The Secret To Writing Lyrics

hey, welcome to 12tone! so… lyrics. we don’t
tend to talk about them much on this channel ’cause I’m very easily distracted by cool
harmony stuff, but it’s hard to deny their importance. they’re the first thing most listeners will
identify with in any given song, and they’re the clearest means of conveying your story,
so since, as a singer, I do have a background in lyric writing, I suppose I might as well
address the elephant in the room. lyrics are, in a way, one of the most mysterious
elements of composition: we can talk about how a minor key makes the harmony sound sad,
or how large leaps make a melody sound powerful, and while those are both fairly broad generalizations
and not necessarily true in any specific context, at least they work as guidelines. but for lyrics, it can be hard to even get
that far: sure, mentioning crying will probably make your lyrics sound sad, but language is
so complicated and there’s so many different ways to say the same thing that even finding
a good starting point for structural analysis becomes a daunting task. and yet it’s hard
to deny that great lyrics and great lyricists do exist, so what’s the secret? well, it’s surprisingly simple: practice. ok, that’s not super helpful, so let’s get
a bit more specific: practice writing poetry. I mean, it makes sense, right? lyrics are basically poetry set to music anyway,
but if you strip away all that extra stuff and just focus on the poetic structure, you
quickly realize something incredibly important: words are more than just their meanings. they’re also made up of sounds, and those
sounds are the fundamental atomic structure from which we build lyrics. the most obvious part of this is rhyme. I suspect you’re already familiar with the
concept of rhyming so I won’t spend too long on the basics, but there’s actually a lot
more to it than you might think. the version you’re probably thinking of right
now is the end rhyme, where you rhyme the final syllables of two different lines, like
in the classic BNL song One Week, which contains the very meaningful line “chickity China,
the chinese chicken, you have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’.” and yes, chicken sounds like tickin, but that
line actually contains more than just end rhymes. both those words contain that “ick”
sound, and we can find that same syllable in other words, like “chickity” and “drumstick”. this is called internal rhyme, where the rhyming
syllables are buried inside the line instead of just sitting at the end. adding internal rhymes to your lyrics can
help provide a bit more cohesion, making the whole thing feel like one composed piece instead
of just two lines that you haphazardly tied together. you don’t even have to connect these internal
rhymes to the end bits: check out the use of “China” and “chinese”, whose first syllables
unsurprisingly match as well. that particular example may seem like cheating
if we cared about what the words mean, but from a strictly phonetic perspective, it totally
works. internal rhyme is a huge part of writing more
advanced lyrics, and if you want to learn more about it, the best place to look is probably
hip-hop, where they’re so common that they can even replace end rhymes, blurring phonetic
structures across lyrical lines to tie everything together into one giant, complicated rhyme
scheme. it’s really fascinating. check out Cardboard Castles by Watsky for
a good example. but we’re still just looking at rhyme placement:
what about rhyming itself? from an analytical perspective, what is a rhyme? I mean, sure, it’s when two sounds sound the
same, but what does that mean? well, all the examples I’ve used so far are
what’re called perfect rhymes, where the entire end of the syllable or word is the same, like
boom and zoom. but boom also sounds like dune, which has no m, and it sounds like bam, which
has a completely different vowel. this brings us to what are called slant rhymes, where
the words are kinda similar but not quite as close. we can break these into two groups: assonance,
where the vowel sound is the same, and consonance, where the consonant is the same. liberal use of these sorts of semi-rhymes,
especially for internal stuff, can really help your lyrics sound deep and polished without
limiting your word choices too much. you just have to be aware of it. but rhymes aren’t the only way in which the
sounds of words can affect your lyrics. possibly even more important is the impact
of accents. not, like, sounding British or whatever: in
poetry, the word “accent” refers to the specific stress pattern in a given word. for instance,
in the word “explode”, the emphasis is on the second syllable, whereas in “syrup”, it’s
on the first. in normal speech, these accents just fall
wherever they want, but in poetry they’re often very tightly controlled: for instance,
Shakespeare often wrote in iambic pentameter, which meant that each line consisted of five
iambs, which is a fancy poetry word for the accent pattern of “explode”. the patterns don’t have to be tied to the
words, though: for instance, in the famous line “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”,
“summer’s” has the accent on the first syllable, making it what’s called a trochee, like “syrup”. but it’s placed in such a way that it’s actually
split across two iambs, so if we zoom out and look at the phrase “a summer’s day”, it
works just fine. traditional Western poetry tends to stick
very closely to its accent patterns, which gives it a sort of rhythm that you don’t find
in normal speech. when I say “shall I compare thee to a summer’s
day”, the alternating pattern of on and off syllables creates an almost musical quality
all on its own, and the sentence just rolls off the tongue beautifully. but lyrics are different, because music already
has rhythm. that’s what drummers are for. this means we don’t have to be nearly as strict
with our poetic meter, but it doesn’t mean we get to stop caring about accents. whatever melody you’re singing, there’s going
to be emphasized notes and less emphasized notes, and in my opinion one of the biggest
differences between amateur and professional lyricists is how well they line up those accented
notes with the accented syllables of their lyrics. it’s a really big deal: once, in a
college, a friend of mine played me a song they wrote, and the only thing I remember
about it is that they said the word “secret” but put the second syllable on the downbeat. that stuck with me, and not in a good way. finally, I know we set aside meaning earlier
’cause it’s hard to quantify, but practicing poetry can help with that, too, or at least
it can help with one of the most important aspects of it: imagery. being able to evoke emotions and ideas indirectly
is crucial. for instance, Ben E. King could’ve sung “when
we’re scared”, but instead he went with “when the night is cold and the land is dark, and
the moon is the only light we’ll see,” and I think most people would agree that that’s
way better. poetry, again, strips away a lot of the other
tools that music has to make people feel things, forcing you to invest as much emotional resonance
as possible into the actual words you’re using. plus, if you follow the forms we talked about
earlier, it kinda just becomes a lot harder to use the same line over and over. after all, there’s only so many words that
rhyme with “sad”. so yeah, poetry’s awesome, but how do you
get started? well, I’d start by finding something to write
about. something you have an emotional attachment
to, like a loved one, a hobby, or a treasured object. it can be anything you want, just make sure
it means something to you. then you just… write a poem about it. if you need some more guidance, I recommend
writing a sonnet: they’re a bit old-fashioned but they’ve got a great structure for practicing
a lot of the stuff we mentioned earlier. we did a whole video on sonnets a while back,
so if you want to know how they work, there’s a link in the description. all in all, the conclusion here is probably
fairly obvious: the more time you spend playing with language, the better you’ll get at it. poetry is like the pure, distilled form of
lyricism, and writing poems is like doing isolation training at the gym, which I assume
is a thing people do at gyms. there’s no formula for great lyrics, anyone who says differently
is selling something. but if you want to get better, probably the
best thing to do is just write some poems. plus, if they’re any good you can just set
them to music later and boom, free lyrics. it’s really that easy. anyway, thanks for watching, thanks to our
Patreon patrons for making these videos possible, and extra special thanks to this video’s mysterious
benefactor, Duck. if you want to help out, and get some sweet perks like sneak peeks
of upcoming episodes, there’s a link to our Patreon on screen now. you can also join our mailing list to find
out about new episodes, like, share, comment, subscribe, and above all, keep on rockin’.

