Unusual but Effective Lyric Writing Tactics

Unusual but Effective Lyric Writing Tactics

Ben Jacklin

Guest Post by Ben Jacklin

Every songwriter and lyricist knows how much of a challenge getting the lyrics to a song right can be. Sometimes the lyrics just flow, other times they will hit you in a moment of inspiration, other times you have to work really hard and even approach your writing from a totally new angle in order to get the desired results.

As the old saying goes, “you can’t force creativity”, but we’re aiming to prove you can certainly give it a nudge in the right direction by using some tried and tested (and whacky) techniques to write your lyrics.

Always Take a Notepad to Bed

Legend has it, Einstein used to wait until the moment he was about to fall asleep and then wake himself. He would hold a key or a coin in his hand loosely and, as he fell asleep, he would drop it, the noise waking him up in the process. This is rumored to be where they saying ‘the penny has dropped’ comes from.

More importantly for songwriters is recognizing that we are often at our most creative when we are about to fall asleep. It is common for ideas to pop into our heads once we finally shut our eyes and stop engaging with the world around us and, as such, it is a great time to write lyrics. Taking a notepad to bed with you can make sure that you can scribble down any ideas that come to you right before you drift off.

The Nonsense Method

If you are working with music already in place then you will be composing your lyrics to fit around at least a rough idea of the track. One of my favorite methods of writing lyrics is just to put myself on the spot with the Nonsense Method.

Hook up a microphone - a simple USB mic or cheap microphone will suffice due to the fact that you won’t be using the recordings in your track. Listen to the track, or a rough mix of the track, on your headphones and just freestyle away! Sing the first thing that comes into your head even if it makes no sense, just let the words flow, even if you are just singing about what is happening or what you see around you.

The likelihood is that you will not use 80-90% of what you sing. Even if this nonsense method gives you one line of your track that can spark your creativity for the rest of the track, it is well worth trying. The best thing about the nonsense method is that you can do it wherever and whenever.

Cut Up Words

This is an amazing method for creating abstract and creative lyrics that otherwise wouldn’t have popped into your head. Legend has it that it was used by David Byrne when writing for Talking Heads’ 1980 classic ‘Remain in Light’. It basically involves chopping up sections of text and sticking them back together in a way that (sort of) makes sense. Some people even pull lyrics out of a hat.

Anyone who has listened to 'Remain in Light' will instantly know that the lyrics are unconventional. The degree to which you go with the abstract theme in your own lyrics is up to you. The main point of this is to get ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise come to you, adjectives you wouldn’t ordinarily use, or interesting and quirky turns of phrase. Sometimes two or three words will fall together, that sound great, and give you themes you can run with for your writing.

What should you cut up? Well, anything from newspapers to your own notebooks of old lyrics and diaries can work. Why not get some cheap books from a flea market and give it a go?

Don’t Be Embarrassed

Even the best songwriters ever have songs which they would rather forget. An underrated aspect of creativity is bravery. It is important to push the boundaries and not rest on your laurels, creating new and interesting sounds and lyrics. Nobody wants to hear the exact same songs written over and over again, and it takes brave people to run with new ideas and create something amazing. Some of the best lyrics ever have come from nonsense, and often they don’t make sense until years after they’ve been written. Allow your subconscious to take over, be brave, and never be embarrassed about something you’ve created.

About the Author: Ben is a musician and writer from the UK who runs Subreel., a website designed to help aspiring musicians with everything from tips and tricks to equipment reviews.

Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Tunedly.