How to Write Lyrics and Get Started as a Songwriter for the First Time 15 Tips
Getting started writing lyrics can often be quite a daunting thought. You want to write good songs, but it’s sometimes hard to know the best place to start. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can follow to help simplify the songwriting process.
Knowing how to put together a good song is essential if you want to be in with a good chance of doing well as an artist, songwriter, or in the music industry generally. Need help writing lyrics? We have the 15 best tips on writing a song.
If you don’t know how to write effectively, you’re going to struggle to write something that you’ll look back on and be proud of. Below are 13 ideas for how you can go about getting started with songwriting.
Tips on writing a song – the basics
Know the best ways to create an original piece of music isn’t the easiest thing to do, but there are plenty of simple tips for writing your first song below.
Following these tips will certainly help you with writing a good first song:
- Focus on quality, not quantity
- Think of a topic
- Relate the music to the lyrics (and vice versa)
- Think of vocal hooks
- Think up simple metaphors
- Focus on writing a killer chorus
- Create great verses
- Write a contrasting bridge section
- Make an intro and outro
- Make sure you rhyme well
- Find the right songwriting process for you
- Use tools and apps
- Let your creativity flow
- Take your time
- Get people’s feedback on your song
Can you write songs if you can’t sing?
Writing lyrics is something anyone can achieve if they put their mind to it, but it’s important to understand that writing lyrics takes a lot of discipline and dedication.
Lyrics writing is a very personal process, everyone will have a different style and approach but here are some basic principles to help write efficiently.
Most importantly, you don’t need to be able to sing to write songs! Many successful songwriters create songs and then give or sell their songs to other artists.
How to write lyrics
#1 Focus on quality not quantity
Writing good lyrics is hard, but to end up stumbling upon something amazing, you have to just keep doing it.
Creating effective, appropriate lyrics isn’t as hard as you think.
You don’t need that many words
If you look at some of your favourite songs’ lyrics, you might be surprised to find that songs tend to have between 100 and 300 words. The reason why you don’t need a mass of words is that the music also carries a huge part of the narrative’s weight.
Lyrics are obviously important, but they need to be well thought out, not overly explanatory.
How do songwriters write songs?
#2 Think of a topic
Thinking of a musical and lyrical topic is a great place to start. It’s the basis of what your fans will be relating to when they listen to your song.
One way to think of a topic is by expanding on an existing line, thought or idea – if it really resonates with you then now is your time to start brainstorming.
Alternatively, you can just think of an experience, person, or thing and choose to expand a narrative on it.
To brainstorm ideas, think of more words and phrases connected to your chosen topic and let your creativity take over. Start expanding by moving around different aspects of your topic, but try to keep it all relating back to the topic at hand.
Use emotive language
When writing lyrics, use emotive language that will trigger some intense feelings inside the listener and of course yourself when you hear it.
How are you feeling currently? Are you feeling lonely, happy, excited, confused, or angry? When you really focus in on one emotion, you can create a clear narrative that takes the listener on a journey.
How do you write music for a song?
#3 Relate the music to the lyrics (and vice versa)
This aspect is so important to understand when you’re just starting out as a songwriter.
If you struggle to write lyrics, start with the music instead. Listen to songs that currently exist to get some inspiration and see where the music takes you.
To make a great song, it’s a good idea to make sure that the lyrics gel with the musical ideas that you form from listening to music – most professional songwriters think about this a lot when they’re creating their songs.
Make it gel
Try to match up your lyrics with your music, so if it’s a happy song then perhaps write a faster song with higher energy. If it’s a sad song lyrically then perhaps write a slower song in a minor key.
‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars is a perfect example of this – the lyrics ‘uptown funk gonna give it to you’ is reflected in the funky aspects of the music such as the dance tempo. It’s also high energy and it’s in a major key.
Some bands completely defy these conventions, but as a beginner, it’s best to stick to matching the feel of the lyrics with the music.
If you want some more advanced songwriting tips, make sure to check out this article:
How to write lyrics for a song?
#4 Think of vocal hooks
Having lyrical hooks are great too. These are phrases that you can imagine people really relating to and singing over and over again.
The first time your fans hear your song they will only hear the parts that stand out the most, this is why it’s important to have a lyrical hook in your song as well as a musical hook!
