Hello, and welcome to part two of the So You Want to Write a Song series! Still holding that pose? Excellent! Today, we will start the actual song writing process. Now, before we start, it is recommended you read part one of this series, The Setup. Once you've read about the setup, you are ready to continue on to part two of the song writing process: the lyrics.
Now, this is going to be a big step if this is your first time ever writing any kind of lyrics. Hopefully, if you have gone through the setup, you have some idea of what you want to do. However, just knowing what you want to do doesn't get the job done! You have the plan, now you just need to properly execute it. So, let's start by looking at some things you should know for the lyrics writing process.
Know, as you probably know, every song, like any other piece of art, starts with an idea. So, to write lyrics, you need to have some kind of idea already premeditated. But where should you derive these ideas from? Well, ideas can be derived from virtual anyone, anywhere, or anything, but I will give you a few suggestions below.
Personal experiences or emotions
Probably the easiest place to get an idea and write a song from is your own personal experiences and emotions. People usually find it easiest to write about personal opinions, because they are as informed as possible on that topic (because the topic is you!). Maybe you're really angry at somebody? Someone once told me you get charged for literally beating somebody up. But feel free to kick the crap out of them in your songs as much as you want. So, just go for it. Whatever you feel, just start writing!
Another option for getting an idea is to think about current events that don't necessarily affect you directly. Anything in the current media is fair game for a song topic. If you ever can't think of a topic for a song, try flipping through a newspaper, or some other media outlet, and find a topic you find interesting.
Another possibility is to write a song about some sort of fictional work, such as your favourite movie or book. A good example is the song The Union Forever by The White Stripes. This song is based on Orson Welles 1941 film Citizen Kane, and even pays homage to the movie, when halfway through the song, singer Jack White performs a song sung by the main character of the movie, without any instrumental backing. So, if you have a favourite fictional work, now's your time to show the world your undying love for it!
Anatomy of a song:
Another important thing you should know during the lyric writing process is the different parts of the song. So, let's start quickly go over each part, just to be sure you fully understand the difference between a verse and a chorus, or a pre-chorus and a bridge.
The introduction of a song is, in simplest terms, the beginning portion of the song. It is a short portion of the piece, which is often instrumental, to start the piece off. It is usually built around the tonic chord of the song (we'll get into that for part three of the series), or the main chord progression of the song.
The verse of a song is a portion of the piece that is often used to tell the main story or message of the song, or to build up to the chorus. Verses typically follow one rhyme pattern. A song usually has more than one verse. Each verse will typically have similar, if not identical, rhythms and instrumentation.
A pre-chorus is occasionally used in song to help smooth the transition between the verse and the chorus. Another use for the pre-chorus is to, in the case that the verse and chorus share the same instrumental rhythm, temporarily introduce a new instrumental rhythm in order to make the repeated rhythm in the chorus sound fresh. The pre-chorus can be either instrumental or lyrical. The pre-chorus is practically a more specific bridge.
The chorus of a song is usually where the main idea of the song is displayed. It is the central part of the piece, and often regarded as one of the most important part. It can have a different rhythm, rhyming pattern, or even key than the verse. The chorus usually has some kind of lyrical hook (the catchy part of the song you hum on your way to work), and sometimes the title of a song is derived in some way from the chorus.
A musical bridge is used to create a smoother connection between two different portions of the song; much like a literal bridge connects two different land masses. Examples would be using a bridge to change the key or tempo of a song. It is an instrumental portion much of the time.
An instrumental solo is a part of the song that is used to showcase one specific instrument. For example, a lot of rock songs will have a guitar solo, which is obviously used to showcase the guitar. However, any instruments can have solos, such as bass, drums, keyboard, trumpet, etc. The singer can even have a solo, usually using an improvisational vocal technique such as scatting.
The outro of a song is practically the same as an intro as far as definition goes. The only major difference is that while an intro is used to open a song, an outro is used to close a song. In simplest terms, an outro is the ending to a song.
To rhyme or not to rhyme?
Now, another important aspect of writing lyrics is the rhyming. When most people think lyrics, they think rhyme. It's almost common knowledge that lyrics follow rhyming scheme. But, do they really have to?
Although the most common method of lyrical writing involves the lines following some kind of rhyme pattern, it's not wrong to have lyrics that simply don't rhyme at all. This is typically called free verse writing. Free verse writing is typically easier to write, as most people find writing rhymes a lot harder than not. Now, if you chose to write in free verse, don't think you're cheating, or that you are less talented of a writer than the guy who is writing in rhyme, as free verse lyrics can make just as good of a song as rhyming lyrics. For example, let's look at a portion of arguably the most well-known song by the band Slayer, entitled Raining Blood:
Trapped in purgatory
A lifeless object, alive
Death will be their acquittance
The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the sky's crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone
Obviously a relatively successful song, which goes to show that free verse writing can be just as good as rhyming lyrics. However, if you chose to write rhyming lyrics, you need to consider the following
Now, if you chose to write your lyrics in rhyme, you should understand the concept of rhyme patterns. This is a really simple concept, as it is just a series of letters to express the pattern the rhymes of a song follow. For example, a very common rhyme pattern is ABAB. In this sequence, each letter represents one line of lyric, and the corresponding letters are rhyming lines. So, in the ABAB pattern, the first line would rhyme with the third, and the second line with the fourth, like this:
I saw a man today
He kept following me
He wouldn't go away
till I began to flee
Now, this is simply one common rhyme pattern. There are loads more, involving more than four lines, and more than two letters. Maybe you have a rhyming pattern that goes AABCCB. Or maybe only some of the lines rhyme, like AABAAC. The possibilities are endless. Also, feel free to change the rhyming pattern between verse and chorus, or between other significant shifts. However, don't overuse it, as changing the rhyming pattern multiple times in a single verse or chorus can make the verse seems sloppy, and the rhyming random.
Now go for it!
So, now you have the setup, an idea for your lyrics, knowledge on the anatomy of a song, and knowledge on rhyming patterns. So, unfortunately, this means I cannot help you anymore! The rest is up to you and you're creativity! Try and get into your element, and find a process that works for you. Don't expect your first work to be your best, and never give up! Thank you, that is all for part two of So You Want to Write a Song.