Q: Does anyone have advice on improving as a lyricist?
While lyric writing is a very personal discipline, great songwriters all agree on one thing: Practice makes perfect. No matter the tip, trick, do, or don’t- it all comes down to giving yourself the time and space to work on your craft.
Start with studying the greats. Often when a song is well-written, we don’t pay attention to the actual songwriting. The song flows in such a harmonious way you just get lost in the art. However, you will be blown away by what you can learn by honing in on the craftsmanship of the piece. Spend time studying your favorite songwriters’ techniques and combine your favorite aspects of their writing to cultivate your own style.
Some writers find it helpful to start their process with a title. More often than not, your song title will be the best word or phrase to fully encompass the essence of your song. By coming up with your title first, you will have a strong guiding light that will inform the rest of your lyrics.
Once you’ve decided on a title, try writing your song as a monologue. Because lyrics need to express so much in a few words, knowing the full dramatic arc of your song before the lyric writing process is helpful. Some writers find writing a full monologue of the character’s feelings helps when editing down a page worth of dialogue into a well-crafted three-minute song.
Next concentrate on the structure of your song. There are many structures to consider: AABA, ABAB, ABAAB, ABABC, ABRACADABRA! No, we aren’t casting spells, but coming up with the right structure for your song is magical. There are many formats out there songwriters can use to structure their songs, and deciding early on will benefit your process. Pick your favorite song and study its structure and use it to inspire your next song.
The most important thing to remember is: You are the secret weapon. A writer’s unique point of view can be the key to a hit song. There may be thousands of love songs, but no one has experienced love exactly as you. Don’t shy away from using words and phrases you use on the regular in your song lyrics. Injecting your personality into your lyric writing results in a unique listener experience.
With every possible lyric available to us via the internet, studying great songwriters has never been easier. Make a playlist and spend some time analyzing the techniques of your favorites. Use an existing song and use its structure to inspire a new set of lyrics. Like any discipline, practice really does make perfect.
P.S. For more tricks like these, join our tribe of TheaterMakers at The TheaterMakers Studio and open up a treasure trove of resources that will help get you to the next stage of production!