Writing lyrics is a very personal thing, and it is that sense of individualism that can really help people relate to a song. There are no strict rules that must be followed, but having a helpful collection of songwriting resources can really help. Here are 7 sets of lyric writing resources with a bunch of helpful links.
Feel free to add more resources in the comments. It will make this list more useful.
1. Life Experience
But before you go elsewhere for help, first look to yourself. Your own life experience is your greatest resource. Countless songs have been written on just about every topic - love being the greatest cliche - but your own unique perspective makes it worth writing another one.
As you live your life, you'll come across:
- Interesting, unusual and memorable phrases and sayings. Often the catchiest part of a song is a single phrase. Keep your ears open for them.
- Stories. Whether it is the experiences of your own life, or stories from the lives of others you know and speak to, a story can be a great foundation for a song.
- Perspective. Your take or angle on a situation can be very unique. It's valuable. Make use of it in your lyrics.
But just hearing, noticing and experiencing life won't write a song. You need to be able to collect, manage and effectively use your experiences. And that brings us to our next resource.
2. An Organizational System
West Latta starts his tutorial "The Good Librarian" with these words:
A good musician is a good librarian. A good composer is a good librarian. A good engineer, producer, DJ, or (fill in the blank) is a good librarian. This statement can be applied to nearly any creative endeavor, but most certainly is applicable to modern musicians, composers and engineers who are constantly switching between projects, applications, presets, and even platforms. This tutorial will give you an overview of what it means to be a good librarian – one who has a functional system for keeping track of everything from performance notes, to song lyrics, to presets and samples.
If you lose track of your inspiration, some great songs will go unwritten. West has some great ideas about managing your songs - read the full tutorial for all the details. Here are some highlights:
- Carry a voice recorder with you to capture song ideas. Many smart phones have that capability.
- Collect your lyric ideas in a database or word processor so you can search for them when you need them.
- Or if you prefer, write your lyrics with pencil and paper. Carry a notebook with you, and once they are full keep them somewhere handy at home. Consider typing them onto your computer at some stage.
Whatever your system, it is important to have a system - even a simple one. Even if you write your lyrics on the back of an envelope, make sure you have somewhere to put that envelope so it doesn't find its way into the trash.
3. Rhyming Dictionaries and Writing Tools
Not all songs rhyme, but if yours do a rhyming dictionary is a great resource. There are also complete writing resources designed for poets and songwriters. Here are some excellent resources mentioned in Joel Falconer's tutorial 50+ Great Lyric Writing Resources (including comments to the tut):
- Rhymezone is a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus that sorts its search results by the number of syllables.
- If you’re not interested in using Word to write lyrics, there are dedicated apps like MasterWriter out there that integrate rhyming dictionaries and the like.
- Lilac Writer is an online songwriting tool with built-in references, organization and collaboration tools.
If you use a rhyming dictionary or other songwriting tool that isn't listed, please let us know about it in the comments.
4. Tutorials and How Tos
As with any skill, it never hurts to learn more about songwriting. There are plenty of tutorials and learning resources available.
Here are some great tuts on Audiotuts+:
- Beginner’s Guide To Songwriting – Part 1
- Beginner’s Guide To Songwriting – Part 2
- Beginner’s Guide To Songwriting – Part 3
- 50+ Great Lyric Writing Resources
- 7 Places to Find Inspiration for Songs
And some how tos from around the Web:
- How to Write Lyrics (Hotsource)
- Notes on Songwriting (Robin Frederick)
- Basic Lyrical Elements (Berklee)
- Writing a Song (BBC Songwriting Guides)
- A Reference Guide For Beginning Songwriters (The Muse's Muse)
- How to Write an Alternative Pop Song: Video Series (eHow)
- Something Out of Nothing:
21 Songwriting Tips (Music Biz Academy.com)
- Online Songwriting Courses, Lessons and Tricks and Tips (MusicianUniversity.com)
- 24 Lyric-writing Tips (Musicradar)
If you're after something more in-depth than an article, there are plenty of useful books on writing lyrics. The information you read might just take you to the next level.
- Lyrics: Writing Better Words For Your Songs by Rikky Rooksby
- The Frustrated Songwriter’s Handbook by Karl Coryat & Nicholas Dobson
- Songwriting For Dummies by Jim Peterik, Dave Austin and Mary Ellen Bickford
- The Craft & Business of Songwriting by John Braheny
- Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo
- Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming by Pat Pattison
- The Business of Songwriting by Jason Blume
- Popular Lyric Writing by Andrea Stolpe
It is also helpful to be able to trade thoughts, problems and solutions with other songwriters. Here are some online communities.
- Great Songwriting has a community for songwriters who wish to have their lyrics critiqued by other songwriters. The cost of entry is to critique lyrics for other songwriters.
- The Songwriter’s Forum has a wide range of message boards ranging from lyrical technique to lyrical business, and has a contests section in case you feel competing with other writers will help you improve.
- The SongStuff Music Resource website has a forum with an active lyrics and songwriting board, and this one may be a good choice to get involved with over the others if you want a community that will cater to lyricists while giving you a place to talk about studio gear, instruments, synth design and so on.
- The Just Plain Folks community claims to have a membership of 51,000 songwriters and music industry professionals.
Finally, a great way to improve your lyric writing skills is to study the songwriters who inspire you. Learn from the best! Here are some suggestions to get you started.