best one. Before you finalise the song, always take time to fine-tune the lyrics.
Are the consonant sounds in the right places? Is the chorus memorable and catchy? Are the words easy to remember?
Sometimes, you should completely change the entire song when it’s nearly complete when writing song lyrics.
Learn To Break Through Writer’s Block
Don’t worry if you ever feel burnt out when writing; it’s normal. A great way to beat writers is by varying your creative process.
If you normally create the music first and then the lyrics after, why not try switching it around?
Do you normally play chords and then create a melody on top? Again, try doing it the other way around. Do you write the first verse before the second verse? Try the opposite.
In addition, try writing a song on a completely different instrument from what you’re used to. You can kickstart your creative senses by moving out of your comfort zone.
Create a Song You Can Play Live
It’s important to create a song that you can play live in the modern era. Today, music production software enables you to create superb digital symphonies at a home recording studio.
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an excellent tool for writing lyrics, but you should also consider how you’ll play the song live.
However, if you’re writing music for yourself or friends and family, you might not care about how the sound sounds live. That enables you to create whatever you want.
Practice Over and Over Again
When writing song lyrics, you need to practise time and time again. It’s the only way you’ll get good at the art of writing your own songs. Plenty of songwriters take weeks to master a song, and most songwriters take years to master songwriting.
The most challenging part of the songwriting process is the learning process itself. After some time, crafting your own songs will become second nature. You might find it easier to write songs if you plan to write a specific amount of songs weekly.
At the end of the day, don’t feel down if you don’t love your lyrics at first. For every killer song written, there are hundreds of songs that never made it. Finding your perfect song can take time. Pat yourself on the back for learning the songwriting process.
Most importantly, practice until you’re blue in the face. There’s no secret to mastering writing a great song. It’s a skill that you need to learn.
Questions To Ask Yourself About The Lyrics
Have You Written Enough?
As songwriters, we’re the ones who know the story of the lyrics. We know what we’re trying to tell the audience.
However, there’s a danger in assuming the audience knows what you’re writing about. Therefore, you must ask yourself whether you’ve said enough.
Make sure the lyrics are clear to a listener when they hear the song for the first time.
Remember, the average listener doesn’t have the benefit of being inside your head; it’s your job to bring themselves inside your head. If you don’t tell the story well, edit and keep writing lyrics.
Have You Used Detail In Your Verses?
Veres are where you tell the most detail about your stories. Have you ever heard the phrase: “a picture speaks a thousand words”? That phrase couldn’t be any more true for your verses. So be sure to maximise the lyrics to tell the best story.
Furthermore, good song lyrics don’t go overboard in the verses. If your verses are too long, you could confuse your listener. So, ensure you find the right balance.
Have You Already Said It?
One of the pitfalls many songwriters fall into is saying the same thing too many times. Repetition can be excellent when writing lyrics, but you must find the right balance.
Every line of every verse is an opportunity to move the story on to the next details/information.
Can You Remove And, But, and Cause?
In many forms of writing, the words ‘and’ or ‘but’ are fantastic coordinating conjunctions that make your writing flow. However, it might be a good idea to remove these when you write song lyrics.
If they’re not used properly, or you overuse them, these words can be distracting to the listener. Many good songwriters try to minimise these words to help the lyrics flow naturally. So, see if you can remove these words when lyric writing to smoothen the lyrics.
Is Everything You’re Writing Related to The Song’s Hook and Message?
You should always ensure the song’s point is driven throughout the song. A common mistake new songwriters make is writing lyrics that don’t match the song’s hook.
For example, if you’re building a song around an overall metaphor—such as the ocean—you should stay away from lyrics that don’t relate.
Is It Hard to Write Song Lyrics?
Lyric writing can be challenging if it’s not organised. Songwriting requires certain skills and methods to keep you focused.
Here are some reasons songwriting could be hard:
- Words and music don’t always fit
- Writer’s block could affect anyone
- You may need to learn some music theory
- You don’t play an instrument
- Songs are a complex mixture of moving parts
If you want to write song lyrics, you should follow the tips in this article. It will make writing great songs easier, but good lyrics will always be challenging—even for the best musicians. If it was easy, everyone would write music, right?
Can I Write Songs Without Playing an Instrument?
Don’t worry if you can’t play an instrument: you can still write excellent lyrics. Although writing music is indeed far more comfortable when you know how to play the guitar, piano, or other instruments—playing an instrument isn’t a requirement for being an excellent songwriter.
To be a good songwriter, you’ll need a good musical ear, the ability to connect with an audience, a mastery of language, an understanding of musical styles, and the willingness to collaborate.
If you have these qualities, you can write excellent music without an instrument.
However, learning to play an instrument is rewarding, and an incredible teacher. It can enhance your lyric writing hugely, but it’s not essential.
How Important is Harmonising?
The most challenging aspect of songwriting, especially if you’re new to the music creative process, is harmonising. You’ll need to build great harmony alongside your lyrics to create a successful song.
However, don’t worry about harmonising if you’re new to lyric writing. It’s a skill that can come later. First, focus on lyrics, and everything will follow.
What’s the Difference Between Good and Great Songwriting?
The key difference between average songwriters is one word: consistency. It’s probably the only thing that separates famous songwriters from someone who makes music as a hobby on the side.
You can stumble on an excellent song idea that grabs everyone’s attention. However, the chances of stumbling on a great song twice are slim.
Songwriters who consistently write excellent lyrics do the following things:
- Study the technique of songwriting
- Don’t accept food songs; instead, always strive for greatness
- Consistently write (even when they don’t feel like doing so)
- Develop the skill of listening to their own songs with objectivity
- Always willing to get advice from other musicians
Whether you’re trying to grow an audience on social media, trying to grab the attention of music personnel, or writing songs for your own pleasure—the key is to strive for consistency. It’s the real proof of excellence.
How Long to Write a Good Song?
There’s no direct answer to how long it takes to write a good song. Why? Because some songwriters can churn out classics in minutes, whereas other songwriters take weeks to complete one song.
Here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter. Do whatever works for you when creating your own music.
Now, of course, if you’re signed to a record company, they may have deadlines. As a result, you may need to speed up your creative process.
That said, the average songwriter can take as long as they need. Paul McCartney famously wrote the lyrics to “Let It Be” within 5 minutes after waking up from a dream.
Learn To Write Song Lyrics Today
The process of writing great songs may seem like an overwhelming art form, but you can master it and write better lyrics with an excellent songwriting course.
By choosing a course on learning to write lyrics, you’ll create memorable music in no time. Not only that, you can learn how to calculate songwriting splits, understand the full creative process, learn content and genre, and the top songwriting tips from experts.