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Easy Steps To Writing Hit Lyrics
By Molly-Ann Leikin, Creativity Consultant
Molly-Ann Leikin. All rights reserved.
of my clients find that melodies pour out of them like beer from a
tap - but they get stuck on lyrics. I've thought about this for many
years, and feel I finally understand why. I also know how to fix it.
melodies are open to interpretation - so when you write one, what
you feel or intend is still safe in your heart - you do not have to
reveal yourself or stand completely naked in front of the world. But
once you put words to a tune, your feelings are totally out in the
open. Everyone knows what's in your heart. Therefore, it's very inhibiting
to write lyrics.
is a process I use with my clients to make lyric writing simple for
them. There are six steps. I suggest you use all of them. Cutting
corners is usually why a lyric doesn't work.
assume, for this assignment only, that you have a melody but no idea
of what to say in the lyric. In a future column, I'll gladly give
you pointers on how to start a lyric if there isn't any music in your
head. But for now, you have a melody.
Play the melody you wrote, or choose one from the radio, writing non-rhyming
prose as it plays. Let your words be a stream-of-conscious exercise
to warm up your imagination. No rhymes. No logic. No continuity. All
whimsy. Completely imaginative. Totally visual. Silly. Playful.
tooth farmer from Fluffy, South Apricot, dug through Exxon's banana
shoe section for kangaroo lingerie, after the De La Hoya/Trinidad
wrist watch from Western Tire Cough Drops slid unnoticed into ..."
Now we have you thinking and writing a little freer. Good. Let's close
in a smidge. For step two, please write a silly, visual, non-rhyming
lyric to the melody you've chosen. Fill it with ridiculous pictures,
as I did in Step one. Don't be logical, don't make it make sense.
Every line can be about something different. In this draft, try to
keep yourself totally playful, and keep all the rhymes OUT. Here's
an example, using the chorus of "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing"
Pigs on the 405
Serving footballs to Lindsay D
Write an uncensored list of silly, visual titles that fit with the
title line of your melody. Try to get twenty or thirty outrageous
possibilities on your list. Don't write anything you've heard before,
okay? Let 'em roll - don't say "Oh, that's dumb". Come on.
Let 'em roll. You might find one of your ridiculous titles could actually
be a real title. "I love you" is fine. But Jewel's "Swallow
the Moon" is sensational. A great title will write the whole
song for you. A mediocre one will leave you stranded in line two.
Based on the title you've chosen, write the STORY of your song, in
prose. Maybe writing it as a letter would be easier for you. If any
words come out rhyming, change them so they don't. That way, you'll
be able to express yourself with complete freedom - no constraints
for rhyme or meter.
you finish this step, you'll know the beginning, the middle and the
end of your story before you begin the lyric. You'll also be able
to see if you have enough story to fill a whole song, so you won't
get stuck half-way through with nowhere to go.
step, you'll also be able to tell everything that happened - without
worrying that you don't have enough room or time to include the whole
saga. Tell the story - in as much detail as you want. Chances are
you've never had this much freedom before as a story-teller in a song
because lyrics are very spare, every syllable is critical and the
lyric has to bow to the demands of the melody. So enjoy the freedom
you have here to tell all, without worrying about time rhyme or syllables.
Using your story, write a non-rhyming lyric to the melody you've chosen.
Remember - no rhymes.
Now write the final lyric, with the story and the rhymes.
you try these six steps. Not four. Not two. Six. My clients who do
all of them, get great results. The ones who don't are still claiming
they can't write lyrics. Just remember - writing is a process. The
inspiration draft is just the first one - one of many - not the final
fun, good luck and let me know how you do, okay? I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leikin is a creativity consultant in Calfornia. She is the
author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How
To Make A Good Song A Hit Song". Molly wrote the national
jingle for Ivy Mackenzie's "International Solutions"
1999 campaign, has several gold and platinum records, was
a staffwriter for ten years, has an Emmy nomination, wrote
themes and songs for 34 t.v. shows and movies, including "Eight
is Enough" and "Violet", that won an Oscar.
You can find her at her website, Songwriting Consultants,
Ltd. www.songmd.com and
by e mail email@example.com.