Lyric Setting: How to Match Lyrics to a Melody

A songwriting lesson on how to properly set lyrics to melody by matching sylables of emphasis with beats of emphasis.

Ultimate Guitar
So you've got a set of lyrics that you want to set to a melody. Let's grab a guitar, strum some chords and see what comes out, right?

Well, while that may work some of the time, it's unlikely to bring you consistently effective results. Music and speech are two different forms of communication, and without careful attention it can be hard to make them work in tandem. Lyrics that are improperly set will create speed bumps for your listener, and distract them from where you want the song to take them.

However, by looking at what music shares in common with the spoken language, we stand a better chance of creating a melody that will sit properly with the lyric, or vice versa. By first focusing on rhythm, many of the problems that occur later down the line can be eliminated through a process called "Lyric Setting."

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About the Author:
Sam Dawson is a 2015 graduate of the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. Specializing in Guitar and Songwriting, Sam now operates a music tuition service from his studio in Hessle, UK. Guitar Lessons in Hessle

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    nargis · Oct 16, 2015 01:13 AM
    Whilst this is a great way to analyse lyrics and melody in general, I wouldn't use this as a way to approach my own lyrics at all. If you want to learn better how to create lyrics and melody, listen to music, focus in on the vocals, and learn through experience. Then make songs. The biggest issue I find when making lyrics for a song, is usually either myself, or my guitarist has come up with a section for a verse or chorus, and whilst the riff sounds absolutely killer, it might not be that great to actually sing on. A rule I go by usually is if I can't hear how the melody could go on the riffs in a way that I think works well, I either tweak the riff/chords so that it does, or create a new section entirely.