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Turning Your Song Ideas into Lyrics

If you’ve ever started turning your song idea into lyrics, only to have them vanish as you try to get them down… this is why it happens and how you solve it...
Turning Song Ideas into Lyrics - Why Songwriting is Harder than You Expected

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Are you struggling to write your ideas down and create song lyrics?

You have a bolt of inspiration and a brilliant song idea occurs to you… but when you start writing down your ideas they evaporate like a morning mist in the sun!

Getting your great ideas out of your head and onto paper can be frustrating. It’s tough to turn your ideas into song lyrics, even when you have a great idea… 

Here’s why it can be so frustrating and how you can solve it….

After the video there’s a details breakdown of everything from the video and further steps to turn your ideas into lyrics…

Why It’s Hard To Turn Ideas Into Song Lyrics

1. Translating Feelings & Emotions Into Words

As you imagine your song, it’s likely feelings and emotions or visual images. It takes energy to translate these into words and it can be frustrating to try to find words while still remembering and focusing on your inspiration.

2. It’s Easier To Imagine A Song Than Write A Song

It’s easy to imagine, but harder to follow through and create song lyrics. There can be many steps and many drafts to write lyrics that you’re satisfied with. It’s rarely an instant process.

Just like the feelings and emotions you’re trying to translate into words, it’s difficult to capture the sounds you’re imagining and transcribe or notate them.

There are so many little details to focus on. While you’re thinking of one and trying to write it down… the others feel like they’re slipping away.

3. Writing From Beginning To The End

When you try to capture your ideas and organize them, it’s tempting to write from the beginning straight through to the end, just as your audience will experience them. Humans are hard-wired for stories, with a beginning, middle and ending, so it’s natural to try to write in the same order. 

Creativity often feels more chaotic with ideas coming at you “randomly”… when they want to instead of chronologically the way they would in the finished song.

4. Musicians Practice Music More Than Words

As a musician, you’ve devoted countless hours to learn how to play your instrument. But you haven’t spent as much time working with song lyrics, either learning them or learning how to write them. This can feel frustrating when you can learn to play a song or write music easily but you’re fighting to figure out how to write your lyric ideas.

Understand that it takes time and practice to learn lyric writing, just as you had to spend time learning to play your instrument!

we got this face who needs a plan?, two border collies sitting in the front seats of a car, songwriting meme

How to Turn Your Ideas into Song Lyrics

3 Solution Steps:

1. Start With Lyric Fragments Not Lines

Start with Brainstorming… write words and phrases without judging their quality. 

Don’t try to write complete lines at first… it will likely block you up.

Instead, write down words, phrases and fragments of lines.

You can answer: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How

You can ask: What does it:

  • Feel like?
  • Look like?
  • Sound like?
  • Taste like?
  • Smell like?

Or you can build a scene in your mind…

  • Who’s there? Who are the characters? 
  • What are they doing?
  • What’s the story?

You can use a framework, or freestyle it… but take some time to imagine and then write about the scene and situation you’re creating.

2. Edit The Lyric Fragments

I think of writing as two distinct phases, brainstorming and editing. Brainstorming is generating ideas without judging them. Editing is where you judge them and decide which ideas are the most important to include. Keeping them separate helps me stay focused and prevents me from getting judgemental when I’m generating ideas… otherwise, I often block up. 

Edit first to find the best ideas from your brainstorm. I handwrite my brainstorms, then circle the best ideas. Then I rewrite them on a new page, which gives me the chance to polish these ideas and to think of other new ideas that would fit.

While most touch typists can type faster than they handwrite ideas, I find that slightly slower handwriting helps me come up with better ideas. As long as your system works for you, go for it!

3. Create A Story Or Journey For Your Audience

Develop a coherent story to tell in your song. Decide on an emotional journey to take your audience through the song.

I don’t start trying to rhyme until I’ve set most of my ideas into song sections. I place the best ideas in the best places in the song first, then I develop lines and rhymes from these ideas.

Bonus: Lyric Writing is One Step in Songwriting

Once you’ve written the lyrics, there are more steps to complete your song that I didn’t cover in the video lesson….

How to Write a Song Chorus

Learn to write the lyrics, melody and chords to a song chorus… go from “I don’t know what to write about” to “Check this out!” without having to figure out songwriting all on your own.

The Next Lyric Writing Steps

There are other intermediate steps you can use as you develop your song lyrics. Many songwriters do these steps intuitively, without writing them down or even being conscious they are doing them

Song Sketch

I decide what I want to write about in each song section… what to say in the verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge. A song sketch allows me to quickly explore possibilities for a song idea and write the most promising version. For example, in only a few minutes you can outline two versions of a “you left me” song and decide which to write:

Verse: Our love went wrong

Pre-Chorus: You left me alone, I don’t know what to do 

Chorus: I’m an emotional  mess 

Bridge: I wish you were still here, I’m lost without you

Verse: Our love went wrong

Pre-Chorus: I was devastated when you left

Chorus: Thanks for leaving

Bridge: Wish you’d left sooner…

Both have strong potential, in fact you could find examples of popular songs that fit both sketches… personally, I’d write the second song, because I prefer to choose a positive outlook even in a bad situation.

Drafting

I go through a few drafts as I develop the finished lyrics. I don’t need to spend time finding a perfect word or line. Instead I focus on completing the lyrics, with the choice to upgrade or improve any weaknesses later. This keeps me from getting blocked or stuck. I finish faster because the goal is finishing, not perfection. 

For more detailed discussion of these steps, check out the Song Starter Kit

Learn the tools and strategies you need to start new songs that you finish. Focus your creativity so you’ll never stare at a blank page or struggle with songwriter’s block again.

Setting Your Lyrics To Music

To complete your song, you also have to write melodies for your lyrics and chord progressions.

I usually choose a chord progression then weave a melody through it. Then I add arrangement ideas around the melody.

The order you write the lyrics, melody, chord progression and arrangement depends on what works best for you.

Even if you have an effective songwriting workflow, you can use the ideas in this article to figure out the best songwriting process for yourself… 

Summary – It’s Hard To Turn Ideas Into Song Lyrics Because:

1. Translating feelings & emotions into words is an extra and difficult step.

2. It’s easier to imagine a song than write a song

3. Writing from beginning to the end isn’t always efficient

4. Musicians practice music more than words

Don’t lose your songwriting inspiration when you start writing it down… keep it from evaporating away by:

1. Brainstorming lyric words and fragments, instead of full lines

2. Edit the lyric fragments, choose the best ones

3. Create a story and a journey for you audience before trying to write song sections

Then, sketch your song to write a first draft. You can work out any imperfections later.

what do you mean i have to work at my songwriting, sleeping grey cat, songwriting meme, songwriting advice that works

Additional Songwriting Resources

Leave a comment to help other songwriters:

What helps you get your lyric ideas and song inspiration into finished lyrics?

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.
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you can learn to write songs…

Learn:

How to Write a Song Chorus:

Lyrics, Melody and Chords…

If you can play songs,
you can learn to write songs…

Learn
How to Write a Song Chorus:
Lyrics, Melody & Chords...