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#1June 13th, 2005 · 10:33 AM
6 threads / 4 songs
19 posts
United Kingdom
Lyric writing
How do you write lyrics!?! I've tried over and over again to write songs but they all suck! (except the cheese song!   ) But serriously i don't know how to write lyrics to fit with a song and i'm sure that others must have the same problem, so could some one give some advice on this subject for me and all the others with the same problem!

Rock on dudes,
Joey 
#2June 13th, 2005 · 01:24 PM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
i know what it's like   i write stuff a lot and then when i try to write the music, it doesn't fit right... so i try writing the music first, and THEN the lyrics, but it still doesn't work...  i tend to have better luck with writing the music first, but that's a matter of preference

lyrics for me are all about the parallels you can draw with other parts of life.  as cliché as that can sound, if you do it right, it can give me goosebumps when it comes off the right way.

i try to avoid the much-overused ideas and themes like "i'm bleeding" blah blah, "you left me and now i'll never be the same" blah blah, etc etc.  those ideas have their place, but if that's all you've got for a lyric idea, you won't have anything special when compared to the next guy.  that's where i try to put in the whole metaphor concept.  i think it's awesome when someone masters words.  that's not easy of course   that's the problem we all run in to!

i want to quote a song by Fall Out Boy, called "XO" in order to illustrate that idea.  i personally think the guy who writes the lyrics for this band is without question a master with words.  so here it is:

To the "love" I left my conscience pressed
Between the pages of the Bible in the drawer
“What did it ever do for me” I say
It never calls me when I'm down
love never wanted me, but i took it anyway

(and then later it says)

to the "love" i left my conscience pressed
through the key hole, i watch you dress, kiss and tell...
loose lips sink ships

(the end.)

anyway, these guys have a very unique style, if you listen to them, but what i've noticed, is that they don't pick out all these details and then waste lyrics to describe it.  all of their songs paint the picture all by themselves, without saying "hey i'm sitting in a chair, lookin' around and i'm all alone, nobody to dance with"  (listen to their song called "7 minutes in heaven" and i think you'll see what i mean about the 'painting the picture all by itself' thing)

there's my 2 cents   hope that gives some kind of lead of some sort.  open to feedback, of course! 
#3June 13th, 2005 · 05:09 PM
8 threads / 4 songs
246 posts
United Kingdom
What I find hard is ...
What I find really tricky is actually coming up with something to write about!  Once I have an idea, or a theme, or a general metaphor then I'm fine - the song seems to write itself.  My own personal hero (John Mayer) seems to start every song with an idea, whether its his stupid mouth, something he's missing or looking back at his childhood.  That seems to help him avoid all the cliches ("I love you baby", "Why have you left me?", etc, etc.).  The problem is I can't seem to get that sort of inspiration.  Has anyone got any ideas?
#4June 14th, 2005 · 10:39 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
my kind of approach
i didn't come up with this insight (although i agree with it) but it's been said that you write what you know.

of course, a song doesn't need to cover an entire life story, by any means.  that's why some people have dozens of songs... if those songs were about life stories, they'd only have 1 or 2 of them!   i've found that a lot of songs that actually only cover a pretty brief subject.  your john Mayer examples are perfect for that.

i think the basic subjects are as follows (complication of each subject is recommened! ) :

an object (i don't particularly like this ones, unless it relates to one of the other topics)
about YOU
about someone else
about a feeling

the easiest subject is a love song, but if you listen to the radio, just about every song ever produced for radio is about that.  love is pretty universal, but it should be more complicated than that.  if the song is about a girl, narrow the emotion down, so that it's about something really specific.  it could be wishing she wasn't so naive, to wanting to be at her level, it could be about hating her or the things she does.

being specific is my answer to some of the problems i run in to.  and then, i compare the topic to something seemingly unrelated.  in a song i'm writing (wish i brought the lyric page with me to work today) i tried to narrow the emotion down to something along the lines of "i'm hopeless, but i understand you more than you do" sort of theme.  after i decided that that was my topic, i could come up with things.  that's my approach anyway.  hope that helps?  at least a little bit?
#5June 14th, 2005 · 02:04 PM
8 threads / 4 songs
246 posts
United Kingdom
tonightslastsong - thats really interesting - i've never taken that sort of approach before.  but now i think about it, ive naturally done that in some of my songs without intending to, and they are the songs that turned out lyrically better!  id be interested to know more about the song you're writing but didn't take to work - maybe you could post some of the lyrics for me?  thanks a lot.

by the way - nice to see someone who knows who John Mayer is!!  I live in the UK and no one's heard of him over here!  The British have s**t taste in music!!
#6June 14th, 2005 · 09:16 PM
14 threads / 12 songs
177 posts
United States of America
What about the Beatles?
#7June 15th, 2005 · 01:09 AM
10 threads / 8 songs
39 posts
Cambodia
I don't know if this is going to help anyone... but this is how I go about writing lyrics.

In writing lyrics, my task (in my mind) is not only to convey an idea, but to contribute rhythmically to the song.  Thus I believe it is imperative to have a thesaurus at hand lest your vocabulary is stellar.

I always write the music before the lyrics.  I'm not saying that's necessarily better; just know which way works for you.

Start by writing a few lines that just sound good with the music.  They don't have to be about anything, just a few random lines that you could build the song off of.  For instance, my song "E.R." (which stands for Endoplasmic Reticulum), the first lines I wrote were:

Meticulacy is fading into
Backgrounds of a faux Monet
Chiaroscuro macramé

The time is wrong, but as little wrong as
Ever it will think to be
Within our future presently

When I wrote those lines, I had no clue what the song would be about.  Turns out, it's a song that narrates the thoughts of a man whose unborn illegitimate child is about to be aborted.  So if you just start with something, anything, you should be able to pull meaning out of it.  There are people referred to as modern poetry critics who do this kind of thing for a living.

Then there's the Rule of Normalcy.  I am by no means advocating that lyrics be normal, for that would make me a blatant hypocrite.  I'm alluding to Warren G. Harding's campaign promise of a "Return to Normalcy," including the obscure word "normalcy," which, in fact, is not a word.  My point here is: Don't be afraid to make up your own words, if they work and people can tell what they mean.  In my verse above, I use the word "meticulacy," which I doubt you'll find in any dictionary (the "Check Spelling..." button at the bottom here certainly caught it) though I think it's fairly clear that meticulacy is the concept of being meticulous, or paying extreme attention to detail.

And finally, write a lot of lyrics.  This is one I don't follow too well, but it's really quite important.  Bob Dylan, who I believe is, if not the greatest lyricist ever, rather close, writes upwards of twenty verses for the average song, then keeps only the best six or seven.  Dylan is a bit of an extreme (and I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of a lot of Dylan's songs simply because of what they lack musically, though he more than compensates lyrically) but you get the point.  I think.  Do I use commas too much?
#8June 15th, 2005 · 08:11 AM
8 threads / 4 songs
246 posts
United Kingdom
so, when you say you write the "music" first - what do you mean by that?  Do you write the chord progression and the general feel of the song (ie tempo and rhythm) and then write the melody and the lyrics together after wards?  or do you write the whole song (including the melody that doesn't yet have lyrics - maybe you hum it or whatever whilst you're writing) and then add the lyrics after wards, making them fit with the tune that you've already written?

does that make sense?
#9June 15th, 2005 · 11:35 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
hi!  (i don't mean to butt into your comments, SamuraiMoose---i just wanted to give a response )

when i write the "music" first, i tend to start off by poking around on low strings on the guitar until i get this little snippet that if i were to listen to repetatively, it won't drive me nuts!  from there i tend to try to insert a line of lyrics that i've got (which i write down all the time.  i carry this little sticky-pad with me almost everywhere and write down all these little "random lines" that SamuraiMoose mentioned.).  sometimes i just kind of try to improve a lyric line, but that doesn't work very often!  At this point, i've only REALLY got one or two lines that might work, and a repeating little snippet of music.  for me, though, i try to get rid of overly repetative musical lines... that means that even though i just wrote this musical snippet of something that works well when repeated over and over again, i only use it for just that one line or so.  i find that this stops me from making a song that is musically boring... it keeps me coming up with new things all the time, too.  anyway, from there i try to add in the higher strings on the guitar until i find some chord that works good.  i avoid thinking about what the chords actually are... i only focus on the sound that i'm hearing.  that way i avoid making songs that only consist of Major chords

stumming patterns are important too, i think.  i try to write songs that have patterns that vary as the song goes on.  it makes it less boring that way!  also, i think that small gaps of silence in between notes can be just as useful as the notes.  i think that it keeps people interested in the tune if it's not so redundant.

i agree completely with what Samuraimoose said about how you don't even need to really understand all of your own lyrics right at first.  i also think the thesaurus idea is a good one.  having one of those by your side can definitely help to stop you from using over-used words.

about those lyrics i said i had left at home, i brought them with me today, so i figured i'd post them for you.  they aren't necessarily final, but they're pretty darn close   it's a relatively short song, compared to others i've tried to write, but i wanted it to be that way. (sorry for how long it'll make this post!)

This song is called: "My Promises are Red (Like the Roses at Your Feet)"

[verse]
the promises i made have led up to this,
but firm silence isn't what i thought i'd get from you
the salty sea wind stings my empty cold stare
as you sail away from me
and the sunset's stolen my dreams
and sold them to all who will hear

[chorus]
and the promise i made is turning crystal clear
by the time autumn fades, i'll still be standing right here
i'm left taking down the decorations for this party of yours
while he's got you where he wants you
which is where you want to be
it was like this all along

[verse]
extravagant reds are all i can fell when i draw up the ending
this was all for show, believe me i can tell
i'm the keeper of the Heartbreak,
and by this curse, it was meant to be
as i watch you sail away from me

[do chorus again]

