Writing Song Lyrics: 4 Dos and Don’tsBy
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Being able to write a song includes being able to write song lyrics. Song lyrics are what people hold onto, what people derive meaning from, and how people identify with your band. By that rationale, you want your song lyrics to be good. Here are a few tips for those struggling with lyrics:
DON’T Forget Balance
When you are trying to write a song, remember that balance is important. The simple chorus lyrics in Gordon Sumner’s “De-doo-doo-doo, de-da-da-da” allow the message of the verses to take center stage. If the entire song is the same, everything gets muddled and nothing shines.
DO Know Your Genre
A death metal song probably isn’t about flowers. Pop songs generally rhyme, albeit often loosely. Pay attention to standards in your niche.
DON’T Be Afraid of Taking Risks
Sometimes breaking the “rules” of songwriting helps a song stand out. If your normal style is a dozen instruments, lots of effects, an upbeat tempo, and five backup singers, a song with slower song with only three instruments and simple vocals will certainly make a difference fans notice. Take these risks when you really have something to say.
Having trouble fitting the line about your “discarded heart being combustible” into your song? You might want to remember that above acronym and keep it simple. Try smaller words ending in common sounds and build from there. Also: sometimes those who say the least convey the most.
DON’T Forget That You’re In Control
You have the final say over what goes in your song, where it goes, and what your song says. If there’s an awkward line that’s hard to work with, take it out. If its poignancy completes the song, though, fight to keep it in. The songs are your stories; tell them the way you want them told.
DO Be Realistic
You’re not going to write the best song ever on the first go-around. You will have re-writes, and some things just won’t work. That’s okay.
Don’t let obsessing over certain tricky song prevent you from writing other, potentially-better songs. It’s also okay to put lyrics down for a while; you can come back to them on another day or even another album.
DO Keep Writing
Don’t let writer’s block or a flop stop you. Write regularly, write when you’re inspired, write when you feel nothing. Keep a notebook with you to keep track of random thoughts to revisit later.
Have any of the above tips helped you write a song? What tips can you offer other musicians who are writing song lyrics?