How To Write Song Lyrics For Beginners – Songwriting 101
Lyrics don’t matter as much as they used to in a lot of genres these days. Take hip-hop and pop, for example. A lot of it is just lyrics that are used over and over again in every song.
Let’s learn to how to write song lyrics for beginners correctly.
You might have the best melody in the world, but if people can’t relate to the lyrics, you lost. You can still attract a big audience with amazing beats and music videos, but a fraction will be missed. We don’t want that, do we?
You can’t write a “perfect” song.
Some people will like it. Some won’t. But what all the popular songs have in common? There is more than just picking a genre, producing an awesome beat and finding a vocalist.
You have to look for decent rhyming schemes, syllable patterns, appealing progression, and, of course, a catchy chorus.
Let’s go over the things you shouldn’t do first.
1) Don’t Overlook The Hook
People love hooks. They may not know the verses, but everybody sings along when the chorus is playing. Take a famous rock, pop, or hip-hop song. Can you imagine them without catchy hooks? In most cases, probably not.
Try to keep it simple, but avoid cliche statements.
For example, in pop, it’s love songs about your heart being broken. In hip-hop, the cliche would be rapping about drugs and partying as literally almost everybody is doing the same thing.
I mean you can still go for it but don’t expect come off as edgy or unique if that’s all you are going to bring to the table.
You have to be smart and strategic when writing your chorus as it should be something “ear-grabbing.” Focus on the music first and the lyrics second.
2) Match Syllables
Even though matching syllables is not essential, you have to look at the number of syllables.
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables will help you set the tone and flow of your track.
You see a lot of successful singer and writers who don’t really follow the rule, and that’s fine. All it does is creates coherence in the lyrics and gives you the ability to emphasize certain lines.
3) Avoid Disingenuous Lyrics
This is just common sense. Don’t sing or rap about something you don’t actually care about.
Hip-hop would be one of the more straightforward examples. Rapping about guns, drugs, living in the hood and coming from nothing to everything is becoming a cliche.
It’s very popular and every second rapper out there is mumbling about racks and popping pills.
Some people are being real and talking what they’ve been through.
Growing up poor and getting places is inspiring.
However, if you’ve grown up in the suburbs and went to a private school, people don’t want to hear how you struggled to find money to buy food.
Don’t be fake because people hate fake. It’s that simple!
4) Have A Storyline In Your Song
It doesn’t matter if you are listening to a podcast, watching a movie or reading a book. There has to be a story or a message.
This applies to songwriting as well.
Try coming up with a story that unfolds as the song goes on. Everything in your track has to connect. Stick to the “one idea per song” rule. This will help your listeners to resonate with your creating, you feel me?
5) Don’t Rhyme Too Much
How much rhyming is too much? Well, there aren’t any set rules.
However, simple childish rhymes are boring and dull.
For example, blues, lose, clues, and muse. You may think it’s a great idea to write four lines ending with the four words above.
And they will rhyme perfectly, don’t get me wrong.
Although technically there won’t be anything wrong with those lines, they will just sound boring.
And if you have thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on a music video and advertising, then don’t compare yourself to the pop starts.
This will work for them, but you want to be noticed.
That’s why you have to change up the rhymes.
Now we have figured what you shouldn’t do.
Let’s get to what you SHOULD do!
How To Write Song Lyrics For Beginners
It’s not hard to write song lyrics, but there are a few things to keep in mind, so you don’t have to go back and correct your mistakes over and over again.
1) Understand The Common Structure
There are a few things to note here. It’s the very fundamentals so read carefully.
I) What Are The Main Parts Of A Song?
Song structure can vary a lot. It’s not necessary to include all the parts into every song. However, it’s crucial to know them as this will help you to understand how the most songs are built.
Introduction – the very first section that leads into a song. Most songs have a short intro of four or eight bars, and some don’t have any. It’s usually the melody and a couple of drums that are “warming you up.”
Verse – the main part of the song which is eight to sixteen bars long. Most songs have two verses which take up half of the song or even more. It’s usually quieter than the chorus and has fewer instruments playing.
Chorus – the repetitive part of the song that stays nearly the same throughout the song. Usually, eight bars long, but can be both shorter and longer. It’s supposed to “grab” listeners’ ear and keep them listening. That why it’s usually simple yet catchy.