100 thoughts on “The Secret To Writing Lyrics

  1. I having difficulty make a song for my lyrics that wrote down on a message.

  2. Most pop lyrics seem to be written from the perspective of a young, sexy, attractive, wealthy, popular person who spends all their time drinking and dancing at parties and clubs. Even sad and heartbroken songs are still written from the perspective of "I could replace you instantly, but I want you"

  3. A type of poetry is a ballad which is most songs, including Hello by Adele. Rhyming goes into different types of stanzas but typically in ballads, there are 4 lines of poetry. Like this:

    You can rhyme the ending words different. What I mean by that is you can use different sequences. For example, I could use ‘a, b, a, b’, ‘a, b, c, b’, or ‘a, b, a, c’. The most common is probably ‘a, b, a, c’. Here is my example of a ballad verse. (Using a, a, b, b)
    My heart is just a shadow (a)
    My mind can’t take this battle (a)
    ~shadow rhymes with battle. This is rhyme “a”~
    Now I forgot my wildest dream (b)
    You turned off the light I used to see (b)
    ~dream rhymes with see. This is rhyme “b”~

  4. My secrete to make song is … mama in ma head

    Ok this is ma song

    Normal voice. Not so Low voice
    Mom(i love u) love u)…. theres strees in my brain but you the only in my brain.. that can make me happy……….ohh ohh yeah…mom u the only that can make me smile but with no u i feel nothing like ghost yeah your the only that can make my tummy full x2

    This has part sorry ):>

  5. i’m thinking of taking an ap music course next year, i have a vast knowledge of music theory already and i want you to know that you’re gonna be the sole reason i pass that class, you and adam neely are by far the best music theory teachers on the web

  6. I’m trying to make a song about the perfect body image and peer pressure. Yah, one of those songs. I don’t have many problems in life other than my body image and peer pressure so I can relate to it and it’s easier to write about.

  7. Nerd attack: your chess board is wrong. 🙂 The white squares are always on the right side of the board. Not sure if that would be true for a checkerboard, though, come to think of it. . .

