Writing lyrics

Need inspiration. I want to write some lyrics to enhance my guitar compositions. Any ideas or general tips would be appreciated, but try to stay away from elementary shit that everyone already knows.

I’m looking to write a personal song, but not so personal that people can’t sympathize with it. All I need is a starting point and maybe a few examples of what you guys consider good lyrical writing.

I actually don’t know what I’m asking for here. General discussion on lyric writing is all I really want.

Oh, by the way, I’m looking to write a song with the sort of tone you get from Radiohead, Neverending White Lights, stuff like that.

PLEASE post your own lyrics if you have any.

One of my favourite lyric writers of all time Shane McGowan gave the lyrics writing advice that I use most, so I guess I’ll pass it on to you, since it’s the only concrete advice on the process I can really give: ‘Edit. Edit a lot.’
Seriously. You may write lyrics, and upon first reading them, think they are awesome. Then leave for a while and come back. A few days, for example. Come back, and chances are, something will be at least slightly wrong with them. Keep up this process until you can’t find any more to fix. The longer in-between edits the better.
Second, don’t listen to what anybody says about lyrics fitting the composition, in terms of mood. Some of the coolest songs are those that are really upbeat tempos, but really downbeat lyrics, or the other way around. They balance out, kind of, so the song isn’t totally depressing so that you can’t listen to it, or so happy it makes you want to gag.
Third, don’t avoid writing something because you think it might have some sort of ‘un-cool’ stigma surrounding it somehow. I really don’t think this is the kind of thing you, personally, would do, but still, it’s good advice. Don’t shy away from writing one of those ‘boo-hoo broken heart’ type of songs if that’s how you feel, just because you’re afraid of getting classified as emo, or any such thing. If people classify you as something you’re not and refuse to listen to you as a result, fuck them. They’re the wind-blown fools of trained music consumption who believe that bands cannot change or grow musically. They’re the same ones who think if it contains four chords or singing that doesn’t cause blood to start gushing out of your larynx, it isn’t punk rock.
Finally, be sure and write personal lyrics, although avoiding names is generally good. Partially because the few names that can be effectively rhymed are beaten to death in the annals of song, the others can be hard to fit, and it does make it harder to universally identify with. But chances are, if you write a personal song, somebody will identify with it. That’s the general beauty of music, is when you hear someone talking about something that happened to him, if it (or something similar) has happened to them, you know you aren’t alone. So just write about what happened to you, and dont’ worry much about how universal it will be. I mean, not that many people have had their girlfriends leave on trains, in the rain, with a mournful whistle blowing, but almost everybody can still identify with those old blues songs to a point. It’s the overall emotion people go for, and if the circumstances are similar, even better. Just, don’t try to write about something that didn’t happen to you, at all, because it usually ends up pretty bad, at least from all my experiences with it.
EDIT: I’ll add lyrics I wrote in a ‘folk mood’ yesterday, in a little while. Also, I could post the entire rock opera I wrote about Mario, if I can find it. Which, honestly, I kind of hope I can’t.

Looking forward to it, and thanks for the advice.

Arac, if you post the Mario opera I will review each and every stanza for you.

Lyrics tips to follow tomorrow cause I’m sleepy. Off the top of my head: Be congruent about your subject. If it’s a personal song work at the lyrics till you can watch at (or even better hum) them and think “yeah, that describes how I feel”.

Thor had a hammer
and so have I,
my brow’s slick wet
and my mouth is dry

Thor had a hammer
and so have I,
and it’s clang sounds to me
like a baby’s cry.

I said Thor had a hammer,
and so have I,
I’m gon’ be swinging it down
‘Till the day that I die

I’d love to swing that hammer,
Down on to this chain,
but I know deep down
it’d just bring me more pain

I’d love to swing my hammer,
Down onto this chain,
But they’d shoot me
if I left this prison gang.

I’d love to swing my hammer
Down onto this chain
But I’ve got nothing else
They even took my name

Now I know what’s wrong
And I know what’s right
I know that I can still
Sleep at night

Now I know what’s wrong
And I know what’s right
And it’s got nothin’ to do
With black and white

Now I know what’s wrong
And I know what’s right
Somebody set me free
In the name of Jesus Christ

The rythm gets off now and then, but I still like it overall. It was written on saturday, but there have been some edits, since two of the stanzas were way to similar when I just posted it here, anyway. I’m still not sure if I want to put in the Jesus thing. It fits with the tone and idea of the song, and a whole bunch of songs from that time had it mentioned, but I don’t know if it hurts the multi-religious reach. I mean, I wrote and am not really Christian, but other people might not really go for it. I don’t know. Comments would be appreciated.

Don’t worry, Jesus is in the free domain by now.

You could add some reggae influence in the music (baby’s cry, they even took my name and stuff). I suggest you branch out and not make it like Tommy (of The Who I mean). Though you’ve probably already got by now a whole Clash-influenced street opera ready. If so, add sax.

