Writing Song Lyrics
People Can Relate To

As songwriters, we must develop the ability to speak through our songs. Writing song lyrics people can relate to is of the highest importance.

The best way to do this is to put yourself in the listeners' shoes.

Try not to make the lyric so personal that no one else can relate. On the other hand, if you're writing a story song make us care about the characters and what happens to them.

When writing lyrics it's very easy to get caught up in your own world. We writers can be very introspective, and in order to write those great songs we need to be.

But there comes a time when we have to be able to step back and take an objective view.

Especially when it comes to writing song lyrics.

This is often not as easy as it sounds. We are so close to our own work that it can be difficult to look at it objectively.

Play It for Someone Else

Presuming we've taken the time and effort to craft a good song, and we are happy with the results, now might be a good time to play it for someone else.

Remember, a good song should be able to stand on its own. Play it for a few people using just guitar (or piano) and voice.

Don't clue them in on what the song is about. Rather, let them draw their own conclusions. Then ask them what they think the song is about.

If you've done your job properly, they should have no doubt as to what it's about. (Nice rhyme!) You are writing song lyrics they can relate to.

If they are a little vague, you know you need to go back and rewrite.

Again, put yourself in the listeners' shoes. When rewriting try to detach yourself from the fact that you are the writer. Try to be objective.

Show It to Someone Else

Try showing the finished lyric to other people without the distraction of the music.

A good lyric should be able to stand by itself without the music. Writing lyrics that can stand alone is a skill that can take some time to develop.

Now, I need to take you aside for a second.

When I say show it to someone else, I don't mean your Mum. I mean no disrespect to anyone's Mum. The problem is, your Mum is biased and loves everything you do.

My Mum, bless her, loves everything I do. That's not to say she doesn't like or recognise good music. She simply sees me through a Mum's eyes.

You need an unbiased opinion.

So show it to someone who tells it like it is. You must have friends like that, right? I know I do! And that's good.

There's also another option. Perhaps a better one.

Get a Professional Song Critique

There are music executives who will give you a professional critique of your song, for a small fee of course.

You can find them online under "publishing" or "song critique". You can find them in the annual Songwriter's Market reference book. You can also sometimes find them at songwriting workshops.

Check out some of the songwriting resources, online and in your area.

The advantages of getting a professional song critique are obvious:

  • You get an unbiased professional opinion, often with valuable tips on how to make your song better.
  • You've made a potential music industry contact. (If your stuff is good, they may remember you next time.)
  • If your stuff is really good and the exec likes your song, you could be offered a publishing deal. Don't laugh. It happens.

Getting your songs listened to, preferably by industry professionals, will go a long way toward writing song lyrics people can relate to.

As an exercise, listen to some of the songs you grew up with that were important to you. Songs you liked.

Obviously you'll have to wade through some emotional waters, because songs have a way of forever holding a part of our lives.

Try to explore the reasons why those songs were so important to you. How did they speak to you?

Got that feeling?

Now infuse that feeling into your song.

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