How to Write Your Own Song Lyrics

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.

16 Replies to “How to Write Your Own Song Lyrics”

  1. A long time I used to write songs too, lyrics for songs because I was the drummer in the band.

    I think I always started with choosing a working title and went on from there. Of course I did listen to all artists publishing new music in my style.

    We played new wave and punk rock so there was no use in listening to love songs lol. Many good ideas came from other bands, not copy but try to do something similar that made them famous.

    1. Yes, Stefan.  You are exactly right.  Try to something exactly the same but completely different.  Ha.  That sounds like an impossible thing to do, but in a way, that is what we are trying to achieve.

  2. Thank you for the great article about writing your own song lyrics. I’m a piano player, and would love to be able to compose. Like anything, it would take practice wouldn’t it to gain confidence and skill. I love your suggestion of reading poetry for inspiration. It definitely makes sense as lyrics are just poetry set to music. 

  3. Hi Brandon,

    Song writing was something I was into pretty heavily back in highschool and up into my 20s. I hung out with a few musicians and even tried to learn to play guitar myself!. It was towards the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90s. The time when hair bands were fading out and grunge was coming in. Matter of fact I have 2 cheap guitars that I pullout and strum from time to time. Reading your article kind of put it in my head to pull out those old notebooks and my Telecaster and see if I could put something together. I know now that it’s easier to get stuff published ( as long as it good) than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I just don’t know if my songs would be a bit outdated LOL! Great article it really got me wanting to hook up that old practice amp…

    1. We love to hear that we may have helped inspire you to be creative again.  There’s no greater compliment or feeling of accomplishment you could bestow on us.  Thanks so much, and crank that amp up for sure.

  4. PS: what helps me a lot is the fact that I am kind of gifted with Beautiful lines in my head. Most times I might get either some rhymes and other times I might get a rhythm. I have found out that when I get an inspiration and began to develop it, I get a flow of the keyboard lines, guitar lines and the trumpet lines, drum lines etc and I began to wonder how gifted I am.

    I just can’t wait to do my music but first I want to learn how to play the keyboard. Currently I do play only the drums

    1. Well, knowing the drums gives you the backbone of everything, so that’s definitely a good place to start.  Being gifted is wonderful, but you gotta work at it too.  Good luck!

  5. Beautiful piece. I enjoyed reading through this piece. For me, song writing is natural. Most times I may get the Chorus today and then what I do is record it on my phone and then listen to it and play around with it over and over again. That’s how I usually develop most of my songs. I might get a chorus now and maybe a week or two other parts begin to fall in place and the song gets even better as I play around with it.

    I noticed that I usually get songs from other people’s song. That’s just me. I haven’t done any of my songs anyways. When I do, I will be glad to share with the world.

    Farewell and thanks for sharing.

  6. I have been writing all my life.  Everything from haiku, poetry, short stories all the way up to long novels.  I have thought of writing songs but thats seems to be one niche that I cant seem to break into.

    However in reading your article it actually has my juices flowing again and maybe its time to try again.  Thank you for indirectly giving me the boost I need.

    1. No time like the present.  There’s no greater compliment you could pay to us than that we got you wanting to create.  That’s fantastic, and let us know if we can help.

  7. I love writing poetry and song lyrics.  I can imagine it as a song in my head while writing. I have always wished that I could play a guitar, my daughters like to play guitar once in awhile.  I don’t know if I can make up words to a melody on the guitar while someone else plays It would be interesting to find out. 

    1. A lot of people specialize in one or the other, so even if you don’t ever get around to learning guitar, you may still have something there.  Also, let your daughter know that we’ve got several good articles here about coming up with musical ideas as well.  Thanks for stopping by.

  8. This is a cool article.

    I find the songs that appeal to me the most are those inspired by a literary source.  Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, for example.  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.  And one of my all time favourites:  A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum.

    So I’m grateful to see in your article advice encouraging to Read Read Read! – even poetry!

    I enjoyed reading your article!  Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much.  I hope it’s a different take on things, and I do think inspiration can be found in more ways than just listening to good songs.

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