Songwriter writing lyrics

Fixing Lyrics Two or Three Lines at a Time

As a songwriter, getting the lyrics sounding the way you like is possibly the trickiest part of writing a song. What do you do when what you’ve written sounds lame, corny, or just plain lousy?

Your intuition probably tells you that you should go line by line, consider the rhythm and flow of the line your trying to fix, perhaps considering alternate ways of writing that line, and so on. And that would seem to be the best approach.


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But I would suggest something slightly different: instead of going line by line, you will probably get better results if you attempt to fix it by looking at the line before it and the line after it.

Like all musical elements, each individual line of lyric works best when it partners well with other elements of a song — rhythm, melodic shape, and so on. The partnering of one line to the next is a vital part of musical partnership that can make or break a song.

Considering two or more lines together at a time gives you the opportunity to consider the context of the questionable line. It allows you to see how it sounds as it tags onto the line before it, and how it sounds as it moves into the line that follows.

So if you’re trying to fix a line of lyric that sounds awkward or lame, focusing in on that one line alone may not give you solutions, because it may be hard to see the problem when you’re looking that close.

The better approach is to write the bad line down, then write the line that leads into it and the line that follows. By doing that, you’ve put the line you’re trying to fix in its current perspective, and probably goes a lot further to showing you the actual problem.


Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.
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