If you create the music first, you may want to follow the narrative your music creates. Words might spring to life with a melody already attached to them. Great! These little snippets, just a few seconds long, can form the vocal “hooks” that make songs catchy.
If that doesn’t work, just start speaking lyrics over the music. Vary the rhythm of your speech and the tempo that the music is played at – eventually, you’ll start gravitating to a melody that works. Once it starts, it’s easier to continue working on the rest of the song using a similar technique.
Writing song lyrics for beginners
#5 Think up simple metaphors
Metaphors are a simple thing to consider when you’re starting out and you want to make your songs stand out.
Using imagery that clearly points to your meaning, you can make the listeners aware of what’s taking place without being too literal. For example:
You’re my medicine
Is more interesting than:
I want you
No meaning is lost and what’s going on is still relatively obvious. Writing like this is more likely to resonate with your listeners because it has images that people can relate to, which is hugely important in songwriting.
Do remember though, writing metaphorical lyrics that are forced will come across as such to your fans. Be patient.
How to write a song
#6 Focus on writing a killer chorus
The chorus is a very important part of any song – it’s the part that contains the focus of the song and that you want people to relate to the most. This part of the song also contains the ‘hook’
To write catchy music in a chorus, especially in pop music, stick to just a few simple chords and focus on the melody line and lyrics to grab the listener’s attention.
To start on lyrics, 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.
There are no rules to writing a good chorus musically, however having a repeating musical idea is often a great place to start.
The ‘hook’ in the chorus
The ‘hook doesn’t have to make up the entire chorus – it could, for example, just be a few words at the start, followed by another line that works after it.
You could repeat this cycle twice to really hit home when the listeners hear it for the first time.
More on how to write a song chorus here:
#7 Create great verses
Once you’ve sorted out your chorus, you’ll need to start working on the other content of your song.
An important thing to note when you’re starting out is to keep a theme running throughout the song. Verses can deviate from the topic of the chorus, but make sure there is still an over-arching theme to the song (that also fits with the title).
In the first verse, grab your audience’s attention with a good, short, concise opening line that sets a precedent for the rest of the song. One way of doing this is taking an idea from the chorus – it could be a lyric or a melody line, but have it slightly different to when it’s heard in the chorus.
The second verse
In verse 2 you want to continue from the first verse in revealing the details of your narrative. Continue with a similar theme to verse 1 but start expanding lyrically and musically. End this with a strong lead-in to the next chorus.
How many verses should a song have?
It can have as many as you’d like there to be, most songs have two or three though.
#8 Write a contrasting bridge section
A bridge section (or middle 8) is a section towards the end of the piece (often before the last chorus) that adds that final piece to a song.
It can sometimes be instrumental, but often it has a set of lyrics that are written to go on top of it.
If you choose to have a bridge section, treat it as your ‘final’ section. It probably won’t be the last section chronologically in the song as you may want to have another chorus at the end, but treat it as the final piece of content that concludes the song lyrically.
Bridges are normally completely different to the musical content in the verses and choruses so feel free to be creative!
#9 Make an intro and an outro
This can be done at any point during the songwriting process, however, introductions and final sections are both very important parts to consider for any song.
Musically, these sections can consist of anything. You could have a slow introduction and pick it up in the verse, you could have a heavy intro followed by a more subdued verse, or you could have a loud and fast song throughout followed by an extremely calm and slow outro. It’s entirely up to you
How to write lyrics for rap
How do you write a rap song for beginners?
This is slightly different from typical songwriting because of the larger emphasis on the words that you’re writing rather than the music.
Pick a beat first. It will set you off on the right path to creating meaningful lyrics that work with a particular piece of music. After this, focus on flow.
With rap songs, it’s important to focus on how each line leads into the next. Listeners of rap music are often looking out for how well an artist or songwriter can do this.
If you want to learn how to rap, here are 5 steps for you to get started:
#10 Make sure you rhyme well
Don’t make too many of your rhyme schemes predictable. Rap is different to pop in this way.
Absolutely avoid ‘cheese’ and cliché though – don’t make your rhyming scheme to predictable either with exact rhymes all the time (for example rhyming ‘me’ with: ‘see’, ‘be’ or ‘he’). They’re definitely the foundation of rhyming, but try not to overuse them.
