So you’ve got some good licks or a nice chord progression put together, and maybe you even have a melody line worked out to go over it. What now? Well, if you really want to take your songwriting to the next level, you are going to have to write lyrics. For some people, this comes really naturally, and for others, there may be a definite line of separation between creating music and creating lyrics. Whichever side of the fence you fall on, we here at Just Guitar Talk are going to help you out with some tips about how to write your own song lyrics to hopefully jump-start your imagination.
The Approach is Up to You
Some guitarists try to write lyrics and music all in one go. Others see it as a two-part operation. There is no right or wrong way to write lyrics to your songs. It’s also entirely possible that you could come up with a verse or a chorus that sounds okay for now and then a few weeks later, you come up with something entirely different that you feel is better. It’s all part of the process, and it’s important to not limit your approach.
Let’s face it. Everyone would pick to do it simultaneously if they could. And in your songwriting career, you may have some songs that come that easily. Others you may have to really work at. Don’t write off a musical idea just because the lyrics aren’t speaking to you right now. That’s where recording comes in. We’re not talking necessarily studio quality recordings, but get that musical idea down in a medium so you can revisit it later. You can always review your ideas on down the road and see if the lyrics speak to you then. Also, some people find that taking a more absent-minded approach works better. For example, play your music in the car. While you are driving, it seems like a certain portion of your mind is caught up in the managing of the vehicle, but your subconscious takes over and you may find lyrics drifting in even though you are not really focusing or trying that hard. Many a song has been written while not necessarily trying to write a song at that particular moment. This is all part of the game and what makes songwriting so special.
It Doesn’t Have to Happen All At Once
So you have a great chorus that is sure to be a hit song, but you still have nothing for the verses. Don’t worry. Rome wasn’t built in a day as the saying goes, and you don’t have to write a song all in one go for it to be a masterpiece. You might have to take a few lines here and there as they come. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good at what you are doing. As a matter of fact, it might just indicate that you are really good at it because you understand that perseverance and looking at things from different emotional standpoints is a major piece of the songwriting puzzle.
Listen, Listen, Listen and Read, Read, Read
There’s probably no better way to get inspired than to listen to the work of others. We’re not talking copying them, but listening to phrasing and how songs are put together. Become a student of the craft of songwriting, and start listening to every song you hear and analyzing the structure and the theme. Notice how important phrasing can be, and how it can take two very similar chord progressions and make them sound completely different. Also, listen to how different songwriters use the silence. Silence is severely underrated in songwriting. Know when to say nothing at all. Much like soloing for lead guitars, knowing when to keep it simple is what usually separates the masters from the average. Silence can be your friend at times.
Also, don’t limit yourself to music for inspiration. At the heart of any song is usually poetry, and reading some poetry that is not meant to go with music can still be useful to you. Poetry is famous for meters that pace the way the poem is read, and this is very similar to the basis of rhythms in music. Read all you can get your hands on and explore new types of poetry that venture outside the classic rhyme scheme that we are all so familiar with from childhood. Expand your horizons and you might find yourself with bold, new ideas that take you in directions you may have never explored on your own.
Use a Thesaurus
Have an idea for how the lyrics should go in a part of your song but don’t like the ring of it? Use a thesaurus. That’s right. That book that no one uses after high school that gives you synonyms and antonyms for words. Well, now is one of those rare occasions when it can really help out. Don’t have one lying around the house? No problem. The Internet is full of similar things, and you can even get one for your smartphone. There’s never an excuse to not be able to explore the myriad of options the English language has to offer to your songwriting.
The Verdict — You Can Do It
The theme of this article is good. Don’t limit your approach. There is more than one way to write a song. Try different combinations until you find the one that is right for you. Get inspired by those that have come before you, and put that inspiration to work every chance you get. Remember, songwriting is not a job with a schedule and a time clock. While you are driving down the road, you are songwriting. While you are working at your day job, you are songwriting. While you are enjoying Thanksgiving turkey, you are songwriting.
You can’t turn creativity off. That’s a good thing. If you got it, you’ve got it, so you may as well use it. Thanks for reading and stay tuned because we will have more articles that zone in on all of the topics presented here in more detail.