How To Write Song Lyrics: Ideas and Topics


I believe writing song lyrics (aka, lyrical poetry) is not as difficult as one would think, primarily because when you write lyrics, it is coming from your heart—what is pressing on your mind. A lot of times, when I write song lyrics, I will free write, writing continuously with no end, it seems. Sometimes the result will be pretty good—I will find little to no revisions or structural changes needed. However, most times I will go back to arrange and rewrite things in the song lyrics.

In this 5 part How To series, I want to give helpful tips and basics on how to write song lyrics. Part one will be on determining the purpose behind writing the song lyrics, coming up with a topic and discovering what to focus on concerning the topic. I will also include additional information on song titles and music (melody).

Part One: Ideas and Topics

The first thing you should ask yourself when embarking on writing song lyrics is:

What is the goal—the overall message that I want to communicate in the song?

In other words, how do I want the listener to react or feel when hearing the song?

Some examples are:

  • Informed
  • Inspired
  • Empowered
  • Joyful

    No matter what, you want to the listener to connect to the song and find meaning for themselves with the message in the song. You want the listener to relate to the song in some way.

During the writing process, focus on the topic or subject of the song. If the topic is about a long lost best friend or a family car accident, make sure the words communicate the message and the message relates to that topic.

How To Find A Topic

The best songs come from the heart and often are not forced to follow a guideline. When writing song lyrics, be true to yourself, write about things that are on your mind and in your heart. The listener will sense the authenticity and I believe that will connect them more to the song.

As just stated, creating song lyrics start from the heart and mind—they are based on topics that matter to you most or at the moment.

Some places to start when finding topics/subjects:

  • Recent experiences
  • Current events that interest you
  • Experiences of others close to you
  • Feelings of the moment
  • Ideas and concepts stirring in your mind
  • Titles, stories, and phrases
  • Objects of intrigue and interest

Once you find your topic, think about all the feelings and pictures that it creates for you.

In other words, How does that topic make you feel, what do you think about that topic?

Additional Things To Keep In Mind

  • Titles

The title of your song lyrics is more important than you may think. Just like books and movies, titles can often catch the listener’s interest and lead them to want to know what the song is about.  To me, a song title does not necessarily have to be part of the song lyrics, although most of my song lyrics contain the title within them. But whatever the case, the title should pull in the listener—draw them to the song or let them want to know more about it. The title should sum up the song in one line.

  • Music (Melody)

When writing song lyrics, I don’t always have a permanent melody (music) that accompanies them. At the time of writing the lyrics, I will have some simple generic melody. However, about half of the song lyrics I’ve written don’t have a unique permanent melody accompanied with them. A well written song lyric will stand on its own without a melody accompanied with it, so I do not believe music has to be an essential part when writing lyrics in order for the song to be complete or stand on its own.

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