Introduction by Jim Liddane
Writing Song Lyrics
"Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try"... You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one"... "You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life."... "We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control."... "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time"... "Don't stop believin', hold on to that feeling."... "It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away."... "I kissed a girl and I liked it."... "We found love in a hopeless place".. "I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody"...
These are lines that represent just a fraction of the many incredible lines that have shaped the pop music landscape. The beauty of music is that different lyrics resonate with different people, so there are countless meaningful lyrics that have left a huge impact on a great many listeners.
"Imagine" - John Lennon, "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen, "American Pie" - Don McLean, "Blowin' In The Wind" - Bob Dylan, "Like A Rolling Stone" - Bob Dylan,
"Hallelujah" - Leonard Cohen, "Yesterday" - The Beatles, "Hotel California" - The Eagles, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana, "What's Going On" - Marvin Gaye, "Born to Run" - Bruce Springsteen, "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey, "Stairway To Heaven" - Led Zeppelin, "Sweet Child o' Mine" - Guns N' Roses, "Imagine Dragons" - Radioactive, "Rolling In The Deep" - Adele, "Bad Guy" - Billie Eilish
"Lose Yourself" - Eminem...all songs that are renowned not only for their melodies and performances but also for the depth, storytelling, and emotional impact of their lyrics.
• Lyrics provide the opportunity to tell a story or convey a message. They allow songwriters to express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a poetic or narrative form. Through lyrics, artists can communicate complex ideas, explore themes, and engage listeners on an intellectual and emotional level.
• Lyrics also have the power to evoke strong emotions and create a deep connection between the listener and the music. Well-crafted lyrics can resonate with personal experiences, address universal feelings, and touch the hearts of listeners. They can inspire empathy, comfort, empower, or challenge the audience, forging a lasting emotional bond.
• Many people relate to songs through their lyrics. Whether it's expressing shared experiences, capturing a particular moment in time, or addressing common human emotions, lyrics can make a song relatable and create a sense of connection and understanding among listeners. This relatability often contributes to the popularity and longevity of a song.
• Lyrics can also be a powerful tool for social and cultural commentary. They can address social issues, provoke thought, challenge norms, or advocate for change. Songs with meaningful lyrics have historically served as vehicles for expressing political views, sparking social movements, and inspiring collective action.
• Lyrics are a form of artistic expression and allow songwriters to showcase their creativity and craftsmanship. Playing with words, metaphors, rhymes, and poetic devices, songwriters can create captivating and memorable lyrics that enhance the artistic quality of a song.
• Memorable lyrics can make a song instantly recognisable and contribute to its popularity. Catchy hooks, memorable lines, and sing-along choruses often become the most iconic and memorable parts of a song. These elements can make a song more enjoyable, increase its replay value, and leave a lasting impression on listeners.
It's important to note that while lyrics hold great significance, the musical elements of a song, such as melody, rhythm, arrangement, and production, also contribute to its overall impact and appeal. The synergy between lyrics and music is what often creates a truly remarkable and powerful musical experience.
Although there is no "proper" way to write song lyrics, there
are some basic elements that most songs have in common.
Lynne May discusses five of those elements: Hook, Slant,
Chorus, Verses, and Bridge.
The hook is a very good place to begin. The hook is a part of
the song which is intended to "hook" the ears of your
listeners.This is such an important part of the song that some
publishers insist upon hearing the hook before they will even
consider the rest of the song.
The hook is a very useful starting point because it can become
the title as well as the main message of the . Your first
task, then, is to decide on a "theme" or message for your song
and then come up with a catchy phrase which conveys that
message. Think of the songs that nearly everyone remembers:
like "Dream On" or "Stairway to Heaven" or even "Three Blind
Mice" (reportedly the most famous song in the world).
Your hook phrase should be singable, memorable, and convey
your message in the fewest words possible.
Once you come up with a good hook, you are ready to roll!
In other words, what perspective on your subject do you wish
to convey? One thing which will help you here is to decide
upon your target audience. Is this song aimed at children, at
jazz lovers, at headbangers? The answer to this question will
go a long way in determining the type of language that you
will use to write your lyrics.
