Lyric writing is much like any other style of writing, the more time you spend working on it, the more you will grow as a writer. So what exactly are lyrics? Song lyrics can basically be thought of as singable poetry. The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘lyric’ as 1) (of poetry) expressing the poet’s thoughts and feelings, usually briefly and in stanzas, songlike (a lyric poem) 2) (lyrics) the words of a song. By using this definition, we can assume that the process of writing lyrics draws from some of the same techniques used in poetry.
Why write lyrics? This may seem like an odd question, there are literary hundreds of answers to this, but it is something you will need to ask yourself before you start. Is it because you have a story to tell, because you want to express a particular emotion to your audience? Some write purely for themselves, like a kind of personal therapy. Or perhaps it’s simply because the human voice is an important part of the style of music they are written for.
What do you want to say? Most lyrics are written with a message or some kind of effect in mind. You will need to have a clear idea of what you want out of the lyrics or you will run the risk of creating weak lyrics. Weak lyrics tend to resort to clichéd, generic and boring phrases when they are written solely to ‘fit’ the tune. On the other hand, don’t be carried away with the message, make it a point for the lyrics to be somewhat cryptic. Do not ‘spoon feed’ your audience, plant the seed of your idea and let the audience come to their own conclusions.
As with all forms of creativity, lyrics are an expression of personal ideas, beliefs and themes. Lyric writing is just a matter of expressing these beliefs and feelings. As with most forms of writing, it is best to write about what you know. Because everybody has their own experiences, emotions and beliefs, it becomes hard to give an exact instruction on how to write, everyone has their own opinions on how it should be done. The most I can do in this series is give a guide about how to go about finding your own style by learning from the music that you listen to. This is a great way to learn, as many of the bands you listen to have learned, and draw influences, from other established artists.
There are several ways you can write lyrics:
* Create a melody & write lyrics to accompany it; or
* Write a set of lyrics & add the melody to it; or
* A combination of the above two examples, i.e. do both at the same time.
So, where do you actually start with the writing process? Well, there are countless possible ways (too many to mention here). It really is a matter of preference; every lyricist has his or her own style, much like any artist. A couple of simple ways that are an excellent way to begin are as follows: