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Thread: Lyric Writing

  1. #1

    Lyric Writing

    I've been struggling with this for years.

    I've been playing guitar since I was in 3rd Grade. Around the 8th grade or so, improvisation, along with riff and chord progression writing, all struck me at once. I have albums worth of pretty good musical material stored away on all my old hard drives.

    When it comes to lyrics, I draw blank. Writing music clicked when I saw musical theory click. I can't get this with lyrics. I'm one of those guys who sings EVERY song that comes on the radio or CD in his car, regardless of what it is. I can match pitch really well. I practice all that a lot. But, for one I'm very very critical of my singing voice. My band thinks I'm alright when I do the two songs I'm allowed to sing lead on.

    I've hit a dilemma lately, where I'm being held back by lack of writing on my singer's part. I'm genuinely considering doing a duo-career with my drummer, who I think would be down with it (we've been friends since we were literally born).

    This comes into my problem. I can't write good lyrics for shit.

    My problem is that, every time I write any lyrics, I give it a 24 hour period before I read them, and I immediately cringe. Historically, every single time, I literally, not figuratively, burn them.

    How do I get past this hump? Just write a lot?

    A lot of the lyrics I write aren't to a particular chord progression. I wonder if I wrote them, recorded the general melody, and guitar riff, on my portable recorder, I might feel better. It's hard to say though. I hate lyrics I write. They feel almost TOO honest, sad, and introspective.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Read some of the masters and pay attention to the nuances.

    Read and think about other meanings.

    Shakespeare, Baroness Von Orczy, Dickens, Twain, Hemmingway, Wilde.

    Forget about other things for a while.

    Words will come easier.


  3. #3

    Re: Lyric Writing

    I started songwriting as a teenager. It was something that I didn't really spend much time or thought on with everything else going on, but still I managed to churn out almost 20 in just 2-3 years, most of which to my opinion (and of people I've played them for) still stand up today.

    I did spend most of my teenage years listening over and over again to The Beatles and Paul McCartney's solo work, so that was a good subconscious lesson and let me internalize a lot of aspects of great songwriting.

    A way I often think about it is that songwriting is a form of storytelling. You know how people like to think of certain songs when they face certain situations in their life? Well sometimes in your life there isn't already a song that fits that situation, so it's up to you to write one.

    Personally I have a much easier time starting with chord progressions. I like for the chords to sound interesting and compelling on their own, before any vocals are added. Sometimes I have a melody in mind, sometimes I find one by singing random notes or words. The most extent I go with writing lyrics before music is sometimes having particular phrases or ideas in mind. I find focusing on the music first really helps inform things like word choice and phrasing, to better translate the general concept I have in mind to defined lyrics.

    Practice is definitely important. My first song was not so great - quite cheesy. My second, is one that I'd record today, if I had the equipment. And be okay with putting in 'filler' lines as you go if you get stuck. You can always revise them later, and this helps keep the creative energy flowing. Be okay with taking time to work on songs. Be open to the ideas coming to you, instead of trying to forcefully knock out an entire song in a short period. I've sat on songs for months or even years, that ended up being great.

    If you feel your lyrics are too honest, think about the metaphors and imagery present in song lyrics you enjoy. This is something I did automatically as a teenager, but after a few years off, is something I stumble with sometimes and need to think about more. The book Writing Better Lyrics comes highly recommended and I'm beginning to work through it myself.

    Lastly, what do other people think of your lyrics? Do they get the same perception as you, or do they enjoy them? As artists it's easy to fall into the tendencies of self doubt and criticism. I've had cases where I write some lyrics I think are mediocre, but then end up finding out that friends I share them with absolutely love them. Of course it's important to question ourselves so we can identify weak points and improve, but it's also important to appreciate whatever good we already have. Perhaps you could share some of your lyrics on here?

  4. #4

    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    I've been struggling with this for years... How do I get past this hump? Just write a lot?
    Practice, practice, practice!

    You must write 10,000 lines of garbage to get one (almost) perfect line.
    Last edited by brandtkronholm; 12-05-18 at 10:24 AM. Reason: further thoughts...

  5. #5

    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    My problem is that, every time I write any lyrics, I give it a 24 hour period before ... I literally, not figuratively, burn them.
    Regarding my previous post -

    Quote Originally Posted by brandtkronholm View Post
    Practice, practice, practice!

    You must write 10,000 lines of garbage to get one (almost) perfect line.
    One good line of lyrics doesn't even get you out of the door.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    I wonder if I wrote them, recorded the general melody, and guitar riff, on my portable recorder, I might feel better.
    This is also a start - but again, this barely gets you to the show.

    If you want to write a song then do what songwriters do. You should take one of your songs to a band rehearsal and try it out. Your bandmates are your first sounding board. Even it's just a verse and a bridge or merely a chorus that goes nowhere, you need to test these ideas. Sometimes they'll be great and sometimes they'll be horrible. You should welcome rejection and failure because it will lead to success.
    "If at first you don't succeed, keep on suckin' until you do succeed!"

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Rikky Rooksby's How To Write Songs On Guitar, and some of his other songwriting books might help. He looks back at hundreds of songs from mostly British rock and Motown, and spots the lyrical themes that pop up in so many rock and pop songs, as well as chord progressions that reoccur all the time. (I really wish his stuff had been around when I started writing songs in the mid-'80s. Most songwriting books back then were much more Tin Pan Alley-oriented.)

    One of the things I've done over the years is to use Microsoft Outlook's Notes (there are lots of software tools that do this) as a scrapbook. I will see a great line in a book or an article, or think of something that could be a great title, and copy and paste it into Notes so that after I have a guide melody started, I can go through the "Rolodex" and see what fits its mood. Usually once I get over that initial hump of the blank page, I get on a roll, and things start to fall into place.

    The video that I made earlier this year of a song I wrote called "Rock & Roll Safehouse" began when I read an interview with Elvis Costello. He said when he got his first contract, the record company sent him to Headley Grange, where Led Zeppelin and Genesis had recorded, to write more songs and get his act together. He called it "a rock & roll safe house," and it just screamed "title."
    Last edited by Ed Driscoll; 12-05-18 at 05:30 PM.

  7. #7

    Re: Lyric Writing

    As an update to this thread, my album concept I'm working on now has 8 original tracks (one of which I might drop, much to my dismay. Loved the violin bowed guitar intro and the guitar work in it.), plus 2 covers. I'm actually pretty satisfied with most of them! Just have to hand off the CD to my drummer Sunday when we have our weekly hangout at the bar and see if he wants in on this project, get him to work, and hopefully get drum tracks on them. Really hoping he does. Getting tired of playing the Cover Band circuit around here.

    Thanks a lot to you all for answering a somewhat silly question.

    To anybody else with this question, the most important thing is to just do it. Get that one or two lines stuck in your head, and then just build from it. They're the hardest part. Once you have them, jot them down IMMEDIATELY, and then just go to town over some beers.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "I'd rather have a Bottle in Front of Me, than a Frontal Lobotomy." -Tom Waits

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Leo90 View Post
    hi there! It’s great site. so many topics and opinions. I used to read, basically [Removed spam link] but now your site one of my favorites. Thank you!
    What a milestone for the LPF -- Jeff Bezos' spambots have come among us!

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member JPP-1's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Lyric writing can sometimes be easy or it can be an incredible struggle. You need to find your voice and be honest in your lyric writing. It should reflect your actual life and experiences.

    It doesn’t have to follow any specific aesthetic. You have lyrical masters such as Dylan and Springsteen and while I don’t particualry care for either and especially loathe the latter, their lyrics are just brilliant.
    Born to Run and Sandy, even if you dislike the music, the emotion of a time and place, the color and texture, it’s is all there, that’s what great lyrics can do.

    But it doesn’t have to follow more classical story telling patterns. Just like there were epic poets like Homer, and romantic poets like Keats and Shelly, there are more modernist poets like Elliot, Rimbaud, Plath.

