To write a lyric successfully, the music framework it will sit on must be accounted for. Lyrics aren’t poems. Lyrics are restricted by elements poems aren’t, elements that are part of music. This post is intended to get you thinking properly and give a concrete tip or two you can use, by no means can we completely explore this topic here.
The biggest restriction on a lyric will be the measures (a.k.a. bars) each line has to exist in.
In 4/4 time there are 4 beats to a measure. The typical 4/4 song has 4 bars to a phrase, so 16 beats, and the beats are evenly measured. Let’s pull up:
Click at the top of the circle to fill the dot above “92” and it will begin to click at 92 beats per minute. That’s a medium tempo, not real fast, not real slow.
Count along each time it clicks. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.
Every 4 beats a new measure begins. In four bars of music those 16 beats are exactly how long your initial phrase should be. If each word gets 4 beats you could write four words total each receiving 4 beats: How about “I don’t know you.”
I don’t know you
1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4
You are writing whole notes. Whole notes get 4 beats.
For the next phrase let’s use half notes, each word receiving only 2 beats except on the word “very” where we’ll give each syllable only 1 beat, so they are quarter notes:
and I do not like you very much
1 – 2 – 3 – 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4
As you can see, unlike poetry where lines can be free form, music tends to impose restrictions that are mathematical in nature. Using an x to represent a measure, typically music in 4/4 looks something like this:
Introduction: x x x x
Verse 1: x x x x / x x x x
x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 1: X X X X / X X X X
Vere 2: x x x x / x x x x
x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 2: X X X X / X X X X
Bridge: x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 3: X X X X / X X X X
Chorus 4: X X X X / X X X X
If you chart out a basic diagram of the song format then start the click at the appropriate tempo you can write to it, ensuring the lyric will sit nicely in the music once it’s written- b.e. watson