Having unique songs helps you stand out in the music industry. But how do you go about creating them and what do you need to begin?
If you’re getting started with songwriting lyrics you’ll need to make some decisions. Some lyricists use existing tunes, others write their words first. Evaluating who you’re writing for in terms of audience and genre is also important.
In this article, we take you through the first steps of lyric writing for beginners, including the factors you need to consider before you begin.
Getting started with writing lyrics
Are you burning to write your own songs? Do you have something you want to say and need an outlet for your message or stories? Writing lyrics is poetic and doesn’t require much musical knowledge – although it can help.
Whether you have the urge to get creative in this way or want to stand out by having unique songs to sing, being able to write your own words is very useful. Covers will take you so far, but original music gets you noticed and potentially even signed as an emerging artist. Many funds and grants for musicians will apply to those who are recording new and unique music.
Lyric writing – getting started
Lyric writing is something anyone can achieve if they put their mind to it, but it’s important to understand that lyric writing takes a lot of discipline and dedication. Lyric writing is a very personal process; everyone will have a different style and approach but there are some basic principles to help write efficiently.
How to write good lyrics
Of course, it’s not just a case of getting some words down. To be taken seriously you need to be able to write lyrics that audiences will love.
But remember you’re just getting started, and that can be the hardest bit, especially if you’re being overly critical. Often the key to getting the good stuff is volume. If you want to write creatively – whether novels, short stories, poems or lyrics – it’s a good idea to get into a practice of freewriting. This is where you sit with pen and paper, or a screen and just write or type whatever comes into your head for five minutes. It can be total nonsense, disconnected and incoherent – in fact, the more rubbish it is, the better!
This technique may sound silly, but it’s a tried and tested exercise that actually helps you focus your thoughts and get into the habit of letting the words flow. You may find some useful ideas or themes come from this, but don’t try to make it good. Just let your subconscious take over. Then afterwards, you can work on getting some lyrics down.
Using a lyric generator
Another way to take your first steps is to use a tool, like a lyric generator, that does the job for you. Longer-term and if you want to write lyrics for albums, you’ll need to be able to work from scratch. But in the meantime, this method will help you understand how to put rhymes together, incorporate genres and specific words and make lines scan with music. (‘Scan’ refers to making the phrases that are sung or rapped, fit with the musical phrases). The tool will ask you about your genre, topics, themes and length of the song, then create some words for you. Use these as a springboard to edit and work from.
How do you write a song?
Lyric writing – top tips for beginners
There is no right or wrong way of doing it but in general, you will find lyric writing much easier if you sort the melody first. Every songwriter’s process is different, but more often than not the melody will come more naturally than lyric writing!.
Tips for lyric writing
If writing the melody is not your strong point then look to work with a musician, someone who can play the guitar and/or piano to assist you. Searching social media or listings online and attending music jams or open mic nights is a good way to source like-minded songwriters to work with.
Once the melody is down, get lyric writing. Write whatever comes into your head and don’t edit your thoughts. Write down any of your thoughts or record yourself talking over the melody if you find it easier than trying to write the words.
Alternatively and a good exercise when starting out is to try lyric writing of other artist’s songs in a different way by selecting your favourite songs and downloading the lyrics. Try and come up with different lyrics for every line.
It’s good practice and will help you develop your songwriting skills. It will particularly help with structure and ensuring the lyrics scan across the melody, a really good fun way into lyric writing.
This also doubles up as a great way to do a creative cover or come up with a track that is completely different if it develops to be original.
Write until no more words pop into your head. Once the basics are down, you can start tweaking the words you have written. Even if they don’t make sense at first, eventually the right lyrics will jump off the page.
Writing song lyrics without music
Often lyricists work with a melody. But this is not always the case. Even some of the greatest composers will work around someone else’s words. If you’ve seen the film Rocketman, you’ll know that Elton John found it difficult to create tunes without inspiration, so developed a life-long partnership with wordsmith Bernie Taupin. At the time they began, both songwriters were unknown but together have created some of the best-known songs on the planet.
Writing lyrics before the music
If you have something you want to say, then writing your words first may be the best option. That way you’re free to put it exactly as you want, without musical constraints. And if you’re a rapper, your lyrics will certainly be front and centre, most likely coming before any beats.
If you want to tell a heartfelt story, then write your lyrics first. The caveat is that you’ll need to find a good composer to set them to music – or learn how to do that yourself too.
How to write a song from the heart
This is where your freewriting exercise helps. It enables you to access your feelings and stream of consciousness. Many writers like Stormzy and Lily Allen like to write songs on issues they feel passionate about.
Love songs have always made for fantastic, passionate pieces – Adele’s heartfelt lyrics have long been blowing audiences away. Love songs or those about heartbreak don’t need to be ballads though. Little Mix and Justin Bieber have, among others, written notable tracks about exes for example.
Have a think about the issues you care about, things you want to communicate and experiences you’ve had that you’d like to share.
How to write a song for kids – the lyric writing process
When thinking about topics, don’t forget about younger audiences. Spotify has just launched an app for kids, recognising the demand and the number of streamed music children consume.
Writing a song that’s popular for kids can be slightly different though. So here are some tips specifically for this…
Lyric writing – be patient
There is no right or wrong when it comes to lyric writing but its likely everyone will suffer from songwriter’s block at some point! Don’t worry if this happens to you, just be patient. You can never force it so wait for inspiration and do some freewriting in the meantime.
You also need to take breaks. If you’re feeling inspired keep going, but if you’ve hit a wall, take time out to do something else for a while. You may also want to try writing in different places and at different times of day, to find out what works best for you. Some songwriters go away on retreats to spend time alone when trying to write.
Don’t expect immediate results when you’re lyric writing. It will potentially take lots of goes until everything gels; perhaps hundreds and hundreds so don’t be too critical of your work, to begin with.
Don’t be afraid to leave a song if you’re not feeling it – great songs take chemistry and sometimes the hook and essence of the song can come together in minutes. Other times songs take days and days, so there’s no need to force it, know when to let it go and just start a new song.
Over time, your experience will tel you when to keep working on a piece and when to walk away. But you’re just getting started, so grab some paper and get writing!
- What do you call a songwriter?
The term ‘songwriter’ covers those who write the music and words of a song. Someone who only writes lyrics, but not music may be called a lyricist. Whereas someone who writes only music may be called a composer. The individual terms are more commonly used in genres like musical theatre.
- How can I make songwriting easier?
Collaborating with others makes it much easier. Most songwriters do this – some crossover roles, while others stick to purely words or musical composition. Teaming up shares the load and helps when you get writers’ block.
- How can I become a good songwriter?
Follow the work of others, listen to excellent songwriters to pick up tips. Study musical composition to understand the technicality of it. Take time to be alone so you can concentrate and let the music flow. Request feedback from experienced musicians. Then keep at it until you improve.
How did you get started with songwriting lyrics? Have you written anything you’d like to share with us? Post a link in the comments below.