    Kiedis and Cobain are two more modernist lyric writers and while there style is completely diffferent than Dylan and Springsteen, they convey incredible emotion and rawness and while the story may be more fragmented it is no less effective.

    The key is to be real and dig down deep, then find what it is you like about the lyricists you most admire and take it from there.

  10. #10

    Re: Lyric Writing

    You have to use some tips when you are writing song lyrics. for examle you need to use theme and rheme. and also you need very interesting choirs.
    I am a writer at pay for essay.

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by AvadaKedavra View Post
    You have to use some tips when you are writing song lyrics. for examle you need to use theme and rheme. and also you need very interesting choirs.
    Just the tip!

  12. #12

    Re: Lyric Writing

    I've began to write since I was 13 y/o.
    But I didn't learn to play the guitar.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Choose a theme firstly. Then you can write the lyrics accordingly.

  14. #14

    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    I've been struggling with this for years.

    I've been playing guitar since I was in 3rd Grade. Around the 8th grade or so, improvisation, along with riff and chord progression writing, all struck me at once. I have albums worth of pretty good musical material stored away on all my old hard drives.

    When it comes to lyrics, I draw blank. Writing music clicked when I saw musical theory click. I can't get this with lyrics. I'm one of those guys who sings EVERY song that comes on the radio or CD in his car, regardless of what it is. I can match pitch really well. I practice all that a lot. But, for one I'm very very critical of my singing voice. My band thinks I'm alright when I do the two songs I'm allowed to sing lead on.

    I've hit a dilemma lately, where I'm being held back by lack of writing on my singer's part. I'm genuinely considering doing a duo-career with my drummer, who I think would be down with it (we've been friends since we were literally born).

    This comes into my problem. I can't write good lyrics for shit.

    My problem is that, every time I write any lyrics, I give it a 24 hour period before I read them, and I immediately cringe. Historically, every single time, I literally, not figuratively, burn them.

    How do I get past this hump? Just write a lot?

    A lot of the lyrics I write aren't to a particular chord progression. I wonder if I wrote them, recorded the general melody, and guitar riff, on my portable recorder, I might feel better. It's hard to say though. I hate lyrics I write. They feel almost TOO honest, sad, and introspective.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...PAUL+MCCARTNEY

  15. #15

    Re: Lyric Writing

    I appreciate all the replies to this thread that helped a lot. I ended up recording an album worth of demos, and got my cover band's singer interested enough to be my drummer, and we're going to do a two piece thing that's a sort of post-hardcorish heavy stageshow bit. The music is like if Deep Purple era Hard Rock, punk, and post-hardcore had a baby, and grunge was the step-father.

    https://soundcloud.com/b-rad-94

    I think the best advice I can give to people who've never written before: Find a riff, jam out a really really rough song structure (that is subject to change), and just start writing. It sounds like shitty advice, but it actually works. Just put pen to paper and start spewing out whatever comes to mind. Get you a vocal structure on paper, then edit it as you move along.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "I'd rather have a Bottle in Front of Me, than a Frontal Lobotomy." -Tom Waits

  16. #16
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    I think the best advice I can give to people who've never written before: Find a riff, jam out a really really rough song structure (that is subject to change), and just start writing. It sounds like shitty advice, but it actually works. Just put pen to paper and start spewing out whatever comes to mind. Get you a vocal structure on paper, then edit it as you move along.
    It is the best advice, along with: record a demo of it on your PC or tablet or smart phone, even if it's just one track with guitar and another with a vocal.

    Unless your last name is Lennon, McCartney, or Springsteen, your first song will suck. But at least you'll be on the board, and can then write a second song that addresses its flaws, and just keep repeating the process as you build up both material and skill.

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Don't write about your car.

    I learnt that much...


  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Lyric Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by renderit View Post
    Don't write about your car.

    I learnt that much...
    That's a subject that worked out pretty well for Chuck Berry, Jan & Dean, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Gary Numan, those guys who call themselves The Cars, and some bloke called Meet Loofa, I think:


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