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How to Fit Music to Your Song Lyrics: Step by Step Guide

Whether you’re primarily writing lyrics or you’re collaborating with a lyricist, fitting melody and music to the lyrics isn’t an easy task if you want to do it well. There are many factors that go into planning and execution. However, don’t worry! I’ve collected resources and listed them in a clear and simple step by step guide below. Here’s the list, and we’ll elaborate them in greater detail below in this post:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the lyrics
  2. Identify the shape of emotion flow
  3. Find the inherent rhythm of the words
  4. Choose a suitable chord progression
  5. Compose the melody in your chosen genre
  6. Try singing it yourself
  7. Get honest feedback

Familiarize yourself with the lyrics

The first thing you should do before you write any music to match the lyrics is to know the lyrics. If you’re not the lyricist, read it at least a couple of times. This will give you a good understanding of what the song should be about. If you wrote the lyrics yourself though, you should know the lyrics better than anyone else.

For example, we have a composer called James, and he has just received new lyrics from his co-writer. After reading it a few times, he has identified the song is set in a city, and it’s a romantic love song. In this case, because the person in the lyrics is in the city, James has noted down that the music genre should be somewhat modern, not country or folk. And because it talks love, the speed should be somewhat slow, more like a ballad song.

Of course, when you’re just starting out, you may not be able to identify these characteristics in great detail. But don’t worry, you’ll get much better with practice. Just familiarize yourself with the lyrics as best as you can.

Identify the shape of emotion flow

Every song has a flow of emotions. You can think of it as a roller coaster ride. There are calmer sections, sections that lead to another, and of course the climax. Here’s where music theory fundamentals can help you greatly.

By identifying the Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, and other sections in the song, you can actually draw out the flow of the song. A lot of times the lyricist will label the different sections out, so you may not need to do so yourself. If you’re the writer of the lyrics, and you haven’t done so, now is the time to decide which paragraphs go into which section of the song.

When you know the emotion levels for each section, you’ll know approximately what range of notes should be written for each of the sections.

Back to our songwriter James above. The song has a Verse, Pre-Chorus and Chorus as an example. In the key of C Major, the Verse may start with lower notes from low G to C, then the Pre-Chorus will range from C to G, and lastly, the Chorus will have notes ranging from G to high C.

Of course, the above example is just approximate. But hopefully, I have given you some sort of picture of how you may convey the emotional flow of the lyrics by writing music that matches it.

Find the inherent rhythm of the words

Good song lyrics always have some sort of inherent rhythm written into them. If you’re the lyricist, when writing the lyrics, try to think about the rhythm and how the singer may sing it out. This will make the job of the composer much easier, while also making sure the final product will be more pleasing to the ears.

I personally prefer using pen and paper for this task. Read through the lyrics, and mark the words that fall on the beat. After going through the whole song, the rhythm of the melody should be quite noticeable. From there, the tempo of the song can then be decided.

Let’s talk about the song James is currently working on. Here’s the example lyrics:


Some people say love is just a word
That no one understands
But I think that’s debatable
Or better yet I think it’s too convenient
Love’s just something you don’t know
It’s something you can’t explain
It’s a feeling
That arrived too quickly

As you can see in the example above, the words in bold are the emphasis. So by writing a melody that lets those words land on the beat, it is not only much easier for the audience to take in, but it also lets the singer sing it much more intuitively.

Choose a suitable chord progression

There are many common chord progressions to choose from. You can even create your own with enough experience. One of the trick to fit music to the lyrics is by choosing the correct chord progression for the song.

If the song is happy or joyful, usually a chord progression that starts and ends with a major chord is chosen. And if it is a sad song, a minor chord progression is much more suitable for the lyrics.

As you write more and more songs, choosing a suitable chord progression will become second nature. But if you’re just starting out and you’re not too sure what chord progression to use, try to refer to songs you’re familiar with. Find the chord progressions for those songs, and try applying them to your song. You may find amazing results!

To continue with the examples before, the chord progression James has chosen is as follows:

C – G – F – G

Am – G – F – Em

F – G – Em – Am

Dm – G – C

The chord progression above is suitable for a love song and has quite a story-like flow to it. The chords above are written in the key of C Major. James may change the key if another key is more suitable for the singer later on. In that case, James will need to transpose the chords to the new key.

Compose the melody in your chosen genre

After the song structure, tempo, and chord progressions are all set and ready, it’s time to work on the melody! Note that sometimes the composer may have a melody idea before having the chord progressions ready and that’s perfectly fine. But if you don’t it’s much easier to write the melody with chord progressions ready.

I personally like to record the chord progressions using my keyboard and play them on loop. Because it keeps repeating, it’s easier to get into the mood of the song. And when I feel like it, I just start singing a random melody that comes to mind. If it sounds good, I’ll write it down or record it. And the process keeps repeating until I have the melody for each and every sentence of lyrics.

Try singing it yourself

Once you’re finished with the melody, congratulations! You have just fit music to your lyrics! Try singing back the whole song to yourself, and if there’s any part you don’t like or feel like it can be improved, feel free to edit them.

Make sure the melody flows with the lyrics, and there are no awkward pronunciations or gaps caused by a mismatch of melody and lyrics.

Get honest feedback

Do you have an extra pair of ears to borrow? Find someone you trust to give some honest feedback on how well the music you wrote fit with your lyrics. Sometimes when the composer has worked on a song for too long, he or she becomes numb to it, and may not notice some obvious problems in it.

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