If you’ve been working on trying to become a better lyricist, I congratulate you. Great lyrics will be a crucial part of your eventual songwriting legacy. If you look at lists of the world’s best songwriters, you’ll notice that for most of those writers the quality of their lyrics has played an important role in their songwriting output.
One of the best ways to become a better lyricist is to hone your ability to write songs by starting with the lyrics. Starting with lyrics doesn’t mean that other aspects of your writing (melodies, chord choices, etc.) become unimportant. All it usually means is that you shift your initial creative focus to the words.
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So if you’re wanting to become a better lyrics-first songwriter, take a look at the following seven tips. I hope they’ll prove to be helpful as you strive to improve your way with words:
- Start your songwriting projects by writing a quick short story. Writing a story about the topic of your song helps to focus your mind and your lyrics. It keeps things in sequential order, and helps keep your lyrics on-topic.
- Remember to use conversational phrases and words. Audiences connect emotionally with what you’ve written about, and that happens most easily when you’ve used words, phrases and sentences that sound like they came from an actual conversation.
- Don’t stick rigidly to the words-first ideal. In other words, if, as you’re writing your lyrics, a musical idea like a bit of melody and chords comes to mind, go with it! The lyrics-first process was never meant to mean that you dare not do anything but lyrics until they’re written. In fact, you’ll usually keep changing words right up to the end of the writing of your song. In that sense, lyrics-first usually also means lyrics-last.
- Always consider the rhythm of your words. If you’ve got good lyrics, but you’re finding it hard to set them to a melody, be sure that the rhythm of your words matches the rhythm of your music, without sounding forced or stiff.
- Listen to and read lots of good lyrics. If you like writing lyrics, it probably means you like reading and interpreting good lyrics. This needs to be a daily activity. Analyze what you read, and try reading someone else’s lyrics out loud. The more you read, the better you become.
- Remember that the words you choose are usually more important than the actual song topic. It’s hard to be unique with what you’re writing about, but it’s all about how you draw the audience in, and that happens at the word-choice level.
- Be patient with yourself. Most lyricists will tell you that it took them years to develop a mature, polished end-product.
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