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#180936 - 11/10/02 01:32 PM The way to become a great lyricist.....  
Joined: Aug 2002
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Teri Foreman-Black Offline
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Teri Foreman-Black  Offline
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Royersford, PA USA
A friend wrote the following and sent it to me; I thought it was truly beautiful and wanted to pass it on. Your thoughts and comments are as always appreciated:

The way to become a truly great lyricist
Is to not to strive to become a great lyricist
But to first strive to be a great person,
An inspiration,
A receptive and forgiving servant...
Whose giving is devoid of self-interest;
Knowing Wisdom;
Being therefore more than psuedo-wise,
Wise more than in one's own eyes;
Striving only to see others inspired,
Not to merely shower favor upon the source
But inspired to make come true
All that their dreams call them to do.

#180937 - 11/10/02 03:14 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Ande Rasmussen Offline
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Ande Rasmussen  Offline
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Martindale, TX, USA
it's a beautiful thought
but probably the way to become a great lyricist is to (in no particular order)

set high standards

find and collaborate with great composers
and melody writers

study the work of great lyricists and songwriters

read often

write amazing words that stir people

rewrite till it's right

search for awesome ideas

write often

be thoroughly familiar with songwriting craft

be your own toughest critic

never give up

study current past and future hits

what else?

Ande Rasmussen

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Ande R a s m u s s e n@aol.com
Ande R a s m u s s e n.com

Texas Grammy Gov 06-08

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#180938 - 11/10/02 10:48 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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3daveyO3 Offline
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I think it comes from living and experiencing life, but also listening to songs and dissecting them to a point to understand form and structure. That being said, I think editing and being your own worst critic is great to a point, but not to the point where you're afraid to release anything because you've set the bar so high that you're afraid to fail. I mean you can rewrite over and over and nitpick over every syllable, but to what end???? As far as the collaboration thing goes, if you're a singer/songwriter like myself, most times your writing for yourself or trying to express your view on things. And as far as studying FUTURE hits, what the hell makes a song a hit anyway? No one knows until it is one, and is having a song be a hit make it a better song than one that's not? By analogy, is a first grade teacher any less important in their role than a college professor? Seek validity of your work from yourself first... be able to live with your songs, and don't be afraid to put them out there so that they can touch someones life. Even if it's one life, it's one life changed by YOUR work. Everyone is so shot in the butt with these songwriting "how to" books that they forget to actually take a chance once in awhile and write from the heart and from their instincts. Those types of books are nothing more than get rich quick schemes to me, except the only people making any money are the authors of these books, many of who have marginal writing success. I'm not a fan of Diane Warren, but for all of her commercial success, you'd think she would be the one person to have a book on how to be a great "hit" songwriter. You know, it's like cooking;yeah you can have a recipe for a successful dish, but if all you ever do is follow the recipe, it gets old after awhile. Sometimes you gotta put yourself into what your making and forget about measuring everything out. I'll say this again, I cannot ever imagine Lennon & McCartney, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Melissa Etheridge, Emmylou Harris, etc...taking a songwriting class or buying these Jason Blume or Sheila Davis book everyone talks about. My advice, write for yourself, from yourself and of your life experience truly from the heart and it will shine through.
davey O.

#180940 - 11/11/02 09:34 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Ozone Pete Offline
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Very nice indeed!
Personally, I'm drawn to the bit about "devoid of self-interest". Writing outside of oneself (while admittedly having to use your own "tools") is a hard concept to realize, but a real necessity. It's a kind of shotgun blast from the imagination that makes a "good" song, I think.
My one piece of advise (not that I consider myself qualified to be GIVING advise) would be to read. Learn for yourself what it is you may love about language and its' usage to create imagery and emotion.
As to the music part, I always have trouble with that, so I wouldn't presume to make any suggestions in that area. (I have a pretty limited palette, and even tho' fellow musicians like my style, it's a constant worry to me.)
Now, where to I get me some of this "wisdom" stuff? (The older I get, the more my foolishness becomes shockingly evident! Ack!)

