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niki's avatar

When writing lyrics, did you first try to find rhyming-words or meaning?

Asked by niki (699 points ) January 31st, 2010

I am natural in composing/writing the music, but not that good in writing lyrics. But I’m currently learning on that.
If any of you write lyrics, which one did you usually do first?
is it trying to find rhyming words (ie: first browse through the thesaurus dictionary), or just first write WHATEVER comes into your mind (ie: meaning comes 1st, from your very deepest heart), and then later on, you edit the words so they rhyme, and also arrange the structure of the verse, chorus, bridge?

I’m basically confused which thing I should do first, step by step, until the lyrics is finished.
Need help on this one, thanks!

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11 Answers

Spinel's avatar

1. I establish my overall theme.
2. I write down the lines dancing in my head.
3. I edit and add rhyme.
4. I check my work.
5. I see if it works in the real world with music.

There is no standard process. Each individual has an order that works best for his or her individual case. The process above is the one that works for me. You can use it, if you like, but I encourage you to experiment with different orders. That’s really the only way you will find your right order.

Once you have discovered your “right” order creating, get others to critique your work. If the lyrics you produce are quality, then you have found the right order for your individual case. :)

rentluva5256's avatar

I agree with @Spinel. Whatever works best for you.

DrMC's avatar

I do joke songs to a pre-established melody sort of like weird al

Example: change Oh susanna to “grab your ankles”...

I find that one or two lines just pop in my head and are funny to me, so I share them.

After a time the other lines add in.

When you do a lyrics to fit song order, the sylable count and rhyme have to fit, and it’s a bit tricky – just let as many possibilities come, and think about them.

Take your time. Keep at it. Take breaks for a while and hit it fresh weeks or months later.

restricting to rhymed words reduces your freedom, and can be worked around.

I’m not a pro at this, just what i’ve done.

Jack79's avatar

meaning, a phrase or something, sometimes even the chorus

then I start writing whatever comes to mind, and when I get to the end of a line and it doesn’t rhyme, I just go back and rephrase

daemonelson's avatar

I’m not you, so already my attempts at persuasion fall down. But if I’m trying to make something rhyme, I write out what I’m trying to say, then find a variant that does.

Kayak8's avatar

Sometimes, I write the music first and hum the melody in my head. Often a hook phrase will enter my brain and I hold onto it. It can help me figure out where the rest of the song is going.

If I am going for some type of rhyme, I try to remember that I can rhyme every other line or use couplets (like poetry). Some words rhyme when they are sung better than when they are spoken.

It is rare that I write the lyrics first—some people do, but I know I have only done so once or twice. Most often I get the basic melody line down and the words just happen.

niki's avatar

@Kayak8 & everyone else: but then, have you ever got clueless & confused on how to start the lyrics, and then what’s the next step of building it?
like, okay, let’s say you got a phrase.
but then, my main difficulty always lies on either I’ve found a good, deep sentence/phrase that’s meaningful yet i can’t find the proper-fitting rhyming words at the end of the two sentences,
or I’ve found a good pair of rhyming words yet they don’t/can’t relate at all with what i’m trying to say (ie: the sentence/phrase).

Then, there’s also another problem of confusing the phrase-order! (ie: which phrase goes first? and which one goes latter, in the order?)

or perhaps, like what everybody suggested here,
should I just simply write whatever comes into my mind?
and then later on, simply look at it, and edit & re-edit ALL things, including finding the rhyming pair-of-words, and also the order of the phrases?

thanks everyone for the suggestion, they’re all great ones!
I’ll definitely try to absorb & apply ‘em!

DrMC's avatar

um – when writing a paper and you’re really stuck, do the pencil equivalent of barfing on the floor, and then sweeping it up.

DrMC's avatar

It really helps to have a rhythm in my mind

Jack79's avatar

I once wrote a song without any inspiration whatsoever, just to prove a point to a guy in my band. It turned out pretty good. I also used to make songs on the spot when I worked on a cruise-boat; I’d ask the passengers to shout out a word and then I’d include that in the next line, then the next passenger would shout another word etc. It is (unfortunately) possible to make songs like that with no inspiration whatsoever, based only on technique. It’s particularly easy to do that if you’re looking for a comic effect, as many comedy spoofs have shown (eg Achmed’s “Jingle Balls” or anything by Weird Al).

Creating a serious song is slightly harder, and it can be particularly difficult to say something original, witty, unique. Something that nobody else has said before, and that will stick to popular memory like “the answer is blowing in the wind” or “love is just a four-letter word” (yeah, Dylan was good at this). And the toughest bit is creating such a song without being cheesy.

So it’s all about the meaning at the end of the day. And then you can just look up words in a dictionary or try different ways of saying things until the syllables and rhymes finally stick.

Kayak8's avatar

@niki No one says you have to start at the beginning either . . . Sometimes I get something down and I think it is going to be the chorus of the song and I realize it actually fits better as, say the second verse.

I can’t remember ever starting and writing a single song in the order it is to be sung, from the first line straight through to the last. I often feel less pressure if I start in the middle and work my way out from there . . .

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