Are you writing the words for a song, and finding it’s all a bit disjointed or unconnected?
Learn how to make lyrics flow in a song better and you’ll have a piece that tells a story. The lyrics are often the heart of the track and the element to which we most relate. They can be simple or complex, but they must fit together and make some sense.
In this article, we’ll reveal the secrets of songwriting and show you how to make your tracks lyrically seamless as well as encouraging your audience to keep listening.
How to make lyrics flow in a song better
While some pop tunes have very basic lyrics they can still be a narrative lynchpin. We all have some songs we can sing word for word, because we’ve listened to them so often, or because they’re especially catchy. It’s usual for artists to encourage a crowd to join in with the words, a cappella, during a live performance. At this point, the melody is stripped away, leaving the lyrics to speak for themselves.
Even songs that have nonsense lyrics have a sense of flow. Here are some examples of tracks that lead with gibberish lyrics:
La La La by Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith
MMMBop by Hanson
Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) by My Chemical Romance
And Lionel Ritchie made up a fake African language for his bridge in All Night Long (it kicks in here at the two-minute mark).
These songs aren’t nonsense right the way through, rather utilising a little gibberish for a bridge, breakdown or chorus.
What is flow in a song?
The flow in a song is the sense of movement and cohesion. This can be both lyrical and melodic. It is possible to create a piece that’s purposely discordant or edgy. But it’s better to be aware of how the flow works first, then break the rule knowing how that impacts the listener. Many edgy, out-there and apparently unconventional artists – like Bjork – have actually studied music in great depth and fully understand how song structure works.
Getting a flow in song lyrics
So how do you go about getting this flow, on a practical level? Here is a checklist for elements and actions that help create a sense of flow.
Measure the syllables and beats
This might be the least obvious factor, but you need to get mathematical if you want your song to flow. The syllables you use in your lyrics should fit comfortably within the beat structure. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it does have to be rhythmical. Many musicians can just feel this, but if this isn’t the case for you, or something isn’t quite right, try playing and singing your song along to a metronome.
This is the flip side of your song. It’s what governs the feeling that you create with it, rather than the structure. By keeping the same emotion throughout, you’ll automatically provide continuity. This might be rage, joy, sadness or even fear. It gives the audience something to relate and latch onto. Emotion has a lot to do with performance. But you can aid this by using emotive words in your lyrics.
This is not imperative. Some songs rhyme, some do not. It will depend on your genre. If you plan on writing rap, grime or hip-hop, the rhyme will be a more pronounced ingredient than in a love ballad. However, rhyme is pleasing to the ear and sounds clever. So if you can, or if you’re not quite getting that flow, adding in a few rhymes is a nifty shortcut. There are different types of rhymes. But in general, end rhymes, slant rhymes and internal rhymes work best for songs.
Have a story or message
Not only will having a message or story in your lyrics help with your narrative flow, but it’ll also invite the listener to care. And if they care, they’re interested. If they’re interested they’ll stay tuned. And they’ll continue to seek out your music. A story is an easier vehicle for flow, as, by nature, it will follow a fairly linear journey. But if you’re very clear about your message and stay with it throughout, it should also make sense.
Keep it simple
While lyrics are hugely important, they’re not the only component. Match them up with the melody and genre in terms of how complex they are. Again, with rap, you’ll need more words, but pop songs demand a level of simplicity, particularly if there’s already a lot going on in the beat. Dance music requires minimalism. Don’t try to be clever and know when to stop. The simpler they are, the easier it will be to make them flow.
Brush up on language and grammar
Writers – even songwriters – need to understand how words work. You don’t want to have grammatical errors in your work unless it’s the intentional inclusion of slang or street-talk.
Say it out loud
Remember, your audience won’t be reading your lyrics like a piece of poetry. They might look nice on paper, but it’s all about how they sound. By speaking and singing them, you’ll get a better idea of what is and isn’t flowing. You can also use the sounds of language to your advantage. Assonance is particularly handy, as well as a sprinkling of alliteration.
How to write good song lyrics
If you want to write a song that sells, get a hook. While the concept of the hook has been around for a while, it’s become more and more of a vital ingredient in contemporary music. It doesn’t need to be lyrical, it can be musical. But if you’re creating lyrics, it’s worth adding one in, maybe even two as you can have word and music hooks. The hook should be repeated and ideally stand out from the rest of the lyrics, by using different words, but on the same theme. Is there a phrase unique to you that you use all the time? Or a funky saying that would work well? Listen to what’s going on around you and glean from it. You can check out some great examples of different types of hooks in this article.
How to write pop lyrics that flow
Pop as a genre is very wide and sees a huge amount of variation. It’s fair to say that grime music will usually have the same sorts of themes and contain predictable ingredients like a particular rhythmic beat and a lot of wordy rhymes. Folk will almost always be acoustic and tell a story. Dance is heavily electronic and repetitive. But with pop, you can be dealing with anything from a slow emotive ballad, to a bubblegum teen uptempo tune, to a rap and indie mashup. Knowing your style will help here. Look at successful artists producing music like yours. What are their lyrics like? Are they uber-simple, or wordier? If you’re going for a message based song or a very loose story, try to retain a sense of theme. If you do want to deviate with a little contrast, put this in as a bridge or hook.
How to write meaningful lyrics
You should also write about what you know and feel. This way there’ll be a degree of a natural flow, particularly if storytelling. You can be vague or very specific in the way you tell your tale. And you can speak from the first (you) or third (someone else) person. For examples of these styles, check out Rag’n’Bone Man’s Skin in the first person and Lily Allen’s 22 in the third person. It tends to be that more emotional songs will be in the first person. But some artists specialise in storytelling about others, Lily being one who often follows this pattern.
How can I make a song better?
There are many processes that’ll help refine the track – like editing, mixing and mastering. But these won’t do anything for your actual lyrics, so your raw material will need to be good. It may be wise to get some feedback, either from a music professional or by asking your followers to let you know what they think, pre-release. You may also want to get together with peer musicians and offer one another some feedback on your work. Recording studios will also provide artist development packages that include feedback services.
It’s always good to learn by listening. Check out your favourite artists and see if you can identify the ways in which their lyrics flow. Try to emulate these elements without copying. While there are many tips and tricks we can offer, music appreciation is subjective and success comes from many different routes. So it could be you find something totally out of the box that works brilliantly.
How do you make a catchy tune for a song?
An important element in modern pop songs is the hook. Musically, this is best when it’s quite repetitive. You should also build a great chorus with some toe-tapping beats (if it’s an up-tempo number). Keep your melody straightforward so it’s easy for non-musicians to sing along.
What song has the least amount of lyrics?
Blink and you’ll miss the song with the fewest lyrics. Wehrmacht’s E is over in a second and has just one vowel as its ‘lyric’. But this is a novelty song. In terms of mainstream music, you don’t need a lot of words. Beck’s Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime has few lyrics yet was a big hit.
What is the best songwriting app?
If you’re a lyricist, Rhymers’ Block is excellent. It takes your words and enables you to rhyme them. This is great if you have a message or story to tell, but are struggling to make them sound poetic. Song-Writer Lite: Write Lyrics is also good, as is Hum, Simple Songwriter and Word Palette.
Have you struggled to make your lyrics flow? Which part of writing do you find most challenging and how have you overcome it? Share your thoughts on songwriting in the comments below.