You might think that the topic of your song is going to be the most important part of writing a good song lyric, but that’s not the case. Most listeners can enjoy a song even if the lyrics are so abstract that they don’t even know what the song is about. Lennon & McCartney’s “I Am the Walrus“, for example.
If you’re ready to take your songwriting to its highest level possible, you need “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle.” Get the manuals that thousands of songwriters are using. Comes with an all-important Study Guide.
For really abstract lyrics, people tend to go line by line, and if they understand even just a part of one sentence, they’re willing to move on and assume that someday they’ll understand the total lyric. So in “I Am the Walrus”, they understand all the bits, and that’s fine, even if they don’t know what it means when they consider it all together.
So there are things that are more important than the actual meaning of a song. Here are what I think are five of the most important tips to consider for writing powerful song lyrics:
- Make sure that your lyrics progress. When we talk about progressions in songs, you might automatically assume that we’re talking about chords. But lyrics also need to progress. They progress from mainly narrative and observational (in a verse) to mainly emotional (in a chorus), and then quick fluctuations back and forth in a bridge.
- Make sure that the music honours the natural rhythm of the words, at least most of the time. If you read your lyrics aloud, using the rhythm of the melody, the words should all sound natural and effortless. There should be no fighting between the rhythm of the words and the rhythms of the melody.
- Always use simple, conversational words. You likely know that there is often a difference between the way we write English and the way we converse in English. Song lyrics should be conversational in nature. You might dig into a rhyming dictionary, but if you find yourself wanting to use a regular dictionary to find words, make sure the ones you’re using are common everyday ones.
- Be careful how you use a rhyming dictionary. There is a way in which the right rhyme might actually not be the best choice, and you’ll be able to tell just by reading the line aloud. Forcing a rhyme often makes the lyric sound corny. In order to preserve the casual nature of a good song lyric, you might instead opt for an approximate rhyme, or even no rhyme at all. Don’t be a slave to your rhyming dictionary.
- Good song lyrics are all about the emotional connection to listeners. Even verse lyrics, which usually set the scene and aren’t specifically emotional in nature, need to connect strongly to the audience, so that they have the potential to feel something from your words. With good song lyrics, you should either be feeling something, or noticing that the lyric is pushing you in the direction of feeling something.
Feelings are everything in good songs, and it’s why it’s hard to write a song using a phone book as lyrical material (though it’s been done), and hard to write a song about the Periodic Table (though that’s been done too.)
When you write song lyrics, you need to finish the process by simply reading the lyric aloud using the rhythms of the melody without the pitches, and ideally read them to someone else. Then sing the lyrics and see how the ups and downs of the melody help the audience interpret the meaning of your words.
They should sound effortless and easy, and the key aspect to look for is their potential for creating an emotional connection once the entire lyric has been read.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” includes several eBooks that are meant to make your chord progressions better, including “How to Harmonize a Melody.” It shows you, step-by-step, how to add chords to that melody you’ve created.