Ever get it when you have something you feel very strongly about, and when you try to express those feelings through lyrics, they just don’t seem to form very well?
Maybe you’ve got some lyrics already, but you don’t feel they are good enough?
Or maybe you just want to write good musical lines, but don’t know where to start?
Writing song lyrics can be a personal, challenging process that pushes you to express yourself as an individual, and sometimes it can take a long time to improve.
So here are 5 steps to writing song lyrics that will help to clearly express yourself, as well as to understand yourself a bit more, by uncovering what topics to write about that works best for you.
(At the end, I’m including lyrics from the first ever song I wrote. What inspired me to write them? My love of fair maidens, Tenacious D, and knights in shiny, shining armour!)
1. Choose your theme
This will be the thing you want to write about. Is it a personal story? An issue/ topic you feel strongly about? A romance? A loved one? You can write about anything, no matter how vague, obscure, generic, boring, or out there it is. If you feel the urge to write lyrics about it, then thats all that matters.
The more strongly you feel about a particular theme/ subject, the easier it will be to write lyrics about them. If its about a sensitive topic, don’t think about showing them to anyone for now. Expressing yourself with writing doesn’t mean you need to make your work public. That part is secondary. I’ve written plenty of lyrics about things I feel strongly about that I have never shown to anyone, simply because it helped me to clear the air about those things, giving me a sense of relief afterwards, as well as a deeper understanding of those topics.
2. First Words
There are a number of different ways to start writing, but the most important thing is that you start. Once you’ve done so, and gotten those first words down, the whole process becomes easier, because you’ll have something to build from. To start writing, do any/ all of the following;
- Intend to write. Once you’ve set an intention, you’ll find the first words will come more easily.
- Pretend you’re talking to someone about your theme, expressing your opinion/ view.
- Start writing. Keep the topic in mind, and start writing words. This will start out messy and maybe off-topic, but you will quickly be writing a lot in a short amount of time. Don’t worry that it doesn’t all rhyme, or make sense; you are just getting your first words down, and can sort through it after. One point to make here is that you will probably go off-topic; when you do, simply remind yourself of the main topic.
An example of the last step may look something like this;
(Theme: Feeling confused about my direction in life)
Life choices. Dense words heavy to fall. Where am I going? Why do I not know? When will I know? Does anybody care? Oh god. I’m falling in an evergreen pasture of fleeting ambience. Time is a killer and my life is the victim.
If first words elude you here, you can skip to the next section, as it works just as well to uncover your first song lyrics. Note that the first few lyrics you create don’t necessarily have to be the first lines of the song; they could be the chorus, or verse, etc. Structuring comes later; writing lyrics that mean something to you is the main thing here.
3. Delve deeper…
Think about the specific details of your theme. Why is it you feel inspired to write about this topic? How does it make you feel? What does it mean for you? What does it make you want to do? Asking yourself questions like this that make you reflect and think about your theme will give you song lyrics.
What you’re doing here is tapping into the strongest points of emotion you feel in relation to your chosen theme, and using those feelings as a well to draw words from. It can be a very intuitive process if you let it happen.
One problem can be barriers we put up preventing ourselves from communicating exactly what we want to say, for fear of hurting someone, or being obnoxious, or different, or weird, etc. I personally was a very angry kid growing up, and I liked to write a lot about pain, death, and suffering. I sometimes wanted to write very dark things, but didn’t, due to my fear of being labelled a nut case in the unlikelihood anyone ever saw these lyrics. Like I said earlier, you don’t have to show them to anyone.
4. Organise the lyrics into a song structure
Choose your favourite lyrical lines, and fit them into sections. One very common song structure goes:
Intro – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus
So, you have an intro, verse, chorus, and bridge. For each section, just use a different set of lyrics. Here, you can also repeat lines. For example:
Life choices. Dense words heavy to fall. Where am I going? Why do I not know?
When will I know? Does anybody care? Oh god.
Time is a killer and my life is the victim.
I’m falling in an evergreen pasture of fleeting ambience. Does anybody care?
Time is a killer and my life is the victim.
I’m falling in an evergreen pasture.
5. Add Melody to the lyrics
This last step can be done using a melody you’ve already created. Simply add the words on top of it. If you haven’t created a melody, then now’s the time to create one. Or, you can remix someone else’s melody, variating it enough to put your own spin on it.
But these topics are for another time, for another blog post.
Enjoy my first ever song!
Knight of Old
Sitting on the grass,
Watching all the world go pass,
When through the trees shone a shining, brilliant light.
I got blinded, couldn’t see, but standing right in front of me though
Was a knight of old in shiny, shining armour.
And he said, What’re you doing, where’s your head at?
Why’re you here when you could be all the way out there?
Fighting dragons, kissing maids,
Getting high off your f***ing face,
This is the life of old if I ever had one since now!
by 16 year old James Webber-Salmon.