So what was I saying? This hammer power up seems to have made quite an impression on you. I like how you go with repeating the first two verses and then include typical rock opera thingies with some street influence.

You should add some Mario trademarks in there though. For instance:

Bless my wily mustache
and my mighty jump
for there are some things
that no man can stand

Bless my wily mustache
and my mighty jump
and I’m not the one
to back down from a clash

Bless my wily mustache
and my mighty jump
I save the Princess-chick again
and pacify the land, ohhhhh

This is a bit too condensed of course (just written, no edits) . The last stanza could destroy the feeling without support from the music to lend it some flavour. Then again Frank Zappa could do this perfectly.
By the way at least by the third repetition of the first two lines you should change at least the way you sing them.

Hades, I suppose you already keep your lyric booklets open in front of you.

Other ideas: Listen to a song you like (instrumental or not). Write lyrics about the same theme. The base your songs on these lyrics writing the music from scratch (changing style and all).

If you just want something to base your music on try published poetry. Bob Dylan released 4 albums based on Dylan Thomas’ poetry. I once listened to a song based on a E.A. Poe poem and it had been tinkered with (musically) to a degree it was virtually unrecognisable.

Writing lyrics to instrumentals and then writing new music to those lyrics sounds like a plan. Those are some great ideas. If I come up with anything soon I’ll post it here for you to read.

Well, actually, that wasn’t from the Mario opera, that was a folk song written after listening to too much Bob Dylan on a road trip with a hippy friend, and thinking, man, I want to do something like that.
But. . . hammers, Mario. . . I can see it. I should add it in!
In terms of music, it’s all acoustic, mostly open position chords with a few bits of instrumental solo, but those are all on mandolin, and thus not written until I get suitably goot at mandolin to make it good.

I usually approach lyrics with a theme in mind beforehand. Once I obtain a suitable theme that either fits the music or atleast appeals to myself(in the case of there not being music yet), then I will play the lyrics out in a story fashion and try to work with how the events build up to the whole idea.

That’s just one way of doing things, now that I think about it I don’t really have a set pattern of writing lyrics. Hell, I don’t even rhyme half the time, I just use words that fit. You can always add in the rhythm and “beat” later with the way you pronounce the words in the song.

A good source for inspiration for me is literature, whether it’s a comic book or a novel. One of my favourite songs that I wrote is based on a russian novel “the Master and the Margarita”. I guess I’ll post the lyrics:

you don’t believe in the devil?
well I have news for you

I have met with pontius pilate
he who sentenced christ
to death!

come watch my seance
to satisfy your curiousity

offer me your soul for favour
I can reunite you
with your loved one

consider your wish granted
but you shall accompany me
to satans ball

their fate is decided
guests of satan

time to say goodbye to your land
time to go!

dark-violet knight, closed his account
demon-page, prestigious jester
the demon-killer, demon of the waterless desert

you’ve finished your book
now the deal is settled
a deal done with the

professor of black magic!
professor of black magic!
professor of black magic!
professor of black magic!

There are a couple parts I would like to revise but for the most part I am happy with that. You have to keep in mind that I like to put a strong emphasis on the music itself and for me lyrics and vocals usually come secondary or don’t have to be there at all. It’s kind of like putting chocolate sauce on ice cream in some ways, but again it really depends on the music.

Other examples of my lyric writing would be somewhat jumbled, following no flowing event; mostly just ideas sparatically thrown out there with a chorus once or twice. I am rather fond of this style, then again I am fond of a lot of jumbled writing styles (William S. Burroughs anyone?).

I would imagine most of the music I write lyrics for is significantly different than the music you would write and put lyrics to, but I figured I would put in my perspective anyways.

To sum it up, my advice would be to pick a theme for your lyrics beforehand and work with that. Unless you’re writing completely nutty abstract stuff, which I’ve done before.

Sorry for the double post but I figured that post itself was too long already. Here is an example of lyrics that I thought up of a theme beforehand and played it out in a story fashion.

finished work at eleven pm
you take the busy route
finished work at eleven pm
you take your car
finished work at eleven pm
you crash!
finished life at eleven thirteen!

bright light
enter the shadow zone
I don’t want to be here
I haven’t lived my life
to the way I was intended

Now I’m stuck
in this realm of gloom
my arms draped in chains
heavy as my disposition
and I fear
that I won’t see my family
ever again
but atleast
I’ll be present at my

dig me a grave

but I cannot rest
not with the torment
that plagues my mind!
I will haunt the earth
with my nightmarish visage
forever lost in the

shadow zone

Once again, the content probably isn’t your style or what you’re looking for, but it’s good to see what other people come up with. These lyrics have no music set to them yet.

Well, man! Gimme the Mario opera. Otherwise I’ll write lyrics for it and send them to you as a punishment.

