Lyric Writing

Lyric Writing Guide

Lyric Writing is a five-week e-workbook that helps novice songwriters create lyrics that are meaningful, fun and fit their music.

Lyric Writing from 7SistersHomeschool is a course based on a text by Micah Tillman. (While Dr. Tillman’s Phd is in Philosophy, as an undergrad he studied music and played second flute in the college orchestra. He was also the lyricist for his college-era rock band. He likes to help teens learn to love writing lyrics!)

Note: While this is a no-busywork, not-intense, light-hearted workbook, in order to get the most of the course with the least amount of stress, students should have a basic knowledge of poetry and/or have completed Advanced Poetry Writing from 7SistersHomeschool.

In this e-workbook, high schoolers will gain experience in the following topics:

  • Week 1: What Are Lyrics?
  • Week 2: The Rhythm of Lyrics
  • Week 3: How Rhymes and Words Work in Lyrics
  • Week 4: Fitting Lyrics to Melodies and Vice Versa
  • Week 5: Write Your Lyrics!

About the workbook:

Lyric Writing consists of two pdf files:

  • The Lyric Writing Guide for the student
  • Answer Key with rubric for the parent

Students gain a basic understanding of what makes a lyric a lyric:

As students learn from the workbook:

Lyrics, as you may already know, are the words of a song. Most of the time, lyrics are a kind of poetry that fits the melody of the musical part of the song.

However, lyrics are different than the kind of poetry that is not attached to music. Because of the music, lyrics have to follow not just rhythms and rhymes like non-musical poetry. Lyrics must also follow the rhythm and melody of the music. So there are two influences on lyric-writing:

    • The rules of poetic rhythm and rhyme

    • The sound of the rhythm and melody of the music

They learn the functions of lyrics:

Lyrics also have a social function

For instance anthems bring people together over in a patriotic moment or a cause.

They are used to teach concepts and aid memorization of facts. (Did you ever learn The States and Capitals Song?)

One other social function of lyrics is to help people express feelings. When we hear a song that expresses something we are feeling, we feel better.

Lyrics Can Tell a Story

You can probably think of several songs that tell a story. Sometimes these songs are:

Ballads: Are fairly long songs that tell a story using short stanzas.  One example many people have heard is, “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”. There are more modern ballads, too, such as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.

There can shorter songs that tell a story also. An example of these is the folk song: “Oh My Darling, Clementine”.

Lyrics That Are There Simply Because the Music Needs Lyrics

Lyrics naturally have rhythm because they are poems and also, they are part of a song. 

Students learn a little bit of musical terminology as it relates to lyric writing

Lyric writers will learn some basic musical terminology, such as:

  • the downbeat
  • measures

Rhymes are essential tools in lyric writing. If you think about it, most of the songs that you really like are easy to remember because they have a distinctive use of rhyming words.

The three most important tools for rhyming in lyric writing are:

  • The rhymes of the words themselves
  • Other word play that relate to rhymes
  • The rhyme patterns

Teens learn skills fitting lyrics to melodies and vice versa

High schoolers will learn:

How to choose a rhythm that fits your poem

Let’s say you wrote a really cool poem and you would like to find (or write) a melody that will fit it. The first thing you want to look at is whether the rhythm is 4/4 or 3/4. (As we have mentioned before, there are lots of other rhythms for music, but these are the common basic types.)

Choosing lyrics that fit the mood and rhythm of a melody

The words of your lyrics need to fit the mood and rhythm of your melody and vice versa. Another way to make sure your lyrics truly fit the melody is to make the best choice of words possible.

As Micah Tillman says, “One of the things that separates normal poets from great poets is the recognition that every part of a line is an opportunity for artistry.”

Click here for an excerpt from Lyric Writing.

Download Lyric Writing for your teen and help them build their poetry-with-music skills!


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