Writing music can seem like a daunting task. Truthfully, for many people, it is hard to write a good song. Still, anyone can get good at writing song lyrics if they practice and understand the process. Here are the exact steps to take to write better lyrics:
- Understand how songs are created
- Write lyrics relatable to your audience
- Make your lyrics catchy
- Cause emotional cues in people
- Make sure your lyrics match your music
- Write about things you know
- Be different
Understand how songs are created
If you can’t figure out how people write music (songs) in general, you’ll always struggle with lyrics. Even if you create lyrics off the top of your head, they won’t make much sense if you don’t know how to add them to music. Remember, all lyrics must be added to the music.
Even if the music is acapella (no instruments), a person’s voice still makes some type of melody. By the way, if you make non-singing vocal acapella lyrics, you’re simply writing poetry. All lyrics have a melody to them, otherwise their just stances in a poem or a person speaking over a beat or an instrumental.
You needed to understand that point because a lot of people think they can create lyrics without adhering to some basic songwriting principles. No one can shortchange the songwriting process and think that they are going to make a good or meaningful song.
A person will also have to know that all songs are constructed with verses, hooks, and bridges. You will need at least a verse and a hook to make a song. There is no getting around this fact with music. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are the exception and not the rule. Now that you understand the anatomy of a song, you should be able to create lyrics that fit into this design.
Write lyrics relatable to your audience
If you’re writing lyrics for a song, they must relate to the people you are entertaining. You shouldn’t write songs for children by including lyrics about heartbreak, dating a girl, or violence. Those topics are for rap songs and for love music. Your lyrics should appeal to the audience you have in mind. This is a huge mistake that many people do when they write a song.
They try to use their lyrics to appeal to many different groups. However, what they’re actually singing about only appeals to a certain audience. For example, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin should not be played at a gangsta rap or trap convention. The audience would probably react violently to hearing this upbeat music and start shooting people. On the other hand, you don’t want to play “Nuthing But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop at a funeral for a recently deceased Christian minister. You get the point the lyrics must match the audience you’re trying to appeal to.
Again, there are some exceptions to this rule. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an international hit because the lyrics and music appealed to everyone. It wasn’t a niche song. The themes of ghouls, goblins, and horror are universal. “Thriller” has a universal appeal because it was written by people who understand this important element of creating lyrics. Unfortunately, most people who write from their own experience believe that everybody sees the world as they do. The truth is that many people don’t understand what everybody believes, experiences, likes, feels or thinks. One of the hardest parts of writing lyrics is to make them relatable to your listeners.
Make your lyrics catchy
The next step to improving your lyric writing skills is to create a catchy phrase or word to a tune. If you can’t do this, it will make your song harder to be accepted by people. Writing relatable lyrics is the first step. The second step is that you have to come up with something that gets stuck inside a person’s head.
Think about songs like “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis or even the “Baby Shark” song by Pinkfong; both songs have catch lyrics. This is especially true for “Baby Shark” which is simply a song with a repeating hook. Still, this song has amassed over 7 billion views on YouTube. Think about that 7 billion views song for a silly generic song with some generic lyrics. Still, the lyrics are catchy, and the song even made it on the Billboard charts at the number 40 spot and amassed diamond status after going platinum 11x’s over.
Whoever wrote this simple song knew that it would be a hit with kids, schools, families, parents, and with most kids around the world. Most of the songs you hear on the radio write catchy lyrics that have a catchy phrase that their audience finds it hard to ignore. Remember, if a person can’t get your song out of your head, chances are it’s no good.
Cause emotional cues in people
Certain words are used in songs to get people excited and involved. Rappers understand this point very well. DMX’s Party Up (Up in Here) was an extremely popular song back in 2000. This song had a catchphrase “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind”. Most people believe that this phrase was the title of the song because the words motivated people to get up and start dancing around. Whenever they heard this song on the radio or seen it on a video many people got up and started to dance around. This is a good example of how certain words can get people up and moving.