  8. When you mentioned the song and the word secret

    And you said it bothered you

    It didn’t make sense to me until I said it out loud

    Thank you

    You just gave me a valuable tool

  9. him drawing is literally my entire page in my school books

  10. Just started writing songs recently they've been getting better each one
    Oh yeah and a break up or losing someone helps

  11. Just started writing songs recently they've been getting better each one
    Oh yeah and a break up or losing someone helps

  12. Great tips and very important things to keep in mind. I understand what you mean by the se-CRET sticking with you in a bad way haha

  13. i write poetry and writing poetry is so much easier that writing a song…

  14. I have this wierd thing… I am awful at writing songs, but I’m great at writing poems… help

  15. Winner of a video, been searching for "how to make a song with lyrics" for a while now, and I think this has helped. Ever heard of – Honora Xenndrew Magic – (should be on google have a look ) ? Ive heard some amazing things about it and my buddy got amazing success with it.

  16. Just wonderful, I have been researching "write your song" for a while now, and I think this has helped. Ever heard of – Honora Xenndrew Magic – (Have a quick look on google cant remember the place now ) ? Ive heard some amazing things about it and my friend got cool results with it.

  17. This is glorious, I've been looking for "how to write a full song" for a while now, and I think this has helped. You ever tried – Honora Xenndrew Magic – (just google it ) ? Ive heard some incredible things about it and my colleague got amazing success with it.

  18. Revealed doesn't really rhyme with Kashmir. Think about that.

  19. This is glorious, I have been researching "teach me how to write a song" for a while now, and I think this has helped. Have you ever come across – Honora Xenndrew Magic – (search on google ) ? Ive heard some interesting things about it and my cousin got cool results with it.

  20. I’ve always been pretty good with coming up with melody and harmony but lyrics are super hard for me

  21. Can’t you write a poem about anything I wrote a poem about a Texas ranger it’s a while 2 page story but it rhymes

  22. after 5 minutes of watching this, I realized he's left-handed… lol

  23. How are my lyrics!? Someone judge me?

    People suffer needing a helping hand, but all we get is trampled in a bunch of Quicksand.
    We try our best to stop melt down, but all we get is a laughing sound.
    We get embarressed and sad, the negetive energy making other people feel glad.
    We make bad choices and fight, yet we lose the ones we love and hang on tight.
    We be depressed, not feeling progressed, trying to impress, the people for us they arnt less.
    We get depressed, stressed, not realizing we’ve been eaten by our own mess.
    More then 100,600 people die each day, people lose the’re words and have nothing to say. They get left in the awkwardness wanting to die, at the end not even knowing why.
    We hear crazy things, turning them into crazy memes, not caring what they really mean.
    People got beaten by a hit, got thrown with a brick, got kicked with a stick.
    People suffer each day, while the evil drops after they think they slay, they get what they pay but at the end this world doesnt sound ok…

  24. Me?black


  25. Then there is this , one of the most alluring set of lyrics to come out of the 1960's , and not one rhyme in the lot of it !

  26. #1: Listen to The Beatles
    #2: Think about life
    Now write!!

    And also make sure your lyrics make sense and mean something

  27. I have a problem watching your videos because by the end I realize that I didn't hear a word you said and just watched the doodles… It's a good thing though. Don't take the doodles away…

  28. You could just use the classic formula and write the music first, record a rough track (bare bones), listen to it on repeat and find a good melody by humming along. Once you have the music and the melody the lyrics will come flooding out.

  29. The secret to making a 12tone video

    1. Empty sheet music

    2. Black fine point marker

    3. Highlighter

    4. Sketch elephants

    5. Enlightening

  30. "There's no formula for great lyrics, anyone who says differently is selling something"
    12tone, tellin it like it is!

  31. i needed to check if i put the video to 1.5 speed but other than that it was useful thanks

  32. Ah yes… Drummers keep the rhythm.

    You know, how there's a drummer to keep rhythm and then guitars to keep the beat.

  33. And I didn't even know that rhyming had to be a thing in music. I thought it was more of a thing that happened in pop music to sound cool.

  34. The elephant in the room is that you're left handed and writing backwards.

  35. Hey. I wrote a few songs lately. Would you tell me what you think about them please? Thanks. Here's one :

  36. As a Hip-Hop head, rapper, songwriter, and ghostwriter, I think it is safe to say that lyrics are the soul of music. It is like pancakes and strawberry shakes. Social media wouldn't be the machine it is today if weren't so many enticing words that fll up your screens. Login Friends Secret Conversations Approved Friend Request….aren't they so appealing…music and social media go hand in hand perfect dopamine rush.