A great alternative to exact rhymes is near rhymes. Almost all artists use these at some point. Below is an example from Stormzy’s song “Vossi Bop” where he rhymes words that don’t exactly rhyme but don’t disrupt the flow of the song.
“You ain’t got a clue, let’s be honest
I had a couple seeds, I made a forest
I put in the work and take the profit
Lookin‘ at my girl like what a goddess”
When recording your rap songs, try to record it in one take to conserve your authenticity.
Can you write a song without an instrument?
#11 Find the right songwriting process for you
You can absolutely write a song without an instrument. Some songs start from being a poem about something that’s put to music.
If you can write lyrics without an instrument initially, it means that you can write anywhere. You’ll be able to form some ideas when you’re sitting on the bus and you suddenly get a spark of inspiration for your next song.
Experiment with different ways of writing songs; putting time and effort into seeing what works for you is the best way to be successful.
Writing song lyrics without music
#12 Use tools and apps
If you choose to get started on writing lyrics before music, it’s good to get into the habit of using tools and apps. Not only do they help store your ideas, but they are great if you like seeing parts of your song laid out visually.
Here are our top 4 tools for writing songs without music:
Music memos is an app to help record and organise your ideas on the go.
Inside the app, you can save information on your song (like lyrics, key, and chords) and edit it from there.
Later, you can record your idea on a vocal clip and start working on how it could fit with some music.
It’s very easy to organise your ideas in this app – there is an option in the bottom left icon that contains your library of ideas once you have some recorded.
If you need help with your rhyming when you’re working in lyrics, Rhymezone is the website for you.
You can simply type in any word and you’ll find out what rhymes with it – there will always be words that you won’t have thought of.
It also brings up near rhymes for when you’re feeling more adventurous.
Hum is an app dedicated to storing your songs, ideas, and lyrics all in one place. When you open the app you can click ‘add song’ to get started.
You can colour code your projects just in case you have multiple ideas for one song.
Information like the key, capo needed and feel of the song can be inputted in for reference.
Composing music without an instrument
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
They always have a built-in guitar, drum, and keyboard sounds that you can input into a track and playback whilst you write to help form the song. This gives you the option to record audio tracks.
They have so many options for editing your song ideas together that they will keep your ideas flowing for hours.
Use a pen and paper
Nowadays lots of songwriters will use apps or programs like Microsoft Word, which are great for writing lyrics, but they don’t quite hold the authenticity of the traditional methods of songwriting and writing in general.
You might find that the visceral experience of physically writing some of your ideas down will help you when you start work on your first song
How to come up with song lyrics
#13 Let your creativity flow
If you’ve already started your first song, you may have spent ages thinking about the perfect line that you want to write, but no matter what, you can’t think of that line.
If you’re struggling on this, don’t worry. A good trick is just to not dwell on one line or one exact phrase – move on and come back to it later.
Stuck in a rut? move on to a different section of the song or a different song altogether. You could even stop what you’re doing and try going for a walk to clear your mind.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure to keep your work productive and ‘flowing’ – as soon as it isn’t, realise what’s happened, take a step back and move on to something else. You’ll become much more at ease with the process when you do this.
Here are 5 ways to help fix writer’s block:
How can I become a good songwriter?
#14 Take your time
Unless there’s a specific deadline that you need your song finished by, there is no rush. Take your time and know that you don’t have to write all of your song in one go.
Even after you’ve finished a song, you might want to re-visit it and change some of the words to make them better – it’s a great way to become a better songwriter and writing multiple songs and reviewing them further down the line.
#15 Get people’s feedback on your song
It’s easy to lose sight of how good or bad your song is after you’ve spent hours and hours working, changing and creating it by yourself. So finding someone you trust to give honest advice is always a great thing to do.
Anyone else who has an opinion you value, ask them to critique your song for you. You might just find they have some fantastic insight into how it could be improved.
Ask them to critique both the lyrics and the music to get a balanced opinion
Don’t just play it to someone who might be afraid to hurt your feelings – you want honest, genuine feedback to make your song the best it can possibly be!
Have you already written your first song? What advice would you give to others getting started? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!