Five tips for writing lyrics

There’s a lot of overlap in writing lyrics to a song and lyrics to a rhyming children’s book, which is the reason I decided to make a book. But I made songs first, and before that I made song parodies. Well, I still make both of those as well, but that was my trajectory. Over the years of making song parodies, I refined my lyric writing skills and therefore also my book writing skills! Here are some tips on how I write my lyrics.

1. Listen to a lot of songs

When you listen to songs, listen actively and study the songs. If you’re going to write song lyrics, you’ll need to study lyrics – especially the rhyme scheme, rhythm, and the meter. Different styles of songs sound different not just because of the background music, but also because of the structure of the lyrics. Look up lyrics and read them without the music and see how they flow even without music.

2. Read children’s books out loud

Pick up your favorite lyrical children’s books and read them over and over again. If you have kids, this will come naturally! But don’t just read without thinking – just like when you listen to songs, study their structure as you read the books. Try to understand why you like it. Why does it sound good? What makes it flow well?

3. Make song parodies

When you make a parody, be strict about matching the original song in syllables and meter. You’ll get a lot of practice with being able to say the same thing in different ways in order to get it to fit. Sing the parody lyrics out loud to make sure it fits the rhythm of the song. I have a whole blog post on how to make a song parody (which I can and should probably update and re-write here sometime).

4. Stick to a structure

When you end up writing your own original lyrics, figure out a structure that sounds good and stick to it, or at least come back to it if you have multiple structures. Repetition is great for songs and children’s books, and it’s very difficult to make something sound good if your structure is all over the place.

5. Read/sing it out loud

When you’ve made your lyrics, read it out loud and study it just like you did with other songs and books to make sure it flows well. When I make songs, I usually end up making the tune after I’ve finished writing all the lyrics. So first I write something that flows well and has rhythm, and then I fit a tune to it. When my lyrics stick to a structure with a good rhythm, making a tune to fit comes pretty naturally.

These are the things I do and think about when I’m writing my lyrics/poetry, and I hope some of it is helpful for you! And if you want to write lyrics but are worried that you’re not good at it, just start trying! Everything takes practice to get good at, and you might notice that my tips were mostly about getting a lot of that practice in. So start now and have fun!