Gila, the lyrics don’t have to rhyme. In my parody example they do. Concerning your second post, have you listened to Opeth’s My Arms Your Hearse? It’s about a man who dies and returns to life to [STRIKE]harass[/STRIKE] love his ex after his death.

And food for thought: Give it away, give it away, give it away now.

Make the music and the rhythm good and noone will scrutinise your lyrics. Actually you have to pay people to do that. Then again I bet half of the greatest rock (and not only) songs have trashy lyrics, which doesn’t stop them from being awesome

Yeah, dude. I have that album, it’s great. I didn’t know that’s what it was about though, usually with music like that I just listen to the music and the delivery of the vocals.

And I know this thread is mostly asking about a “personal” song, but I’d like to add that you don’t always have to write about stuff that you’ve experienced yourself. I find if you have a good imagination and strong descriptive writing skills then you can write about almost anything you want.

That is very true, Gila, but I would add that if you were to write about something that you have never experienced (such as a love affair with a married woman or a trip across the country) or COULD never experience (such as a zombie attack or flying to Ganymede), then you should at least use the experiences that you HAVE had to create a good illusion that you HAVE done it. The best stories/lyrics about stuff that people could never experience doesn’t merely rehash the clichés that are prevalent in the genre in question, but reflect on how oneself would experience the event.

To put it better: if you write a song about a zombie attack from the perspective of a stereotype, your song will be just like every other song about a zombie attack. If you write a song and ask yourself, “What would I do during a zombie attack?” or “What would my character do during a zombie attack?” you are much closer to a good story.

Stereotypes are bad. You keep in mind stereotypes, you come up with stuff like this:

Stop breathing in your closet
and don’t make no noise
Stop breathing in your closet
and don’t make no noise

So you’re the only survivor
in a faraway mall
and I tell you boy
heard that story before

Know the dead have been walking
cause their matress is tough
‘n’ they wake up real angry
‘n’ they are really sad

Sad cause people won’t listen
itching to take up arms
(cue chainsaw sound)

but the zombieees… (sang in baritone)

all they need are a few good blankets
variety of services
provided by free markets

World leaders always ready
to sprout forth their rhetoric
opening markets to zombies
well that’s another story

I tell you brothers, the zombie nation will rise
and all of our oppressors, are in for a surprise
to nonviolence we pledge
united like a wedge

(Sprachstimme interlude
zombies rock it out)

we first take Manhattan
or such a small town
bat your eyelids
and the White House is toppled down

>cue zombie victory screams

There are a few subtle changes in perspective there. The song is a call against zombie descrimination and a call in unity for our beloved ancestors. It also highlights the hypocrisy of organisations like WTO which won’t accept Zombie-groups as members, citing the need for separate zombie states first and silly excuses like that.

(edit: The experience that I used, adhering to the advice above? 90% of everything is crap.)

Dedicated to Genericangstyposter, who inspired this and whose name I’d been misreading for quite a few years. And who gave birth to the idea someone could write a song about zombie attacks. No, I don’t need to listen to these songs, thank you very much.

The mario opera is somehwere in the school computers, I just have to find where, since it was theoretically deleted. However, since the district absolutely does not trust us art folk kids, nothing is ever deleted, you jsut have to find which back-up network they stuck it on.

You are absolutely correct, Mr. I-Study-Post-Secondary-English. It’s always great to add your own personal experiences (subtley or bluntly) to make it unique. However, I must admit that clichés aren’t always bad… I mean, hey, they’re clichés for a reason, right?

Clichés and archetypes are not necessarily bad when you do not rely completely on them. They are useful in certain situations, but if you have a work full of clichés, it will not be distinguished from anybody else who writes about similar things.

IMO the problem isn’t the subject matter. It’s the way you deliver, your take on it that makes or breaks a cliche.

Batman was plagued with cliches. Then you got “The Dark Knight returns” which is still Batman, an old theme but given with new insights. If it was yet another “Batman wears suit, beats bad guys” there wouldn’t be any new interest in the character. He’d be a big walking cliche.

Using a “cliche theme” (a term I think is as descriptive as “bored strawberry”) is not bad. Half the stories of mankind probably involve boy-meets-girl situations. They’d better just make it interesting to the reader.

Actually, what’s strange, Rigamorale, is that the play I’m going to do for playwriting class is probably going to be about a zombie rights movement. Go figure. :stuck_out_tongue:

The thing I want to satirize is the effort of NAMBLA (which is a real organization) to give rights to pedophiles to have sex with children. The difference is that the zombies want to eat your brains. :stuck_out_tongue:

EDIT: Rigamorale- In your last message that is more or less what I was trying to get at.

I don’t write lyrics much; but generally, the way I write lyrics is to write down what I want to say in a less lyrical fashion first. Write it down almost like you would tell it to someone, or write it in a journal. That way, the lyrics aren’t incredibly cryptic, and if they’re poetic in any particular way, it’ll likely be a way that more people are able to relate to. Try taking any random musing from a journal or something and making it into lyrics. That’s what I reccomend.