How to Write Lyrics 101
How do you feel about writing lyrics? Is songwriter's block too real for you?
If you’re a singer, songwriter, musician, or just love writing, it’s a great skill to have.
I’ve written lyrics for much of my own music, and I’ve helped others craft their words.
While there are many songwriting methods, this is a process that I use to create the perfect song quickly.
We'll go over what type of lyric is good for each section of your song, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse2, etc., and how you can transition to and from the different sections, but first I must recommend some broader courses of action before creating any actual content.
Choose a Vibe
As a songwriter, it is a good idea to have a style of music and a mood or vibe in mind when you are choosing what to write. Knowing these things should help rouse emotion and keep your creative juices flowing.
If you are feeling stuck, try playing your music track in the background, or even another artist's track, preferably one that doesn't have lyrics in it to give you more inspiration.
Have an Outline
Figure out the story that you want to tell. This is the plot, premise, or moral of it all, the emotion that you want to convey. How would you describe it?
Write down the topics or plot points that you want to cover. If you’re writing for a specific singer, you can look up their lyrics and see what topics they typically sing about in their music.
Think of it as planning for the actual structure of what your audience will be listening to instead of just coming up with lyrics randomly without any purpose behind them.
For example, if you were to write a piece about the difficulty of falling out of love with someone, you might want to write about what led up to it, the actual process, and how it felt once it was over.
It’s important because if you have more than one idea while songwriting, this content will help you choose between them for different sections and help you edit properly later on. All of these songwriting tools are great for having a framework that encourages you to flow and create more effortlessly.
Good Ideas for a Song Writer
The title and chorus should describe the central idea or theme, but more than that, it should also be catchy and encourage people to want to listen to it. If you can’t come up with one, look up titles by other successful songwriters and music artists and take note of what made theirs stand out to you.
The title acts as a bookmark for when someone thinks about your tune later on and gives listeners an idea of what to expect even before they press play.
The overall mood is another important aspect of songwriting. What are you trying to get across? Happy? Sad? Hopeful? Angry? Your lyrics should reflect this. Your point of view will also affect your lyrics greatly because two people can have or see the exact same story and have completely different ideas by just looking at it from a different perspective.
Often people write about things that have happened to them personally or a cause that they feel strongly about. Most of my early music was about lost love or negative things in my life. It might be a compelling story, but after listening back to them over and over, they were a drain on my psyche. Consider reframing any negative stories to at least have a positive lesson learned or offer an alternate perspective in a later section.
You can also write about things that have never happened to you. This is a chance to let your imagination run wild. You may even be inspired by something fictional like a book or movie that you like.
Preparing to Write
When you get ready to start writing down your lyrics, go over any ideas that you've already come up with for your masterpiece. Think of what would best describe the theme/point of your song. Remember the style and overall mood you are going for. This will help give you a rough idea of the words that you need to write next.
To ensure that you don't have too many lyrics. I prefer to create and then listen to my music track or a looped musical section as I write lyrics. Although this is a personal preference, I find it speeds up the process and gets me in the mood of what I am trying to create.
The First Draft
Once you’ve created an outline and prepared to write you are ready to start actually writing down your lyrics. It doesn’t matter what order they go in or how long they are, just start going and you’ll eventually have a more complete idea. Don’t worry about making sure things rhyme or even complete grammatically correct sentences, just free associate and let things flow until you feel like you have enough to work with.
Try writing down anything and everything you can think of. Sometimes words that aren’t even relevant to what you were trying to write about can sometimes spark new inspiration and help you move on.
Whether you decide to have your words rhyme or not, make sure everything flows well. Listen to your music track (if it's done) while reading your lyrics and make sure it all makes sense. You may have a line that just doesn’t fit anymore, so remove or replace it and see how it changes.
Read over your words again and listen to them in their entirety as well as just saying them out loud so that they may sound more like a song or poetry instead of just random sentences thrown together.