Whose perspective will convey your message; the "wronged
lover"?, Or the wrongdoer?, The parent of a wayward child or
the child him/herself?. Which player in your drama will be
telling the story?
Will your song be in first person--"I woke up this
morning...." or third person--"She woke up this morning...."?
Once you have decided what you want to say, who will be saying
it, and to whom it will be said, you are ready for the next
This is the next logical step since the chorus contains the
"hook". The chorus should be relatively short--eight measures
and four vocal lines is a good choice. Be sure to start or end
the chorus with the hook. You might even want to put it both
places--just be sure that there is enough variety in between
to avoid listener boredom.
The chorus should be "singable" for the average listener.
People like to sing along and they remember a song more if
they can sing along. Make the words easy to remember and be
sure that they effectively convey your main message.
This is the point in writing song lyrics where your story
begins. Think of your song as a drama. The first verse should
give the listeners enough information to keep them interested,
but not so much as to bore them. The most successful verse
lyrics will make the listener relate to the words--the lyrics
apply to their lives.
Sometimes it helps to think of your verses as reasons for your
message in the chorus or evidence that your chorus message is
Each verse should progressively lead the listener further
toward the chorus.
The Bridge is an optional section which most often comes
between two choruses and is a kind of break from the rest of
the song. It should take your message to a different level or
offer a new perspective to support your main theme. The
purpose of the bridge is to build the tension leading up to
the climax of the song or to lead a song to its conclusion. It
also must lead your listener back into the chorus.
The bridge often has a different rhythm and a different
combination of instruments. . A songwriter needs to listen to
a lot of songs from different genres to get a feel for the
bridge. One good way to become familiar with bridges is to do
a lyric search for some of your favorite songs. The parts of
the songs are usually labeled. Note carefully the section that
is labeled "bridge". Play the song and listen for the ways in
which the bridge is different from but still relates to the
rest of the song.
Lynne May has owned and operated May Music Studio in Gig Harbor, Washington, for twenty years. The studio offers private lessons in guitar, piano, and drums.
Additionally, students participate in monthly band sessions where they are matched with others of their approximate age and playing level. These bands prepare songs to perform at the annual Outdoor Concert and Cookout, held on the stage on the studio property.
Prior to establishing May Music Studio, Lynne was a performing musician nationwide for fifteen years. Visit her website below.
Lynne May Studio
Copyright Songwriter Magazine, International Songwriters Association & Lynne May: All Rights Reserved
If you have wandered onto this page by accident, then you may very well be wondering what "The Knowledge" button above is all about.
ISA • International Songwriters Association (1967)
"The Knowledge" is a free multi-part course which takes you from thinking up the basic idea for your song, through using AI or Artificial Intelligence to help improve your writing skills, to penning the title, the lyric and the melody. It then covers plagiarism (what to do if you're told your song sounds like another one!) and copyrighting your song, so that you can take action if your work is stolen.
Finally, it deals with selling your song, promoting your demo, music publishers, putting your songs on the web, and in movies, or on television, getting the money in, raising cash to fund your career via crowd-funding, before setting up your own music publishing company so that you get to keep all of the money! And that blue button at the bottom of each lesson simply takes you to the next lesson.
If however you would like to go back to Lesson 1 and start the course (it will take about 90 minutes to complete), then just press HERE!
This site is published by the International Songwriters Association, and will introduce you to the world of songwriting. It will explain music business terms and help you understand the business concepts that you should be familiar with, thus enabling you to ask more pertinent questions when you meet with your accountant/CPA or solicitor/lawyer.
Writing A Song •
However, although this website includes information about legal issues and legal developments as well as accounting issues and accounting developments, it is not meant to be a replacement for professional advice. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal/accounting developments.
Every effort has been made to make this site as complete and as accurate as possible, but no warranty or fitness is implied. The information provided is on an "as is" basis and the author(s) and the publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damages arising from the information contained on this site. No steps should be taken without seeking competent legal and/or accounting advice