Some songwriters struggle with lyrics while they excel at creating melodies, while some of us are exactly the opposite. Those who are extremely musically inclined may struggle with wordplay as I did at the beginning of my songwriting career.
Over years of writing and hundreds of clients that I've provided lyrics, melody, and production for, I've been able to successfully hide that lyric writing is actually my weak point. How have I hidden it so well?
While I don't have the words of a poet, I've found that research and trial and error can really make you a better writer. To keep growing as an artist and a writer, all you need to do is keep learning and keep trying.
Here are some key pointers that have stood out to me when it comes to lyricism and depth in a world where it seems like all the good song lyrics in the world are taken. Try one or more of the methods below!
As creatives, it's very easy to get lost in the process of perfecting your style to the point where all of your work begins to sound too similar.
While it's great to have your own unique signature style that your fans have grown to love and anticipate, it's always a good idea to bring fresh sounds to the mix and add variety to spice up your style.
A cool way to do this is to challenge yourself in a songwriting prompt to write things in a completely opposite way than you normally would.
Some of the ideas are sure to be wonky and ultimately unused, but you may be surprised what magic could happen when you think out of your usual creative box.
When the process is done right, these out-of-the-box ideas paired with your already polished signature sound will create a fresh spin that explores a new level of greatness stemming from what you do so well already.
Related Post: See 10 Cool Songwriting Exercises To Boost Your Creativity
In a current musical landscape where pop is simple and catchy, it's in your best interest as a lesser-known artist or writer to tap into that simplicity while bringing something new.
A lot of up-and-coming artists know that it's critical to set themselves apart in some way, whether it is sound, look, or personality, but not enough of them take the time to set their lyrics apart.
I've done a lot of work in the independent A&R realm, listening to thousands of artists in several genres who present their creations. While most of these songs had appeal, 90% of the lyrical content seemed like it was plagiarized straight from pop culture over the last 20 or so years.
You may be thinking to yourself, "People don't really listen to lyrics these days anyway," but they do.
Even if it's a small subsection of people, I would guess 30%, that's a huge number of people that you should be trying to win over. And it won't be hard to do so since everyone is writing these simple, overused phrases in their lyrics.
Not only will you have a good chance of winning fans who appreciate real lyricism, but you will easily be able to set yourself apart from people in the music industry who are influencers and are actually trained to keep an ear out for that sort of thing.
While the masses don't look for lyrical depth, key players that can expose your music to the masses absolutely do. This can often be done by writing the lyrics before worrying about the melody or music.
The key is to be simple and catchy but mix in a good amount of depth.
It takes time, but it works way better to appease a far larger crowd than those who only like lyrical masterpieces or those who only like dumbed-down lyrics. Find the perfect balance to win over both types!
I have a few rhyme dictionaries around the house, but I mainly use Rhyme Zone for my songwriting needs.
This site/app has a lot of rhymes, similar-sounding words, and other word tools that really have an unmatched amount of results. It has tons of obscure words that many other rhyming tools miss out on.
I really like how this free tool allows you to organize rhyming words by the number of syllables. That ability somehow takes my ideas and creativity to the next level when writing my lines.
I get ideas on the syllabic and rhythmic flow of the phrases that I wouldn't really think of if I wasn't looking at the site.
Back to the topic of complexity balance, rhyming tools can help you identify a variety of different worlds that could fit within your song and allow you to bypass words that are already overused in the music world.
After regular use of a rhyming dictionary, you'll begin to notice that your brain can automatically link to a larger basket of words without help while you grow in your abilities and knowledge.
If you don't know where to start with your studies, the first place to go is to established songwriters. You can find countless interviews and full catalogs from famous songwriters that can give you their first-hand experience and tips for your journey.
I like to get lost in Wikipedia for a while to trace my favorite songs to their talented writers and see what other projects they did, who they worked with, and how they got there. Watching interviews on Youtube is even better!
Don't stop at studying the music writers while you open your ears and eyes to the beauty of lyricism. Creative writing without even thinking about the music is a crucial skill for all songwriters to have. You need to know how to have a way with words before getting to your melody sometimes.
Many songwriters write lyrics first and not melody first, focusing on the poetry and depth of a song, which can be seriously underrated in music, especially in today's music climate.
Sometimes, songwriters are too obsessed with ensuring we rhyme in our lyrics. When you focus too hard on trying to rhyme, you can mess up the creativity of your word flow and hinder the story behind the words.
At the end of the day, the message behind the lyrics is more important than ensuring they rhyme. But we can easily forget that, especially in styles like Rap, Pop, Country, and R&B.
If you find yourself spending way too much time trying to make things rhyme in your song, consider imperfect rhymes and similar-sounding words instead of following your rhyming scheme closely.
Most of the time, the listener will not even notice and will be more impressed with your general wordplay.
Avoid adding rhymes that are too common and have been used over and over to the point where the listener may be annoyed by hearing them.
Also, avoid adding lyrics that don't even make sense in the phrase just for the sake of having a rhyme. It's never that serious!
Comparisons, including metaphors and similes, can play a huge part in making lyrics effective, especially when it comes to song verses.
You want your songs to be catchy and clever at the same time, so the more you can think outside of the box and uniquely with your lyrical comparisons, the better.
Similes are comparisons that include the words 'like' or 'as' when making a comparison. For example, you could write a simple line saying, "He makes me light up like the sun," and that's a simile.
Metaphors are the act of making a comparison that is more direct, and it sounds like a substitution more than a comparison.
For example, you could write a more complex line saying, "I'm lighting up and burning him with my ultraviolet waves," and that's a metaphor.
Metaphors and similies can increase the appeal and showcase the skill of a writer, no matter if they are writing something basic and pop or something deep and indie. It's also a really cool way to simply just have fun and connect with your art and creative process.
Related Post: Lyrics Or Music First - How Do You Write Songs?
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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