Songwriting Lyrics For Pianists
It’s amazing to consider how big of a difference a few words can make.
Imagine a painting of a little girl standing next to a taller man on a seashore with the title “Father and
Daughter on Vacation” next to it.
Now imagine the same painting but with the title “The Kidnapping.” These few words create a drastic difference
in how the same image could be interpreted.
The same principle is true when it comes to writing lyrics, except that there are many more words to consider in
songs than on paintings’ titles. The art of writing lyrics for songs on piano comes first from the understanding
that words, like music, are very powerful.
English teachers have been harassing students for years to “analyze every word” of poems they read. And what are
songs but poems set to music? The effective lyricist knows how to choose words that particular express a deep
meaning in a short amount of space.
For pianists to write lyrics for their songs, they need to carefully consider what their message is. It is
impossible to write effective lyrics if you don’t know your song’s message just as it is impossible to win a game
if you don’t know the game’s rules or goal. Then, when selecting words and images to include in your song,
carefully choose what best expresses your emotion and idea.
If you’re writing about how beautiful a girl’s voice is, don’t say it “rings like a garbage truck backing up.”
Sure, that has a ring to it, but the last thing you want to do is take something beautiful and compare it to a
garbage truck. Instead, say that her voice “enchants your ears like a mystic melody from a forgotten ancient
There is some debate about what comes first, the melody of the lyrics.
Really, though, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes you may find that you come
up with a fabulous melody and then need to write lyrics to match it.
Other times, lyrics may come into your head and you’ll find yourself needing to compose a melody that reflects
those lyrics. There is no formula or easy step-by-step process that tells you exactly what the order of inspiration
is. Also, don’t feel like once you write a line of lyrics it can’t change.
Everything about a work of art is subject to revision, so if you have an idea – even if you don’t think it’s a
particularly great idea – write it down, because it’s better than having nothing. You can always go back, take a
second look, and make it better.
One final helpful tool in a songwriter’s belt is knowing the basic format of a good song. Most songs follow a
verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus pattern. So, when learning
piano and writing lyrics, you can lay out your lyrics according to this common format. You’ll know when you
write a particular set of lyrics whether they belong in the first verse, second verse, chorus, or bridge.
Don’t feel like a song needs to be written in a specific order, either. Many writers will write a chorus first,
then a verse, then a bridge, then another verse. Other times they may have a completely different approach. Write
your lyrics as they come.
Unfortunately, no one can sit down and dictate exactly what is needed to write the perfect lyrics. But, if
you’re armed with enough good advice and plenty of patience, you’ll find yourself able to steadily develop the
ideal lyrics that express your feelings and correspond to your melody.
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