1.7 Writing Just Because the Song Needs Lyrics

Now for the last reason for writing lyrics! Sometimes, you’ll find yourself writing lyrics simply because you have a piece of music that needs words. Maybe someone else has asked you to write lyrics for some music he or she wrote. That happened to me when my sister Joanna asked me to write lyrics for her song, “There Was a Time.” She had the music and melody, and even new where the title should be sung as part of the melody. But she wanted me to write the rest of the lyrics. I did, and the song later won a contest. So, go us.

Or maybe you wrote some really cool music for a song, and like it so much you want to present it to your friends. Maybe you even have a melody, but don’t want to just sing, “La la la la,” the whole time. I’ve been in that situation a time or two, so I know how you feel. And what do you do? You sit down to write some filler lyrics.

If you’re writing lyrics for music that has already been written, you already have an important set of constraints. Specifically, you have the emotional tone of the song, you have its basic structure, and you have its melody. This is good. It will help to guide you as you write the lyrics.

Of course, you may occasionally want to shake things up and write happy-sounding lyrics for a sad-sounding melody, or sad-sounding lyrics for a happy-sounding melody. So long as you and the music’s composer are both in agreement, that’s fine. What you have to be more careful with is writing lyrics that rhythmically break the mold of the melody itself. This is something we’ll be talking about later.

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Featured image by Nitish Kadam.

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