Everyone has had the magical feeling when they hear a song on the radio, or when they’re at a friend’s house, and the song really connects with them on a personal level. It’s almost as if the song is totally the listener’s, the singer personally seranading them.
Whether skipping to work on a sunny day, or crying, heartbroken into a pillow, music is the soundtrack to listener’s lives..
How to Write Lyrics, Tip One: A good lyric will express the writer’s feelings.
So, what’s the best way to write lyrics that connect with other people? Write lyrics that mean something, of course! The thousands of people who enjoyed ‘Comfortably Numb’ are no less human that the song’s author, David Gilmour.
If a song is written and it expresses the feelings of it’s author, then anyone else who has felt the same way will identify with that song: this is a proven fact that has been born out by many records over the years: from ‘Layla’ to ‘Dry Your Eyes.’
How to Write Lyrics, Tip Two: Why a lyricist should be inspired by the music.
Maynard James Keenan from the rock band Tool has said on various occasions that his lyrics are simply interpretations of the band’s music. This is a great way to write lyrics: by simply listening to the music the band or the songwriter has created, the lyricist is presented with a springboard to potential lyrical topics: and it is essential for a song to be about something if it is to be any good.
How to Write Lyrics, Tip Three: Why a lyricist shouldn’t ryhme all the time.
This is not to say that rhyme should never be used in lyric writing: rhyming can be a wonderful tool if used creatively:
‘Well the whole damn place goes crazy twice/and it’s once for the Devil and once for Christ/but the boss don’t like these dizzy heights/we’re busted in the blinding lights/of closing time.’
Taken from Leonard Cohen’s wonderful ‘Closing Time’, this lyric is a great example of fantastic imagery, all within a very strict rhyme scheme.
However, there are two dangers of religiously sticking to rhymes: firstly, that the songwriter restrict hm or herself so much that they end up using language that would never be used in real life. In his marvellous book ‘How to Write Songs on Guitar’, Ricky Rooksby gives the great example of Neil Diamond’s ‘Play me’, which contains the lyric:
‘Songs she sang to me/Songs she brang to me.’
Why not use the phrase ‘brought to me’ like any normal human? Well, it doesn’t rhyme with sang, of course.
The other main risk of rhyming is using cliches: there are thousands of songs already released that rhyme ‘love’ with ‘dove’ or ‘above’, and adding to them will only show use of a rhyming dictionary, with no indication of genuine creativity.