Tips for Writing Lyrics to Your First Song

Songwriting Tips: How to Write Lyrics To Your First Song

Tips for Writing Lyrics to Your First SongAre  you learning to play guitar because you want to be able to write your own songs? Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares some tips to help you write lyrics to your first song…

Just as writing a song on guitar can seem like work for only a select few, so can writing the words to one. Once again, this assumption and the truth are completely unrelated. You don’t need to be Bob Dylan or Bernie Taupin to do it – you only need to have something to say.

I first began writing lyrics as teenager. My summer camp bunkmate frequently played me homemade recordings of his two-person band. He was likely the first person who introduced me to the idea that a song’s lyrics don’t have to make imminent and immediate sense – they need only come from inside you. Themes in his material ranged from Star Trek-esque imagery of ice skating on the surface of the moon to a song about someone’s bearskin rug. “I write my songs and then interpret them later,” he said.

With this in mind, I began doing the same. By the time I was in college, I’d become familiar enough with the process that I was finally able to add humor into it and create what effectively became a tribute to the famous children’s book Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs about raining food:

I sat and stared at my linguine on my plate.
Its origin could be a matter of debate.
It looks like weather here.
Weather I hold dear.
Weather that does not show up here everyday.

Here’s where a thread to soloing is apparent – in writing lyrics it’s more important to feel than it is to think. Writing words and playing improvised notes are actually two different versions of the same thing – they’re intimate forms of expression clouded only by your internal resistance to playing (or writing) what you hear in your head. During a recent lesson about soloing, I told my student that the notes are already waiting there for you – you need only play them. The same applies to your lyrics.

If you find yourself perpetually wanting to write a song on guitar but aren’t sure how to begin writing lyrics, I strongly suggest writing blues stanzas. The blues follows a frequently predictable pattern (based on a call-and-response tradition) in which a line is presented, repeated, and followed with a relevant second line:

I hate to see evening sun go down.
I hate to see evening sun go down.
‘Cause it makes me think I’m on my last go-round.

I’m ready – ready as anybody can be.
I’m ready – ready as anybody can be.
I’m ready for you. I hope you’re ready for me.

The girl I’m loving she’s got great long curly hair.
The girl I’m loving she’s got great long curly hair.
And her mama and her papa well, they sure don’t allow me there.

You might try improvising stanzas while playing a twelve-bar chord progression (E-E-E-E-A-A-E-E-B7th-A-E-E/B7th) and seeing where that takes you. Making up spontaneous blues songs may prove an enjoyable (and often funny) first step for you as a songwriter that will begin to teach you to allow your imagery to flourish without red tape. Think of it as an advanced form of Mad Libs.

Finally, don’t worry about writing too many or too few songs. Arlo Guthrie has used a fishing metaphor to describe the process of “catching” a good one. Bruce Springsteen has traditionally written roughly seventy songs per album and picked out only the ten or twelve that aesthetically fit together best. Some of your songs will be better than others. Don’t let this discourage you at all. The good ones will always find you, more often than the reverse.

Learn more: Check out our guide to songwriting!

SamuelBSamuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!

 

 

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Photo by Matt Gibson

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2 replies
  1. Zaiba
    Zaiba says:

    Thank You! Samuel B.

    I am complete beginner when it’s comes to write song.

    I would do as you say and write at least 2-3 songs

    Reply
  2. Nidhi
    Nidhi says:

    One thing I understood completely after reading this, that write what you feel not necessarily what you think. It has deeper meaning and very effective technique for a beginner.

    Reply

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