Should You Write Lyrics Or Music First

Lyrics Or Music First? Should You Write Lyrics Or Music First?

Lyrics or music first? When it comes to writing songs there are two typical ways of how composers approach the job: whether they start writing the lyrics or the music first. Although there are surely advantages and disadvantages with both methods, we are going to check out which of the two would be the better option. 

Why You Should Write Lyrics First Before Music

Lyrics or music first? Writing lyrics before composing the music can offer several advantages to songwriters and musicians. This approach allows for a focused and intentional exploration of the song’s themes, emotions, and messages, ultimately resulting in a more cohesive and meaningful musical piece. Here are eight advantages to writing lyrics first before the music:

Clarity Of Message

Starting with lyrics provides a clear foundation for the song’s message and theme. By crafting the lyrics first, you can articulate your thoughts, emotions, and storytelling with precision. This clarity ensures that the music you create aligns closely with the intended message, helping to convey the story or emotion effectively.

Narrative Structure

Writing lyrics first allows you to establish a narrative structure for your song. You can outline the beginning, middle, and end of the story or message you want to convey, creating a coherent and engaging musical journey for your listeners. This narrative structure can guide the musical composition, ensuring it complements the lyrical content.

Emotional Expression

Lyrics often serve as a conduit for emotional expression. When you start with lyrics, you have the opportunity to explore and convey complex emotions, personal experiences, or social commentary in a deliberate and authentic manner. This emotional depth can inspire the musical arrangement, leading to a more evocative and impactful song.

Lyric-Melody Synergy

Writing lyrics first allows for a strong synergy between the words and melody. You can shape the lyrics to naturally fit the melody’s phrasing and rhythm, creating a seamless connection between the two elements. This synergy enhances the overall cohesiveness and flow of the song.

Thematic Consistency

Starting with lyrics helps maintain thematic consistency throughout the song. You can ensure that the music, lyrics, and overall mood align with the central theme or message you want to convey. This cohesiveness enhances the song’s impact and resonance with the audience.

Lyric-Driven Songs

For songwriters who prioritize storytelling and lyrical depth, beginning with lyrics allows them to create lyric-driven songs. These songs often rely heavily on the storytelling aspect, and writing lyrics first ensures that the narrative takes center stage. Examples of lyric-driven genres include folk, country, and many forms of ballads.

Enhanced Creativity

Writing lyrics first can stimulate creativity in the musical composition process. The lyrics can inspire chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms that complement the lyrical content. This approach can lead to unique and innovative musical arrangements that enhance the song’s overall appeal.

Meaningful Arrangement Choices

Starting with lyrics enables you to make intentional arrangement choices that support and enhance the lyrical content. You can decide on instrumentation, dynamics, and musical elements that amplify the song’s emotional impact. This level of intentionality in the arrangement can result in a more captivating and memorable composition.

Writing lyrics before composing the music offers several advantages, including clarity of message, narrative structure, emotional expression, lyric-melody synergy, thematic consistency, the creation of lyric-driven songs, enhanced creativity, and meaningful arrangement choices. 

This approach empowers songwriters to craft songs that resonate deeply with listeners, conveying their intended messages and emotions with authenticity and impact. Ultimately, whether you choose to start with lyrics or music, the creative process is highly personal, and the key is to find the method that works best for your unique artistic expression.

Why You Should Write Music First Before Lyrics

Lyrics or music first? As we already know the reasons why we should write the lyrics first, we should also check out the reasons why we should write the music first. Writing music before lyrics is a creative approach that offers its own unique set of advantages to songwriters and musicians. This method can lead to compositions that emphasize melody, rhythm, and instrumental arrangements, with lyrics being crafted to complement the musical elements. Here are eight advantages of writing music first before lyrics:

Melodic Emphasis

Starting with the music allows songwriters to create melodies that are distinctive, memorable, and emotionally resonant. The melody often serves as the centerpiece of a song, and when it’s developed first, it can drive the overall composition and set the tone for the lyrics that follow.

Rhythmic Inspiration

Writing music first provides a strong foundation for rhythm and groove. The rhythm can be a driving force in a song, and by developing the musical rhythm first, songwriters can create infectious beats and catchy patterns that can influence the lyrical flow and delivery.

Instrumental Exploration

When music comes first, songwriters have the opportunity to explore instrumental arrangements, harmonies, and dynamics more deeply. This can lead to intricate and expressive instrumental compositions that serve as a canvas for lyrical storytelling.

Emotional Expression Through Music

Music is a powerful tool for conveying emotions. Starting with the music allows songwriters to express feelings, moods, and atmospheres even before the lyrics are crafted. The music itself can evoke emotions in listeners and set the stage for the lyrical content.

Flexibility In Lyric Writing

Writing music first provides flexibility when it comes to crafting lyrics. Songwriters can adapt the lyrics to fit the mood, melody, and rhythm of the music. This adaptability allows for a more organic and seamless integration of words and music.

Lyrical Adaptation

Beginning with the music can lead to creative lyrical adaptation. Songwriters can listen to the music, feel its mood and energy, and then craft lyrics that enhance and complement these elements. This process often results in lyrics that are well-suited to the musical context.

Unconventional Structures

Writing music first can lead to unconventional song structures that break away from traditional verse-chorus-verse patterns. This approach allows for more experimental and innovative songwriting, where the music itself guides the structure and flow of the composition.

Collaborative Opportunities

Starting with music can facilitate collaboration between songwriters and musicians. Musicians can contribute to the instrumental arrangement and melody, while lyricists can focus on crafting lyrics that align with the musical direction. This collaborative synergy can lead to rich and dynamic compositions.

In addition to these advantages, it’s important to note that the creative process is highly individual, and what works best for one songwriter may not be the ideal approach for another. 

Some songwriters may prefer to begin with lyrics to ensure that the message and theme are front and center, while others may find that starting with music allows them to explore melody and rhythm in a more organic way. Ultimately, the choice between writing music first or lyrics first depends on the songwriter’s style, preferences, and creative goals.

Writing music first before lyrics offers several benefits, including melodic emphasis, rhythmic inspiration, instrumental exploration, emotional expression through music, flexibility in lyric writing, lyrical adaptation, opportunities for unconventional song structures, and collaborative possibilities. 

This approach allows songwriters to create compositions that prioritize musical elements and provide a strong foundation for lyrical storytelling. Whether you begin with music or lyrics, the key is to find the method that aligns best with your creative vision and allows you to craft songs that resonate deeply with your audience.

Lyrics or music first? Although both methods are tried and tested, if I have to choose I would prefer to start writing songs with music first, as it gives me the flexibility that I prefer when it comes to writing the lyrics after.