Bill Haley and His Comets was a popular 1950’s rock group that came up with the song “Rock Around the Clock”. The beginning of the song said “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock . . .” and when people heard those words, they got excited and started to go crazy on the dance floor.
Finally, let’s take a look at Whiz Kalifa’s (featuring Charlie Puth) “See You Again” song released in 2015. The beginning part of this song captured a lot of people attention when Charlie Puth sang “It’s been a long day without you, my friend, And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again . . .”. When people heard this opening verse they knew the song and were really grooving to it.
You have to figure out some catchphrases, verses, certain words that will help to get a response out of people when they listen to your music. These words will have to be different from your hook (which should also be catchy). Once you can master this aspect of lyric writing, you will elevate your music game.
Make sure your lyrics match your music
Your lyrics should match your music. In other words, if your music is upbeat, then your lyrics should be upbeat. If your music is slow, then your lyrics should have a slow quality about them. This is also known as setting the mood for your music. The mood (or tempo) of your music will influence how your lyrics will be written, performed, and embraced by audiences. Make sure that your lyrics reflect the type of music that your presenting.
Write about things you know
If you are a teenager your experiences are going to be different from a middle-aged man with a family. If you’re a homebody, you certainly won’t relate to people that like to go out and party. Write about what you know. Write about things that you are familiar with. Try and talk to other people to see if they experience that same thing.
Here is an example of what I’m talking about. There is an artist named Andrew Blaine. He is a nerd, and he decides to write a hit song. His experiences are limited to playing the computer, collecting insects, and reading comics. He is a 17-year-old teen and this has been his life since he was 10. The point is that Blaine more than likely won’t make a big-time hit song based on his experiences.
However, that doesn’t mean that he is not able to write a popular song that could generate a lot of views and streams. The fact is that most popular songs on the Billboard charts are designed to appeal to young adults, teens, young kids, and then everybody else. The songs are also geared toward being cool, getting with girls, having sex, making money, driving fancy cars, dancing, partying, hanging out with friends, or trying to be hardcore.
If Blaine tried to release a song called “Comics, Insects, Computers on a Friday Night”, he simply won’t connect with modern audiences. Ultimately, everyone has to write about the things that they know if they want to be successful lyric writers.
Let me be careful about the following point. All songs are pretty much like other songs but they’re different. Let me explain. When you hear a pop song on the radio, it appeals to you because it is similar to the other pop songs. Even though they sound different they still have a musical structure that identifies them as a pop tune. This is true for any genre of music.
While all songs have the same basic sound within a genre, they are still different. If you want to appeal to your audiences, you sometimes have to create something different. Still, that different song (lyrics) will have to fit into the scheme of a particular genre.
Let’s use Blaine again for this example. Let’s say that Blaine was smart enough to realize that his song “Comics, Insects, Computers on a Friday Night” was going to flop with mainstream audiences. So, he decided to make a song called “Wishing for a Computer Girl” He decided to make the song about being lonely and he can only look at women on the internet. Now, he is on to something.
The fact is that Blaine is not the only guy fantasizing about women on the internet. His lyrics are relatable to a lot of guys (whether they admit it or not) and it will connect with audiences. Now he has to make sure the lyrics reflect this aspect of their life, and the lyrics also have to be catchy enough to stay stuck in their mind.
Here is an example of Blaine’s song:
As you can see, Blaine came up with some lyrics that would appeal to other guys. Girls would also like the song as well. The key is that they relate, and he is writing about something about being lonely which most people will experience at some point in life. Also, he is taking a big chance about writing about nude women on the internet.
While the song would be controversial it would be different and if the lyrics were written to the right music it could do well. Ultimately, you can improve your lyric writing ability by following these steps. There is no guarantee that a song will be a hit just because you wrote dynamic lyrics. Still, it does help you know how to write and create good music.