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I'm having trouble writing my first lyrics for a song. I think the main point I'm having difficulty with is how a lyric sentence is written? I know it's not written like a novel but similar to a poem but not exactly because lyrics are suppose to be made simple for the audience to hear.

I've been searching for an answers and I found this person who stated

A good way to practice is to start reading and writing poetry, because in essence lyrics are just poetry. Study the forms and structures of poetry and you will be one step closer to writing lyrics.

I would like to know if I follow his advices on studying the form and structure of poetry and use simple descriptive words, would this be a good way to write lyrics?

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"In essence lyrics are just poetry" is absolutely incorrect. Writing pens and writing lyrics are two completely different art forms. – Lee White Jul 17 '14 at 8:53
I thought a 'writing pen' was the implement used to write both with... – Tim Jul 17 '14 at 16:59
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Do you need lyrics? If it is hard to write them, it's easiest to skip them and compose instrumental music. If this is not an option, do you have a friend that can write them? Not all musicians write lyrics. In a band it is common that many members contribute to the music, but only the singer writes lyrics.

I you want to "learn" how to write lyrics, then reading and writing in general will help. I would say that it's better to study lyrics to songs than poems. Speculating a bit, I would say that most writers of lyrics were inspired by other song lyrics, and not poems. Going full on subjective, I would say that extremely few song lyrics manage to stand by themselves as a piece of text, which would indicate that rhythm is more important than actual content.

There is no "correct" path to writing lyrics, it's hard to track the influences of even one person. Also, some people write the lyrics first and fit them to music, while others do the other way around.

Another approach would be to take poems that are in public domain (the author must have been dead for a certain time, usually 70 years), and use them in your music.

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Okay , Let take an example of an song lyric from bob dylan's song called rolling stone . Once upon a time you dressed so fine . How do you write like this ? because it's not way , a novel would be written . Do people write lyrics like they are speaking to someone but full of emotions ? You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ? – user5344 Jul 17 '14 at 9:17
@user5344: There is no easy answer to this. It's akin to "how do you write a great melody)". But except for possibly the very gifted, you need to both read and write a lot to get good. One can speculate that many lyrics come from the will to communicate something. Not everyone can write a good poem or novel, so that likely goes for song lyrics too. Song lyrics are more forgiving though, since the melody and the way they are delivered adds something more than just the bare words on a paper. – Meaningful Username Jul 17 '14 at 9:50

Poetry, Rhymes and Lyrics are all different, the only similarity is that they should hit an emotion somewhere.

Lyrics have a lot to do with story telling and sometime rhymes, but most importantly how rhythmically the syllables fit into each musical measure. Lyrics might rhyme, but the best way to make them feel musical is to manipulate each syllable to fit the musical feel that you're trying to achieve by using appropriate words and phrases.

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The best explanation of the difference between lyrics and poetry I've ever heard was in a broadcast of a talk at the Dramatists Guild by Stephen Sondheim; there's a transcript of it here. It would also be worth looking at "Notes on Lyrics," an essay by Sondheim's mentor Oscar Hammerstein, of which you can get a copy here.

EDIT: I've posted screenshots of the most relevant portion of the Sondheim talk. He's talking about theater lyrics here, which I should have mentioned--I think much of what he says isn't relevant to pop-song lyrics, which have a very different function.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

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Joel, this sounds really interesting. Any chance you could put some of Sondheim and/or Hammerstein's main points in your post…? – Bob Broadley Jul 19 '14 at 15:39
Yeah, please add some info to the answer. As it is now, it is basically a link only answer, which becomes obsolete when links die. – Meaningful Username Jul 19 '14 at 17:06
Have added to answer--thanks for helping me make it more helpful. – Joel Derfner Jul 20 '14 at 19:30

I just wanted to add that depending on the kind of music you're playing, you will always have to adapt your texts, first, to the audience listening to your music, but also to the groove and the melody itself. So there is not any "miracle recipe" for writing lyrics, as there is no miracle recipe for making THE perfect sound : everyone is doing this in his own way.

But more generally, when you hear a song, the first feeling that you get is essential. And then, you will focus on the melody and on the lyrics. So, when you are about to write lyrics, always keep in mind the emotion you want to transmit, then finding a main theme or idea for your lyrics will be easy. And afterwards, you can start writing something. Not necessarily poetry if you don't feel like it, but something of yours! :)

You will just have to ask yourself several questions once you found this theme : do I want to create something with deep lyrics or only to fill the melody, do I want to use simple words or a high vocabulary, do I want to focus on the rhythm more than the contents, where will it be possible to add some choirs, should I make the end of my sentence to rhyme or not...

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To answer, one first has to define poetry. When I was a kid, the end words of certain lines had to rhyme.Lots of songs do that in the lyrics. Lots of poems have been set to music.The form of rhyming can be similar - line 1 with line 3, line 2 with line 4, etc,etc.

A lot of that sort of poetry will have an intrinsic rhythm - an essential part of the ingredients which make up a song.

Now, I'm told that poetry doesn't have to rhyme, as long as it hits emotions somewhere. Listen to Paul Simon's lyrics. Poetry ?

So, yes, there's a great similarity. It could well depend on particular genres - listen to a screamer, and you may agree that it's not poetry - it may not even be lyrics either !

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Do this free Songwriting course from Berklee at Coursera, it's great.

It explains many aspects of songwriting, including lyrics. It will give you a good idea how to write your song.

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A poetry mostly defines strong/weak and short/long syllables (so somewhat more the rhythm) and much less the pitch. Hence it is possible to compose rather different music around the given poetry, while it probably would not fit into any wanted.

Some bands like Lithuanian Hiperbolė use various famous poetry as lyrics for almost all they songs. Better sounding parts of the poetry may be repeated several times.

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