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?

  • 1
    "In essence lyrics are just poetry" is absolutely incorrect. Writing pens and writing lyrics are two completely different art forms.
    – Lee White
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 8:53

9 Answers 9


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 9:17
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    @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. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 9:50

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.

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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.


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...


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 !


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.


If you want to have rhythm and well timed rhyming for the melody of your lyrics, syllabic verse poetry is a great way to start. I feel like poetry is often viewed as always having to be deep, but really it doesn't have to have a complex meaning behind it. After you're able to come up with lines with fixed syllables that sound natural like you're talking, you should move on to studying accentual syllabic verse poetry. Accentual syllabic verse poetry not only has fixed syllables per line, but it also has a specific poetic meter to it. Looking at accentual syllabic verse poems, such as Iambic pentameters (Poems that are structured by a pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable throughout the entire poem) will help you discover how syllables that are stressed or unstressed sound in contrast to each other, so you can follow the rule of having a stressed syllable on each of the four beats during a song. If you want to find out more about the four main beats in music, YouTube is a great source of information. So, my answer is that syllabic verse poetry, the poetry that has a fixed amount of syllables per line, is a wonderful way to start getting the hang of melodic lyric writing, and accentual syllabic verse poetry, more advanced, is a great way to get the hang of lyrical meter in your songs. It doesn't have to be deep. It may be, but it doesn't have to. The type of poetry that is quick to understand and not as deep has its benefits, and in fact, lyrics are more enjoyable to hear (by most) when you can understand what they mean as you hear them. Sure there can be about four lines in a song that take more contemplation to understand (Like lines that are metaphorical), but most of them should be quick to understand. I hope I helped.


I don't remember where I got the notion, but when I think about songs I like to think in terms verse and poetry, in addition to the strictly musical. (I normally do this thinking in Swedish, but I hope these terms capture what I mean) These are related but distinct concepts, and in the words sung to music you will likely find at leas one, and often to some extent both.

Verse, in this context, concerns the sound of the words and disregards their meaning. It's the meter, the rhymes, the patterns of syllables that work together. Good verse is an art form aimed at pleasing the ears, not the mind.

Poetry, on the other hand, concerns the meaning of the words. It's a mater of what is said with what words, of the metaphors, the figurative descriptions. The ambiguities and the implications of what is said. While good verse pleases the ears, good poetry pleases the hart and the mind.

Neither of these are exclusive to song lyrics, they could just as well apply to spoken words, but I'd say song lyrics necessarily contain at least one of them. There are great lyrics where the rhymes are sparse and the syllable count in the lines seems completely random, but where the beauty of the words draw tear to your eyes and you feel like a wiser person after hearing them. Poetry.

There are also great songs where the meaning of the words is totally insignificant, but they sound very good. It's the catchy alliterations, the perfect flow of syllables in many rap songs, the clever rhymes. You could even listen to a song in a language you don't even understand, and find yourself repeating parts of the lyrics that stick. These are also among the first things children start appreciating about lyrics. Some might say this hints at it being a childish, cheap or mundane quality, but you could also argue it's a sigh that the beauty of the words is something really deep in our minds. This is verse.

When you write lyrics of your own, you can aim for one or the other. You could even aim for both. You don't need to aim that high either. In any case, I think it's worth while giving these two notions a thought. If nothing else to see that quality is not measured one-dimensional scale, and that there's more than one direction to aim when you want to write good lyrics.


It depends on whether you are called Paul McCartney or Leonard Cohen. Many of Beatles lyrics were essentially story-telling and more prose than poetry in character in spite of fitting a meter. Leonard Cohen wrote mostly poetry and set it to music.

A Beatles song tended to last for 3 minutes. Today's pop songs go on for 15 minutes with a tenth of the words. That makes them at best experimental poetry of the more tedious kind. Leonard Cohen is more in the "songwriter" than "pop musician" tradition and tends to fit even more words in than the Beatles.

So we have all the range of writing music and coloring it with a few choice phrases to give it a more vivid color, and writing poetry and coloring it with simple melody and harmony to give it a more vivid color.

Most pop nowadays is music-centric, but there is also the word-centric rap. Which is its own somewhat ideosyncratic form of augmented poetry.

  • 2
    " Today's pop songs go on for 15 minutes with a tenth of the words." - citation needed; good luck finding one.
    – AakashM
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 10:15

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