Before you prepare your beautifully crafted hate comment, let me explain.
I didn’t say this, okay? This is straight from your man, the Great Paul McCartney.
In an interview with NPR, he said songwriting is more complicated than just learning it like math or architecture.
“You’ve never got [songwriting] down,” he said. “It’s this fluid thing, music. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t like to be blasé or think, ‘Oh … I know how to do this.'”
He went on to explain how he teaches a songwriting class but admits to his students he’s figuring it out as he goes.
“I teach a class at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys,” he said. “I do a little songwriting class with the students — and nearly always the first thing I go in and say [is], ‘I don’t know how to do this. You would think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever know how to do.'”
This is a great mindset to have as a songwriter.
If you say, “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” then you’re next thought is probably, “I need to figure out how to do this.”
For those of us who love songwriting, we find it frustrating. Sometimes it’s just the worst.
It’s difficult, but practice is what makes us better at spitting rhymes and stringing together melodies.
Professional lyric and songwriters didn’t start there — they, like a lot of us, started as amateurs. So with that in mind, here are four tips on how to become a pro at writing song lyrics.
Study The Pros
The greats learned from the greats, and so should you. Study the best of the best, print off their lyrics, break down their phrasing, rhyming, imagery, and storytelling. Use their techniques.
Some pros you could start studying are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon — these guys knew how to put words together in a beautiful way.
It’s time to become a student again and stay one until you’re done writing songs (which should be never).
Copy The Pros
Austin Kleon is an artist and author who wrote a book called Steal Like An Artist. The whole idea of the book is to take ideas from others (i.e. the pros), add your own spice, and create something of your own.
For example, if you, just for fun, rewrite “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan, you’ll get a better feel for how he structures his words, how he describes things, and his storytelling process.
Then jot down what you’ve learned and try using the same methods on your own song.
Be Consistent Like The Pros
Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling, deep-thinking author who does meticulous journalistic research, writes in his book Outliers that “ten thousand hours [of practice] is the magic number of greatness.”
He cites Bill Gates, who started coding as a teenager, and The Beatles, who played an extremely high number of gigs before becoming stars in the States.
The point is, practice songwriting like heck. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’re not born amazing, you have to earn it.