Common Pitfalls of Lyrics
After you are done freewriting, it's time to tighten up any mess you've made and avoid any pitfalls. Pitfalls might include an awkward rhythm, a bad rhyming scheme, or simply not making sense. Whenever you are writing lyrics, make sure you go through them more than once and look for these issues. If they are too much to deal with, consider taking a different direction or writing something new altogether.
Arrangement and Sections
I like to start composing with a typical pop song structure. I'd be willing to bet that most of your favorite songs use the following structure: Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse 2, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Ending. While this popular music framework can be limiting. it does serve as a guide to focus your creativity.
Even though you may want to be creative while composing, resist the urge to just break all of the rules of music. At least at first.
Some of the most popular songs ever written follow this structure almost exactly. Of course, some of our favorite songs are also written with a completely different song structure.
So, if your creative process varies and you find yourself wanting to color outside of the lines and not go this predefined route, my advice is to simply keep an outcome in mind. This way you can remember the song sections that you do want to include and you can continue to take creative action writing with a single stream of consciousness. Otherwise you may end up with notebooks or folders of half-written, unfinished works.
It is also good practice to organize your thoughts again after writing each draft and remember to keep the following song sections in mind even before writing a single word.
A chorus, or refrain, or hook is the most important part of the song. Usually this is the part that is catchy and easy to remember. Often you repeat certain lines multiple times at the end of a Verse or Pre-Chorus.
Your lines don't all have to rhyme, but make sure it is strong and catchy. Make sure the rhythm of the words goes well with the music's rhythm.
Writing a Pre-Chorus
This part usually describes certain things that happen story-wise right before the chorus comes in and helps lead up to it. Try tying your story together. Lead your listeners with a little bit of tension so that it is resolved in a way that is satisfying. Often I'll write this section after I've written the verses as it is the link between the Verse and Chorus.
Writing the Verses
The Verses chronologically come before the Hook, usually around the same length or a little longer. Think of it as a narrative or an explanation for something that led up to or is happening right before the pre-chorus starts.
In my writing, the bulk of the story tends to come out in the verses. This is where we have an opportunity to take the listener on a journey through time. Perhaps a situation that occurred before, or after the story elements in the other sections.
Often, the verses have a different theme to them than the Chorus does. In some productions, you can hear some parts of the chorus repeating in these sections as well.
Do you need a Bridge, or maybe another section?
Songs can be as simple as a verse and a hook but often contain additional sections. If you want to experiment with an idea that is outside of the main elements that you have so far, consider adding a bridge or another section altogether.
The Bridge typically leads up to the last chorus.
Musically, this is your chance to explore different chord progressions or even styles.
Lyrically, you get to add new parts of the story or ideas that influence the way that your music is interpreted.
If it's your first time writing lyrics, it's easier not to have a bridge. In my experience, bridges are usually written after everything else is complete. I find that the bridge is when you can incorporate some lyrics from the freewriting stage that you haven't used yet.
The intro and outro are easily added last.
For modern production, an intro could be a sound effect or a line from the chorus. It can also just be a stripped-down version of another section.
The outro is the very last section. Sometimes it's a repeated Chorus or even a new motif. Sometimes it's just a musical bump. If there's a long outro, occasionally the music slowly fades to silence instead of a definite ending.
Although you can write your lyrics in any order or way that you see fit, having those steps in mind will help you to write lyrics more efficiently. Be sure to avoid being too wordy by limiting the amount of text in your song's lyrics. And remember, the shorter your song is, the more memorable it will be.
BTW, if you are feeling super-stuck, consider using alternative songwriting tools such as an ai or an algorithmic lyric generator to help you come up with ideas.
Here's a fun one: https://www.song-lyrics-generator.org.uk/
If you are still suffering from songwriter's block and you want to write everything yourself, try one of these 10 tips for beating songwriter's block.
Do you have any questions about writing lyrics or songs in general? Please feel free to reach out.