#180941 - 11/11/02 10:30 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Vondelle Offline
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Vondelle  Offline
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Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Hi, Teri.

Hmmm. This is going to be an interesting thread. I attended a workshop with an industry professional and he put it this way. When songwriters start out, they write from the heart. In getting your education in songwriting, the books, the seminars, the rules, songform, etc., you may lose some of that heart. The best scenario is to keep at it until you come full circle and somehow good writing becomes instinctive AND your heart rejoins the craft (next added by me)and in fact the craft allows your heart to shine through more clearly for others. LOL, we're having a discussion of nature vs. nurture.
I laughed when I read about your search for wisdom. Let me know when you find some and send some my way. [Linked Image] "I looked into the depths of my soul and saw how shallow I really am"


[This message has been edited by Vondelle (edited 11-11-2002).]

#180942 - 11/11/02 10:33 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Mike Dunbar  Offline
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Nashville Tennessee
I would say, make sure you have a life.

Go skydiving. Fall in love. Get in a fight. Volunteer for charity. Visit the jail. Travel. Go wilderness camping. Get drunk. Serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.

I'm sure you get the idea. Good songwriters have their craft well honed. Great songwriters have something to say.

Mike Dunbar Music

You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.

Mike Dunbar Music

#180943 - 11/11/02 12:49 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Jeannette Desnoyers Offline
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Jeannette Desnoyers  Offline
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Cranbrook, BC, Canada
Gotta agree with most everything said here; expecially, get out and live and live outside of your self, be open to new experiences, people, ideas, learning, and teach onesself not to take onesself so personally!
I Learn also by teaching others,or from others as we do on boards like this; it's important to learn this craft, but falseness in words is the same as falseness in praise, our words ring loud and clear, true emotion is what lies beneath every lyric whether it applies to that particular story or not, we draw from an inner emotional source.
I don't believe that any of us arrive "there" in a lifetime, and certainly not without the support and encouragement and wisdom of others, so a great lyricist, to use the words here, is one who gives as well as receives ... by growing and fulfilling our true potential as human beings, we dig from a deeper well, and spill more into our lyrics. It's that universality that grows from the personal experience,and conveyed in a character study thru words and lifted upon a melody to the listners' emotion, that makes a great song...the great lyricist--well, that's pretty subjective.. I'm not sure how long you have to live to achieve all of this, but lyric writing for me is like life, it is a journey and I intend to learn everything I can, listen to every bit of feedback that comes my way, and love every minute of this journey in the time that I have left. Jeannette

"Live as though you were going to die tomorrow; learn as though you will live forever." Ghandi

#180944 - 11/12/02 11:49 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Johnny Daubert  Offline
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New Jersey, USA
I got to tell ya, that I have met hit songwriters with legendary lyrics, and the two I'm thinking of right now are a mile short of being a kind soul, to put it nicely.

So, niceness counts when dealing with people of course, but to be a good lyricists? No,,,,ALL KINDS of people make good lyricists. Just that some don't make good company. (They know who they are!)


Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).

#180945 - 11/13/02 07:49 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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dstewart Offline
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well people i like this topic. everything i have done so far has come from inside me. dont know if its good or bad as far as great lyrics go but they are real. i have been reading some books on lyric writing trying to become as good a song writer as i can . but it seems to take something away from just writing what comes natural. good lyrics or not is anyones oponion from what ive seen so far. i enjoyed the books and will read more but as said before you gotta live and feel to have something to share . and it dont hurt to listen a little. thats what im trying to work on now . listening. well thats my two cents worth. thanks

#180946 - 11/13/02 09:22 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Ken Offline
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Ken  Offline
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Milwaukee, WI
I was talking to an old musician friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a while, at my CD release party.
He complimented me on my songwriting. I told him I wish I could've written these songs years ago, and not taken a couple years away from music.
He said something that has stuck with me. Rob said, "Hey you had to live your life to write about it. You needed to experience the emotions you went through before you could write about them."
I thought that was great. It's common sense but I never looked at things that way.


