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Songwriting 101: 5 Tips for Better Lyric Writing

Songwriting 101: 5 Tips for Better Lyric Writing
July 15, 2022
Writing the perfect song lyrics is a difficult task. What is “perfect”, anyway? What is it that the most popular songs all have in common? If you’re hoping to craft and create the next big hit, you’ve come to the right place.

The best songs in history have incorporated lyrics that use clever rhyming schemes and syllabic patterns, a story-like progression, personal but relatable topics, and a catchy hook. Writing the next big hit can seem impossible, but there are a few tricks you can use to increase your chances of success. Learning how to write a song and better yet - song lyrics - is a skill that will push your career forward as a paid songwriter and/or artist.

How to improve your lyric writing skills

1. Make the first lines count

The first line of your lyrics is important.

The first line introduces the subject the song is dedicated to, sets the mood for the entire hit, and ultimately helps draw listeners’ attention from the very beginning. The first line should pique the listener’s interest and entice them to hear how the story unfolds throughout the song.

Grammy award winning songwriter Sarah McLaughlin said:

“I figure the first two lines usually tell the whole story of a song. The first two lines are what come out first when I’m writing, and they basically tell which direction, for me lyrically, the song is going to go.”

Then, create a strong lyrical “hook”.

Musicians frequently emphasise the importance of a “hook” in capturing the attention of their audience, whether that be at home or during a workout session using an app like Peloton. In a particular section of the song, the hook is a magical combination of text, melody, and rhythm.

5 tips for better lyric writing - make the first lines count

When it comes to arranging a song from the standpoint of lyrics, this is a memorable phrase repeated throughout the song. It is frequently (but not always) found in the chorus section.

To find a “hook” for your song, listen to catchy phrases that appear in everyday life or popular culture. Look for inspiration in books, films, and popular TV shows. Remember that although the hook is only a five-second segment, it can be enough to get your song stuck in people’s heads.

Check out this article for more songwriting tips and tricks!

2. Choose a song structure

You will need to think of a basic song structure based around the song form: the verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge.

Here is a quick start with song structures. If you think of the parts of your song in terms of A, B, and C, it’s easy to track:

A is your verse, B the chorus, and C the bridge.

There are more parts to consider such as the intro, pre-chorus, and post-chorus, but for now, use these three as your standard.

2 common song forms are:

1. A, A, B, A, B, C, B, B

2. A, B, A, B, C, B, B

The chorus is the most important of all. This section is also where the song seed gets reduced into a memorable part of the song.

For instance, the chorus condenses the verse and pre-chorus into short repeated phrases supported by the repetition of a melody.

Some songwriters write the Chorus first, like Grammy winning songwriter John Legend:

“I usually write the chorus first because that helps guide me into where I want the verses to go. Then I start fooling around with chord progressions for the verse.”

The chorus is not only the most memorable part of the song, but it’s also where the dynamics peak. For example, most modern pop songs feature a chorus that is louder or has more energy than the rest of the song.

3. Remember rhymes

Rhymes are also important.

6 tips for better lyric writing - remember to use rhymes

Rhyme is one of the most important tools a songwriter can use to make their work stand out. A classic mnemonic device, rhyme will make your song more memorable, while also adding structure and uniformity to your work. But figuring out what and how to rhyme can be tricky.

Example: The Beatles’ classic “Let It Be”

When I find myself in times of trouble,

Mother Mary comes to me,

Speaking words of wisdom,

Let it be.

Head here to find out more about using rhyme to enhance your lyrics.

4. Avoid using clichés

You do not want your lyrics to sound predictable. Lyric clichés such as moon and June, fire, desire etc, are all no-nos.

Try to branch out and think of new ways of wording ideas of phrases. You might want to use an online thesaurus to help you with this one.

Think about references you can use to things like films, tv, books, poems and other aspects of popular culture. This is very common trope you'll find in a lot of rap music lyrics.

Far too many songwriters use common lyric clichés like so that do not make your song sound unique and exciting anymore.

5. Don't get fixated on a point or process

You can be inspired by either a lyric or a melody. The lyrics sometimes take more time than creating the music itself.

6 tips for better lyric writing - musician getting lyrical inspiration while playing guitar

Multi Hit Songwriter Diane Warren doesn't start her songwriting process from a fixed spot. She said in an NPR interview:

"I like to start with an idea, but then again, I might be sitting at the keyboard, and just playing a bunch of chords that sound cool together, and something just inspires an idea from that."

Diane Warren has written songs that have hit #1 on the Billboard Charts, recorded by the biggest artists of our time: Celine Dion, Cher, Aerosmith, Starship, Toni Braxton, etc.

About the Author:

This article is brought to you by USA Songwriting Competition. USA Songwriting Competition has been honouring songwriters from all over the world. Winners came from Australia, Japan, Canada, UK, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, USA, etc. Past winners have gotten recording contracts, getting their songs on film, TV as well as getting cuts with major artists. Check out USA Songwriting Competition here.

Songwriting 101: 5 Tips for Better Lyric Writing

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