Songwriting Advice

Write Music Or Lyrics First

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Are you an aspiring songwriter who is constantly asking yourself, "Should I write music or lyrics first?" The creative process varies for every individual, but understanding the pros and cons of each approach can help you unlock your full potential. In this guide, we will explore the benefits and techniques in starting with music or lyrics and how using Lyric Assistant can make your songwriting journey a breeze.

1. Benefits of writing music first

Many musicians find it easier to express themselves through melodies, chords, and rhythms before turning to words. Writing music first allows you to:

  • Set the groundwork: A unique and catchy chord progression can act as the foundation for the lyrics to be built upon.
  • Establish a mood: The melody and harmony often dictates the emotional feel of the song, which can guide your choice of words and themes.
  • Create structure: The arrangement and form of the music can indicate where a verse, chorus, or bridge should be placed, making it easier for the lyrics to flow.

Popular artists like Elton John and Paul McCartney are known to compose music before writing lyrics.

2. Benefits of writing lyrics first

Sometimes, having your words in place can inspire the perfect melody and harmony to accompany them. Writing lyrics first allows you to:

  • Tell a story: A song with a clear narrative or concept can be engaging and relatable to listeners.
  • Focus on wordplay: Crafting clever rhymes and memorable lines may come more naturally to some songwriters.
  • Experiment with different musical styles: With a set of lyrics in hand, you can explore various tempos, rhythms, and genres that complement the mood and theme of your words.

Legendary artists like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen often start with lyrics to create their timeless classics.

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3. Blending both approaches

In reality, there is no "one-size-fits-all" formula for successful songwriting. Process differs from artist to artist, and sometimes, even from song to song. You can take advantage of both methods by:

  • Jotting down phrases or lines whenever they come to you, and then finding a melody or chord progression that fits later.
  • Alternating between both approaches. Start by writing music for a verse and then penning lyrics, or vice versa.
  • Writing some aspects of the music and lyrics concurrently. For example, you may start with a chorus's words and melody, and then compose the surrounding sections afterward.

Many celebrated songwriters, such as Taylor Swift, blend elements of both music and lyrics in their creative process.

Write Music Or Lyrics First Example

Imagine you are writing a song that captures the emotions of a recent breakup. Starting with melodies and harmonies can help establish the mood and tempo—for instance, slow and somber to express heartache or up-tempo to emphasize resilience. Once the music evokes the emotion, it becomes easier to pen heartfelt lyrics that flow smoothly.

Alternatively, you can begin with words that reflect your feelings and memories, painting a vivid picture of the lingering sadness or newfound freedom. Then, you can experiment with different rhythms, chords, and melodies that complement those sentiments.

Deciding whether to write music or lyrics first ultimately depends on personal preferences and inspiration. Experimenting with both approaches and finding a balance that works best for you will lead to crafting engaging and captivating songs. As you embark on this journey, remember that Lyric Assistant is your all-in-one tool, tailored to help you write the perfect unique song in just minutes. Let Lyric Assistant be your trusted guide in creating that next chart-topping hit!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to write music or lyrics first?

There isn't a definitive answer as it largely depends on the songwriter's personal process and what sparks their creativity. Some may find it more natural to write lyrics first, while others prefer composing the melody and harmonies. Experimenting with both methods can help determine what works best for you.

Will starting with lyrics limit musical creativity?

Starting with lyrics might set a specific mood or structure, but it doesn't necessarily limit musical creativity. In fact, lyrics can often inspire unique musical ideas that might not have been conceived otherwise. It all boils down to how the songwriter interprets the lyrics musically.

Can writing music first make it hard to fit in lyrics afterwards?

This can be a challenge, but many songwriters view it as a constructive constraint. Having a pre-established melody might require more effort in fitting and phrasing the lyrics, but this can also lead to innovative word choices and rhythms that enhance the song.

What are the benefits of collaboration in songwriting?

Collaboration brings multiple perspectives and strengths to the table, resulting in a richer and more diverse output. It can help break creative blocks and offer new angles to both musical and lyrical content that might not be achieved alone.

Is there a specific structure I should follow when writing a song?

While many successful songs follow popular structures such as verse-chorus form, there's no mandatory blueprint for songwriting. Play around with different forms and see what suits your song best. Being aware of traditional structures can be helpful, but don't let them restrict your creativity.

How do I match the mood of my lyrics to my music?

Consider the emotions and storytelling in your lyrics and experiment with melodies, chord progressions, and rhythms that reflect the same vibe. Drawing from personal experience and emotional intuition can guide you to the right musical environment that complements your words.

What should I do if I'm stuck on a song?

If you hit a creative wall, take a break. Sometimes stepping away from your work can give you a fresh perspective when you return. Alternatively, you might consider switching from writing lyrics to experimenting with melodies, or vice versa. Different stimuli can jumpstart your creativity.

Are there tools or apps that can help with songwriting?

Definitely! There are numerous apps and software tools designed to aid in songwriting, including rhyming dictionaries, chord progression tools, and digital audio workstations (DAWs). Some apps also offer community feedback, which can be invaluable.

How important is music theory in songwriting?

A fundamental understanding of music theory can be quite beneficial, as it provides a vocabulary and framework for organizing musical ideas. However, many successful songwriters also rely on intuition and experimentation, so don’t let a lack of formal theory knowledge hold you back.

Can analyzing other songs help improve my songwriting?

Studying the work of other songwriters can offer insights into successful song structures, lyrical content, and melodic development. You might learn new techniques or be inspired by elements that resonate with you, which can then be applied to your own songwriting process.

What are some exercises to improve songwriting skills?

Try free-writing exercises to generate lyrical ideas, experiment with re-harmonizing existing melodies, or set yourself challenges like writing a song with a certain word count or within a tight deadline. Practice is key, so the more you write, the better you'll become.

How can I find inspiration for new songs?

Inspiration could come from personal experiences, books, movies, conversations, nature, or other pieces of music. Be open to the world around you and always be ready to jot down ideas as they come, no matter how small.

Should I use a rhyming scheme in my lyrics?

Rhyming schemes can add catchiness and structure to a song, but are not essential for every song. If it suits the song's style and messaging, then employ rhyming; if it feels forced, it may be best to forgo it.

What's the role of a chorus in a song?

The chorus is often the emotional and lyrical highlight of a song, serving as a pivotal point that the verses and bridge build up to. It often contains the song's main message and is designed to be memorable and repeated.

How can I ensure my lyrics are original and not cliché?

Focusing on specific and personal experiences can help make your lyrics unique. Additionally, exploring new vocabulary and avoiding overused phrases can preserve the originality of your lyrics.

What is a bridge in a song, and do I need one?

A bridge offers a contrast to other sections of the song, typically introducing something musically and lyrically fresh. It's not mandatory, but employing a bridge can sometimes provide a great way to add variety and maintain listener interest.

How do I know when my song is finished?

A song often feels finished when it effectively communicates the emotions or story you’re trying to express without any elements feeling superfluous or lacking. However, getting feedback from others can help you view your song more objectively and make final adjustments.

Can rewriting a song be part of the writing process?

Absolutely. Rewriting is a fundamental part of the process for many songwriters. It helps refine ideas, tighten lyrics, and improve melodies. Don't hesitate to revise your song multiple times—it's all part of crafting the final piece.

How do you write a song if you're not an instrumentalist?

Non-instrumentalists can collaborate with musicians, use virtual instruments and software, or even focus solely on a cappella melodies to construct their songs. Technology has made it possible for anyone with a vision to realize their songwriting potential.

Should I focus on creating a catchy hook when writing a song?

While not every song needs a hook, having a catchy element can make your song more memorable and engaging for listeners. It could be a lyrical phrase, a melody, or a riff—anything that grabs attention and sticks in the mind.

How can I protect my work as a songwriter once it's completed?

To protect your work legally, consider copyrighting your completed songs. This means registering them with the appropriate agency in your country, ensuring you maintain ownership and control over how your music is distributed and used. You might also consider joining a performance rights organization.

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About Toni Mercia

Toni Mercia is a Grammy award-winning songwriter and the founder of Lyric Assistant. With over 15 years of experience in the music industry, Toni has written hit songs for some of the biggest names in music. She has a passion for helping aspiring songwriters unlock their creativity and take their craft to the next level. Through Lyric Assistant, Toni has created a tool that empowers songwriters to make great lyrics and turn their musical dreams into reality.

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