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How to Write Song Lyrics

How to Write Song Lyrics is part 11 in a series on How to Write a Song.  For some, writing song lyrics can be the most difficult part of writing a song.

We'll talk about how to write lyrics that are universal but original.  We'll take a look at my top 10 lyrics of all time with complete song analysis.

Lastly, I offer some excellent lyric writing books and a $20 discount for Masterwriter, the most powerful lyric writing software available. Serious writers should explore this. I have used it for years and have had over 150 songs placed on television.

My Top 10 Lyrics

Many writers like to write lyrics before the music. That is fine and many great one's like Bernie Taupin (Elton John) and Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead) have been very successful doing so. There is no right way, whatever works for you.

I like to write lyrics once I have a melody and maybe some "dummy lyrics" to fill space. I find it easier to generate flowing lyrical lines. In addition, when the music is done, I know what the song form is and how long the phrases should be.



*Here are some things to consider when you are learning how to write song lyrics: 

At Berklee, I studied with Pat Pattison, one of the premier educators in the world of writing song lyrics. He starts by brainstorming ideas from basic themes. To learn more get the free Berklee newsletter or check out his new book:

Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice

The most important thing a lyric in any genre can be is universal. Think about songs you love or that most people love that you know. They are about very common themes:

-New Love
-Lost Love
-Overcoming Obstacles
-Saving the World
-Coming to Terms with the Past
-Celebration of Life

People need to identify with your lyric. It can be personal and universal at the same time.

Most songs have a rhyme scheme of some kind. This is just where the rhymes fall in the song.

It's generally a pattern that exists throughout the song to give the listener an expectation of the rhyme that is coming. It makes it easier to listen to. I give examples of rhyme scheme in my 10 favorite lyrics of all time below.

*Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol doesn't rhyme at all and is brilliant in it's phrasing…..very original!

You need a great, memorable and original title that really somes up what your song is about. Generally it is the hook of the song, but not always. One technique is to start with your title. It can be easier to write this way.

To generate titles, open a magazine, browse the internet, listen to things people say around you etc. Jot down anything that sounds like a song title and don't censor yourself. Get a list of 100. Keep 5-10 and throw the rest away.

Take old, tried and true themes and say them in a new way. Make unexpected metaphors and similes. Be simple but fresh in your delivery. You're not trying to impress people. You're trying to move them with your words. A simple twist on language can move mountains!

SONG FORM (verse, chorus, pre-chorus, bridge)
Follow typical songs forms as laid out in Free Songwriting Tips on Song Arranging. These are the patterns and forms people are expecting to hear from commercial songs. Don't disappoint them.

Clever lyrics that have a deeper song meaning that need to be decoded, are often the greatest of all (Stairway to Heaven, Hotel California, American Pie), but you must be masterful in your delivery or your song may come off as too abstract. Convey a clear, heartfelt, original and honest lyric and with the right music, you can't go wrong.

You should write like you speak when you practice how to write song lyrics. Don't change the accent of the word to fit the song. It ends up being awkward and hard to sing. Free write at first, but then begin to grab phrases you like and that flow easily. Build from there.

Shakespeare used iambic pentameter in much of his writing. It creates a flow that can be easier to read. Iambic Pentameter is a phrase with 5 cuplets: deDUM deDUM deDUM deDUM deDUM

Ex., But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

The point is to be aware how it makes a line flow better. It doesn't have to be perfect. You want your listener to sing along with you, right?

Study some great poets!

These are my 10 favorites (not necessarily in order). I have analyzed each one for you. Enjoy!

1. Stairway to Heaven Lyrics and Analysis
2. Hotel California Lyrics and Analysis
3. Tangled Up in Blue Lyrics and Analysis
4. Imagine Lyrics and Analysis
5. Born to Run Lyrics and Analysis
6. American Pie Lyrics and Analysis
7. Let it Be lyrics and analysis
8. Like a Rolling Stone lyrics and analysis
9. Piano Man lyrics and analysis
10. Wish You Were Here lyrics and analysis

Now for something completely different Kid Rock song lyrics to All Summer Long!

In the end there is nothing better than studying what has worked in the past when learning how to write song lyrics. Below are all books I have read throughout my songwriting career and they have all helped me in different ways. Writing song lyrics is a branch off of the creative writing tree. Read a lot and write a lot and you will find your unique voice!

*These are excellent books on How to Write Song Lyrics!

Have a Great Lyric to Share?

Do you have a great lyric to share? Do you want feedback? PLEASE comment on someone else's lyric!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

What Are You Tryin’ To Tell Me 
What Are You Tryin’ To Tell Me Verse When you say you love me Do you really mean it or Are you just another rollin’ stone Destined to waste …

No Longer Room in My Heart for You 
No Longer Room In My Heart Verse I won’t be swayed by false words again You’re not worth the tears that I shed I never knew, what …

Remember Wednesday 
Everyday's another day you wake up to a simple way We kiss and say that things are right But if I looked inside of me something would have disagreed …

X I don't Not rated yet
X I don'tfrom Howdy EP by Junksick Morning  Share / Embed Wishlist Edit   Delete 00:00 / 03:02 Digital Track Includes unlimited …

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Continue to Part 12, Lyric Writing Tools

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