  37. This person is very concise, fast and very interesting, but damn…it’s a lot to take in. I kind of take exception to the idea of poetry being the start point, only because in songs one of the problems I have and I also hear in other folks original songs are…they don’t repeat enough and they don’t take into account the music around them, many great songs repeat a phrase way more than any poetry would.
    I’m mostly by my own evaluation a lousy lyricist, but have about two songs that just “came to me” that I would put up against any lyrics ever, two out of thousands of attempts. I suck at lyrics, I get too pedantic, try to say too much, many if my songs sound or seem to be lectures, which is dumb. I’m still working on it,

    I DO listen to folks and appreciate their lyrics, folks like Dylan, Paul Simon, etc. but also John Hiatt who can all say more in one line of lyrics than I can with ten. They just evoke such images. The best part of this video is him explaining that and showing that one word can be (the Ben e. King reference) better done by imagery.

    The most frustrating part of running me is, I’m very melodic, I can write a sing structure and melody for it, but the lyrics I generally come up with suck. I can hear that they suck,

    Another thing is, listen to some Rolling Stones, the words and the phrasing jagger uses often are surreal and weird but they work, it is the SOUND of the words, he will mangle a pronunciation and make it perfect in doing so.

    I sure don’t have the answers, but I know good when I hear it, I’ve had two good song lyrics. In a lifetime.
    But also he does hit a point, just keep doing it. Dylan probably has written thousands of lyrics to songs, and even if his hit rate of good is just 1% be sheer volume his hundred of fantastic (if you like him) songs is pretty poor. I only have written a much lesser number because I find it so hard and hate what I write…if I had tried to write a sing a day, I probably would have more I am proud of. But it is hard when you feel like you sick,

  38. Idk do i need to watch this ? You tell me!

    Unstoppable (ive been working on this song for a year)
    If there is and obstacle in your way, just have the courage to say
    Im unstoppable OOOHOHHH
    Im unstoppable OOOHOOOH
    You should never give up
    Never look down even if there is no way to stop the maaaadneeeesss
    There is allways a way to get out of this mess, dont give up,dont give up

    Say no to the haters
    Make everyone smile try to make the world proud
    If there is an obstacle in your way just have the courage to say
    Never give up up up
    Even if your down down down
    You will rise rise rise
    Up to the sky sky sky

    So dont even think about the hater ,invadeeers

    Cause your unstoppable

    Wrote by a ten year old (NO REALLY!! I DID)

  39. wait… isn’t the lyrics «when the night has come, and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we’ll see»?

  40. Just let your heart out and talk about what I wanna talk about

  41. Noone understands the structure,meaning or purpose of Buzz Ozbornes lyrics and he is called the King for a reason.I hope this helps.

  42. If he sat you down and showed you this picture (2:09) he would probably look like a complete lunatic.

  43. bruhh i never expected him to bring up watsky in the hip hop part i love that guy

  44. I write lyrics all the time I’m a song writer myself I’m influenced by grunge, nu metal
    and hard rock

  45. I tried to look up information on accent patterns but can only find information on 'accents' as in British accents or Australian accents. But not the kind this video mentions 🙁

  46. Finnaly someone acknowledges internal rhyme…this is the best video on lyrics and songwriting I’ve seen…keep up the great work

  47. I got you on my browser search by using the words, “how to write a song when you know absolutely nothing.“ But I can write poetry. Some good some bad. Probably just like everybody. I am a 35 year English teacher so that helps.

    I love your advice. I agree with the people on here who say you should have your own channel. Thank you very much

  48. Haha I was a kid I was pretty fly at poetry.
    Now I love hip hop and have rhyming on a beat for a hot minute

  49. Found you through your interview on Legal Eagle… now I'm intrigued. Also, one of the things I do sometimes do, specific to some of your advice here, is rewrite classic hits to be about something else (currently, usually about being an aging British game streamer). So, for instance, "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John becomes "I'm Still Cranky" and talks about playing dice with death, being too cranky to die and more. Fun, silly stuff. The thing is, by reworking a song (essentially as a parody), you're working with an existing pattern that provides structure both to train you to think in a more structured way and to open your eyes to how words already work.

  50. “im not gonna go that i depth about rhyming”
    Makes a video about mostly just rhyming

  51. what if I hate poetry because it’s boring but I like writing lyrics and I like taking apart lyrics themselves just not poetry even though they’re super similar except poetry isn’t with music

  52. lyric writing software. also teaches how to make poetry. Also study what is called "word play" also part of what he is describing is really called a consonance it's where 2 sounds repeat.

  53. Me trys to be Tyler joseph. Also me fails because nobody will ever be Tyler joseph but Tyler

  54. 2:38 Also, for ones who know Russian, I found that "Oxxxymiron – Город под подошвой" ( also uses language (in this Russian) in a very smart way.
    For example, it may be hard if you don't speak Russian, but pay attention that in the first lines he uses sound CH for not just creating rime but also as a snare. I was kinda shocked when I found this out.

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