Songwriting Basics: Lyric
As with all of songwriting, crafting a good lyric takes time and practice. If you have already created your Theme, you can get started with the ideas you wrote previously. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are putting lyrics together:
1. Write about what you know.
Drawing from personal experience will always produce a better result than writing from theory. Monumental songs are birthed from exceptional circumstances. Think of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. Horatio Spafford penned those words after facing the loss of his business and the lives of his four daughters.
2. Use scripture when writing worship songs.
There is nothing quite like singing God’s word back to Him. Our hearts grow in fascination of Him as we meditate on who He is and what He has done. Feel free to paraphrase if needed. We are working from a translation anyway.
3. Match the meter of the lyrics to the rhythm of your melody.
Choose words that fit naturally. Don’t force the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble. If the words you want don’t fit, use a thesaurus to find other words with a similar meaning. Just make sure you really understand the words you are substituting from the thesaurus.
4. Match the tone of the lyrics with the tone of your melody and chord progression.
Each part of your song should work together to clearly communicate the emotion and message of the song. Please don’t write about joy with a sad sounding melody or chord progression. It just sends a mixed message.
5. Decide from the beginning if you will rhyme or not.
Rhyming isn’t necessary in songwriting. However if rhyming, don’t stick to perfect rhymes. Many cliche phrases come from overused rhymes. Pair words like “soul” with “all” for an imperfect rhyme. Loose rhyming opens up many options.
6. Decide whether your lyrics will be literal, figurative or a combination of both.
“How He Loves,” by John Mark McMillan, is a great example of figurative language. Word pictures provide a wonderful perspective on an otherwise familiar topic. Knowing God is love and imagining “loves like a hurricane” are two very different things. I think it’s safe to say that word pictures are also worth a thousand words.
Did I leave anything out? What guidelines do you use when writing?