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Reading a Lyric as Part of Your Songwriting Process

Have you ever tried just reading your lyric out loud, without thinking about the melody you’ve written to go along with it? Reading a lyric can give you a lot of musical ideas, and can also serve as a good tool for diagnosing songwriting problems.


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Here’s how you might use this technique:

  1. Read your lyric as simple prose. In other words, instead of thinking of it as a lyric, try reading it as if you were reading an article from a newspaper — without much regard for rhythm or drama. This gives you a dispassionate view of the basic vocabulary of your lyric, and that can reveal how creative you’ve been with word choice.
  2. Read your lyric dramatically, as if it were a classic play. Let your voice rise and fall more than you normally would, and you’ll start to get a sense of shape, similar to a kind of melody.
  3. Read your lyric with special attention paid to rhythm. This is where you can get a good idea of what, if any, common rhythms are naturally contained within the lyric. It can also give you ideas for what backing rhythms your instrumentation might use.
  4. Read your lyric with the rhythms of the melody (if you’ve got the melody already). This gives you the opportunity to hear your lyric with the rhythms you’ve chosen, allowing you to assess it to see if it all sounds natural. This is a crucial part of having a lyric make sense to an audience.

With these steps, you’ve given yourself a good idea of melody and rhythm, as well as a good look at the word choices you’ve made.

In the process of writing a song, separating the lyric from everything else allows you pull the lyric out of the “clutter” of other musical elements. I’d suggest that once you get the lyric sounding the way you want, add the other musical elements back in one at a time. For example, try singing your melody and lyric unaccompanied. If that works, add in a simple guitar. If that works, you know you’ve got something that will likely work once you get to the final stages of production.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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