[bridge/outro thingy.  repeat the first line over and over again with the other lines overlay'd on top of it with a harmony effect: ]

i'd ask where you went wrong, but you were like this all along

this is your journal, and i am the page, the pen is my time spent
always misplaced, missing, without a trace
i am the the bandage you use to get back in the game
i handed you the roses, "Get Well Soon"

...get well soon
#10June 16th, 2005 · 01:47 AM
10 threads / 8 songs
39 posts
Cambodia
When I say I write the "music" first, I write all of the music first: melody included.  So I have a set number of syllables and accents that I wish to have for each line before any of the words are written.  I only do this because I have a way with melodies; a great majority of what I've written is instrumental jazz or classical.  However, I repeat, I am not recommending this: I'm simply stating that my method works for me.  If you can write lyrics over a chord progression and come up with a melody to fit them better, then go with that.

I'm probably unique on this site in that nearly all my music is in midi format rather than recorded.  This is mainly because I write a lot of music for instruments I don't know how to play very well, and, being but seventeen years of age, have not much free time in my school schedule to do this sort of thing.

If you care to hear one of my midis... click on this.

Not meaning to detract from the topic here... carry on.
#11June 16th, 2005 · 09:27 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
(as a side note, SamuraiMoose, you'll have to put the "http://" at the front of that url you provided... as of right now, that link is trying to go to "http://forum.bandamp.com/The_Pit/www.tehmoosecaboose.com/music/016.mid")

the link he meant to send was this: 

http://www.tehmoosecaboose.com/music/016.mid

i like this midi.  i sense a hint of legend of zelda: ocarina of time... that forest maze thing... (anyway, as another side note, i may request the assistance of someone like yourself sometime in the future.  i've been programming a reall big RPG project, and i have musical ideas, but i don't really have the skills to work midi very well.  just thought i'd tell you!)
#12June 17th, 2005 · 03:12 PM
8 threads / 4 songs
246 posts
United Kingdom
cheers guys.  thats all really interesting.
#13June 19th, 2005 · 02:37 AM
3 posts
Norway
how about writing down some thoughts??? like..


I'm sitting here bleeding inside, you left me...
but as the times change I'll heal,
but the pain you brought, you always will feel...
until the end I'm in pain, I'm scorned by a woman's touch...

and the satisfaction of knowing shes in sorrow is enough for me....

(course)
cause now I'm free from my pain of hatred,
I'm free from my pain of sorrow,
I'm free too do what ever i want...

knowing you chrushed my spirit, having too rebuild my heart
I'm leaving the pain
I'm moving on, leaving you behind....

course

guitar solo

I've got my family you, got your drugs...
I'll live on after you've passed on....


right now I'm too wasted to keep writing its 08.00 am here
but just write down whats in your head
#14June 19th, 2005 · 09:14 PM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
i kind of like that

hey, here's the lyric from the song i'll be recording ASAP... the guy i'm trying to do it with has been sick, so we're trying to get it done hopefully by this wednesday.  and THEN.... hopefully i'll get it all cleaned up and posted.

as you may have noticed from my above lyric post, i don't always go with the whole rhyming thing.  in fact, i try to avoid it most of the time... it's just a prefrence thing.  but anyway, this set is a little more rhyming-oriented.  i tried not to overkill it though!

this one's an acoustic i've been playing with, called

"Apathy Wants a Friend in You"

(verse)
and we just want to leave this town
to get away from all these lies...
since ended stories are just plain and boring
and tell us how to end

(verse)
i walked you home but my thoughts just wander
as the stars are tripping over themselves
all i want is for you to make it
it's lovely sounding... but love's more than hearing

(prechorus)
so when i said i want a different life,
i lied

(chorus)
i came to play, you buried me,
i'm no good at anything
take me to the places you feel most safe
like the empty spaces of your heart.
but this is what i get for pushing and pulling you away from me

(verse)
we're out here, all alone,
it's time for us to come around
the role's are reversed, time's killing me
i almost made you say it:
you love me

(do chorus again)

(bridge)
i don't feel a thing, i owe it all to late nights
and all of the small fights
so now that i'm hollowed out
you say you've got me figured out
do you wanna take a stab at who it is that's killing me
let's just keep it simple:
i'd love to have you love me back
but this is what i get when i say i love the things you do
then turn around, let you go, and stab you through and through
and this is what i get when i say i love the things i see
then turn around, tear you down, i don't know what got into me

(do chorus again)

(ending)
and we just want to leave this town
since ended stories, are just plain and boring
#15June 20th, 2005 · 08:24 AM
7 threads / 3 songs
47 posts
United Kingdom
I dont know if thisw will work for you but i never try to write a set of lyrics or write a riff. I always write them together, so when u come up with the riff you're always thinking about the melody that could go over the top and when u have the melody that fits the lyrics seem to find themselves, after uve got the main bulk of lyrics just fine tune it down to give it a meaning that is personal to you.

These tips are probably a bit ambiguos (sp) but then again song writing is abstract, there is no real formula
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