Bridge – the part in between the second verse and chorus. Usually, it’s no longer than four bars and can sound completely different from the rest of the song. Commonly used to lead to the second hook both lyrically and melodically.
II) Which Structure Is The Most Popular?
Your best bet would be using the AABA structure. For some reason, it’s believed to be the easiest one for the beginners.
As for lettering, “A” stands for a verse and “B” for a chorus. Therefore, AABA would be two verses and a chorus followed by a final verse.
If this doesn’t sound right for you, feel free to experiment with other song structures.
There are so many of them out there.
Moreover, there is also a free song form, which implies you don’t have to follow the standard structures and just create your own.
Honestly, giving it a shot wouldn’t hurt. Who knows, maybe you got some talent in you?
2) Look For Inspiration
It’s easier said than done, but there are a few exercises and things you can do to make the process of writing song lyrics a little easier.
I) Stream Of Consciousness
This exercise is quite simple. All you do is keep writing the four-line rhymes and drafts non-stop for a few minutes.
You don’t need to filter anything out yet, just keep coming up with new ideas as you go.
They can be good or bad, but at the end of the exercise, you will have a handful of ideas that you can use when coming up with lyrics.
II) Look At Popular Lyrical Songs
You won’t come up with anything new listening to EDM or mumble rap. Try artists that are known to be lyrical in your music genre.
Most of the time you will already know those singers.
Analyze the song structure and the way he or she play with words. It’s not an easy thing to come up with something similar, but it’s definitely doable.
III) Read Poetry
This is an excellent exercise to be able to come up with rhymes a lot quicker. By reading poems, you won’t only learn new interesting words but will train your brain.
As you read more and more, rhyming will become easier.
Poems come in different styles and with different structures, so there is a lot to discover and learn.
Poetry is not really a trend these days, but give it a shot, okay? The results will impress you.
IV) Use You Own Judgement
If you don’t like the classics, it’s okay. You may hate The Beatles but love Bon Jovi. Or you can be all about the “new school.”
It doesn’t matter as far as you are doing what you like and enjoy the process.
V) Try Finding Your Own Style
You may adore some artists and try to follow the way they write songs blindly. That’s not the way to go.
You should find your own style.
There are indeed a lot of rules and conventions, but at the end of the day, it’s art. And without being creative, you won’t be able to get anywhere.
VI) Keep Writing And Write All The Time
It would be a smart idea to keep practicing. It doesn’t matter if you are writing something, playing the guitar, or drawing.
It doesn’t matter how much you read about the process or how many videos you watch.
Without constant practice, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Keep a journal and write down everything that comes in mind. Brainstorm ideas and let the song ferment.
Writing takes time.
You can try describing your feelings, or the world around you. The more you write, the easier it becomes. Simple as that!
3) Find Your Way With Words
Writing a blog post without a lot of expressions and comparisons is encouraged as you want everything to be as simple and concise as possible.
When it comes to writing a poem, a book, or a song, things change a little.
Listeners don’t want to hear cliche lyrics.
They want more details, more colours, more emotions.
When writing a song, you have to create a whole world and tell a story in three or so minutes. Doesn’t sound like an easy task, does it? Well, let’s look at a few tips and try to figure this out.
I) Show Instead Of Telling
No one wants to hear how you are tired, angry, or sad without knowing the backstory or your current state. So what do you do?
Well, try describing the experience and the current environment you are in as opposed to just stating the emotions you feel.
If you want the song to live on, make it interesting.
For example, instead of saying that you are down, describing the dark room you are in, and silence around you will add so many more colours and feelings to the song.
On the opposite, if you are happy, describing things that make you happy such as birds singing outside or breakfast with your family will be a lot more relatable to the audience than just raw emotion.
II) Don’t Rhyme Everything
Rhyming the last word in every line is something you would have to do in the elementary school. Now you have to step your game up.
You want the rhymes to sound as natural as possible.
There is no need to add a random or weird word in the middle of the line just so the number of syllables matches or the two lines rhyme.
Basically, all you need to know is that it doesn’t mean it’s right if it rhymes.
There are so many genres out there. Some need as much harmony as possible, and others don’t. However, over-rhyming is never encouraged.
