Writing songs is an immensely personal experience. Lyrics offer a glimpse into the minds of musicians and writers alike, and into what they’re feeling and thinking. Everyone who writes has their own creative process, and a host of experiences to tap into for content (essentially, the old adage, “write what you know”). This is especially true when it comes to writing songs. There is a limited amount of time in which to make a meaningful point, to resonate with people emotionally, and to create something worthy of being played on a sound system.
This guide, although brief, will provide you with a few tips advice on creating lyrics that will make an impact by tapping into the wealth of emotions we possess.
1. Developing a theme
All songs start with a meditation on a particular theme. What do we want our song to represent and convey, and what story do we want to tell? Whether it’s upbeat fun, heartbreak, romance, or adventure, all songs begin with a simple story. When starting to write music, we must first determine what we want to say. This is where our life experiences really come into play. What many don’t realize is that what we have done and seen throughout our lifetimes provides a wealth of content we can share with others. The trick is turning those experiences into something people can relate to. The more it catches people’s attention, the more likely it is to resonate with someone else.
So look inwards. We look at what is in our heart and we put pen to paper to let it out. It can be very therapeutic to share our innermost thoughts with the world. It’s a vulnerability that creates beauty. Don’t be afraid. If we fear what’s in our hearts and minds, we will never be able to create fully. Creation is about being fearless, taking risks, and being spontaneous. As long as you follow your heart and you’re true to your theme you can write a song.
2. Getting your audience hooked
Great songs are just that because we remember them long after we hear them. Often, that’s because of a great hook that draws us in immediately. The best way to start writing a song is to write a catchy hook. This hook will help you determine your theme if you don’t currently have one. Or it can be created based on your song’s theme. Whichever way we create it, the hook is the bridge that connects your story with the rest of the world.
The hook is often repeated multiple times throughout the song, and it’s usually a sentence or two that compliments the verses we have created. Hooks are also the first thing people really remember, or know how to sing before the rest of the song is learned, so it’s very important to make it memorable. Now, it’s not exactly easy to create a catchy hook. We need to think about what we want to say (read: the main message of our song) and write that as a hook. It brings focus, but it also sums up what your song is all about.
3. Be mindful of flow, but don’t depend on it
When first writing a song, at least initially, don’t worry about structure or flow. Songs get revised many times before they are perfect. Writing without restrictions is a great way to really understand what it is we want to say to the world, and getting your idea down on paper before you add structure is imperative to the creative process. Often this will reveal your theme, or you’ll flesh out a great hook. The important thing is just writing and not stopping until everything is out on paper. We can’t limit ourselves in the beginning, because if we try working our preliminary thoughts into a song structure it may not come out the way we want.
If we give ourselves time to really develop our creative process, we will be able to see wonderful things contained within our writing. We need to trust ourselves, trust the process, and remember that flow comes later once we know what to say!
4. Trust yourself
The biggest obstacle to creation is our own fear or our second-guessing. Trust that you have something worth saying. If you don’t think you have anything worthwhile to create, that’s a nonstarter when it comes to making music. It will be frustrating, you’ll want to give up, you might even tell yourself it isn’t worth it. However, it is in these moments when you feel lost or stuck that you start truly creating. When you dig deep, and tell yourself that it’s okay to be vulnerable, that’s when meaningful songs are created.
It’s okay if you get stuck. That’s where having a support system comes into play. With people who support you, and people you can brainstorm with, the process of writing songs won’t seem so confusing or hard. Remember that it’s meant to be fun. If it starts feeling like work, remind yourself why you started doing this. There is no right or wrong way to write a song, just remember that you can do this!