III) Try Some Non-Standard Rhymes
There are tons of rhyming schemes out there that you can use besides the most popular ones. Your best bet will be googling them and trying them out.
Who knows, maybe one of them will be your signature scheme in the nearest future.
Just off the top of my head I can name pararhyme, alliteration, forced rhymes, and assonance/consonance rhymes.
And there are so many more out there!
IV) Avoid Cliches
This has been mentioned so many times already.
Nobody likes cliches.
They are phrases that have been overused in every music genre for many years.
Maybe a famous pop star can still pull it off with all the advertising and radio time they have, but you don’t stand a chance.
Don’t write about someone walking down the street, looking into your eyes, asking “why?”, or kneeling cause they’ve done something wrong.
We’ve all heard it a million times at the mall while shopping and when driving somewhere. People get tired of cliches, so come up with something a little more interesting, okay?
At least try, how about that?
4) Don’t Forget About Music
You can have the most intelligent lyrics with the catchiest rhymes. Without good music accompaniment, you won’t get far.
Some people believe that music is THE MOST significant part of every song. Anyways, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
I) Learn How Music Notation Works
The rule of thumb would be having approximately the same number of syllables and steady rhythm for every line. However, these days this rule is being broken a lot as new genres and styles emerge.
The best bet would be actually dedicating some time to learn how notation works.
If you don’t know anything about bars, notes, measures and rests, it’s definitely worth googling.
II) Try Writing With a Melody Written
If you are a beginner, it’s a lot easier to write lyrics based on the melody.
If you also produce music, then maybe you’ll be okay with writing music for a particularly rhymed and styled lyrics.
However, if you are not, keep it simple for now.
III) Don’t Jump In Between Ranges
If you plan to record yours or someone else’s vocals, you are better off staying in the same range.
You need someone to be able to sing it, right?
The wider the range, the harder it’s going to be to find a vocalist.
IV) Add Some Free Space
This can mean many things in different industries. In this particular article, it means that you need to leave small parts of the song free of lyrics. Why?
Well, you vocalist needs to breathe here and there.
Stopping for a second to catch your breath is really important, especially when singling live or recording in one take.
If you are recording in a studio and can take as many takes as you want to put the best parts together afterwards, don’t worry about this much.
5) Adding The Final Touches / Proofreading
When writing a test, you always check your answers before handing everything in.
Sometimes you have to correct the answer or double check something with the instructor.
Well, the same thing applies to songwriting. Let’s take a look at how you can improve what you’ve written with a few last touches.
I) Check What You’ve Written
Basically, you have to take another look at your song. And I mean look at everything.
- Do lyrics go well together?
- Do syllables match?
- Is your goal to tell a story or send a message?
- Have you accomplished this goal?
- Is there anything that stands out?
- If there is, do you want this particular part of the song to stand out?
And these are only a few questions you can use. There are so many more.
II) It’s Okay To Rewrite
A fantastic song can technically be written in one draft, but sometimes it takes a little longer.
Well, you also have to adjust it to the music composed, and sometimes it’s easier to change a couple of words than the entire melody.
Anyways, rewriting is a part of the process. If you feel like it can be better, then make it better.
III) Ask For Opinions
Sometimes this can be the hardest thing to do.
Especially if you have low self-esteem or just starting.
We are all scared to get judged and think about how we are going to fail even before we start. However, it’s a good practice to let other people take a look at your work.
If they don’t like something that you find good, don’t listen to them. A lot of the times they will actually point out the weak spots that you’ve been debating about. So it’s a win after all.
IV) Do something To Get Noticed
The most critical step is to find ways to get exposure. Unless you don’t want to get noticed, of course. However, most people do.
There are a million ways to do this.
We have social media platforms, streaming platforms, blogs, live performances and a lot more.
It’s tough to get heard, but it’s worth it. Once you’ve gained some traction, things will get a lot easier.
Conclusion: How To Write Song Lyrics For Beginners
At the end of the day, you can read as many posts, articles, and case studies as you want. The only way to get somewhere is to start working on your passion.
And don’t get me wrong, in the beginning, it feels like everything is so pointless and you don’t have a talent anyways.
However, only about 1% have talent, and 99 out of 100 talented people never end up using it because they are scared.
Don’t get overwhelmed, take your time, and get to work as soon as possible!
That’s the best and the only way to get places.