New CD "Penny for My Thoughts now available at
www.kenfranz.com,CD Street, CD Baby and Amazon.com

CD's "Penny for My Thoughts" and "Take Me Back to Texas" now available at
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#180948 - 11/15/02 02:57 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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writie Offline
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writie  Offline
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Brussels, Belgium
JUST FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT: Someone mentioned about "going out and having a life". Is that true of Diane Warren? Even she recongises that she has little life outside of writing and hustling. Do we require doctors to have had a broken leg before mending one?

(running and ducking)

Michael Leahy
The Accidental Lyricist
#180949 - 11/15/02 10:12 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Ozone Pete Offline
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LOL No worries, I'm not in the tar-and-feather mob! [Linked Image]
That's as valid a point as any.
...so it makes me want to re-emphasize my little thought.
When I said to read, I certainly didn't mean to read how-to-write-a-song books!
C'mon now, what is it you like about your favorite authors writings? To learn the USE of language is an invaluable weapon in the war of words that is lyric writing... s'matter of fact, it's the ONLY weapon besides a quick and malleable mind.
One thing that really bugs me, is seeing lyrics with a mature idea couched in Dick-and-Jane language. Let's face it, a lot of people never get a reading mentality; they don't think it "necessary". "Wahl hell, I kin git all ah need me to know offa thet TV box thar..." Sorry to say, since everything has already been done (songwriting-wise) in order to be unique you've got to find a different and compelling way to say things. Just can't get that from the TV box; I'm no linguist, but I've heard a frightening amount of warped usage [or just plain WRONG usage] of English from these talking heads. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of warpage; it gives a refreshing outlook, but only when it's done ON PURPOSE.) Cripes! It's these folks' BUSINESS to communicate and it's not gettin' the job done.
Yeah, go out and live, but also learn how to live vicariously through words; that's how you're gonna reach 'em in the end, eh?
Most times I find inarticulate lyrics not to be a proud badge of uniqueness, but a hallmark of ignorance and lazy thinking.

***Okay, end of long-winded and boring rant! Sorry 'bout that!***


#180950 - 11/15/02 04:07 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Diana Tyler Offline
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Way to go, Pete! That wasn't at all boring! Let's hear it for literacy and articulate communication!!

(Like, hey, yo, you know...and, uh, well, oh-my-gawd, like, um, yeah, well...what HE said!! Word!)

Earthy songs about heaven...and heavenly
songs about more earthy things, too.
- Will Cheshier
#180951 - 11/15/02 11:34 PM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Corky Bernard (D) Offline
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Corky Bernard (D)  Offline
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Nashville, Tn.
Not tryin' to "wax the elephant" here,

just to touch on a few songs I like.

They say the first verse or "Intro" sets the table for a song. These are two that I try to consider when I write.

On a warm summer evening,
on a train bound for nowhere;
I met up with a gambler,
we were both too tired to speak.
So we took turns a starin'
out the window at the darkness;
'til boredom overtook us
an' he began to speak......

don schlitz

the second one is by the Rhodes Scholar, Kris

Husted flat in Baton Rouge,
waitin' for a train;
feelin' nearly faded as my jeans.
Bobbie thumbed a diesel down,
just before it rained;
took us all the way to New Orleans.

Both set the table for their respective songs and picque the interest of the listener.

But I been wrong a lot.


Wisdom does not always accompany age. Sometimes
age just shows up alone.
#180952 - 11/16/02 11:05 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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Ozone Pete Offline
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Great examples; hear, hear!

....and when have you been wrong? Is that a good perspective to write from? [Linked Image] [Linked Image] [Linked Image]

#180953 - 11/19/02 10:07 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D) Offline
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D)  Offline
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Tampa, Florida since 1973
Dunno...some "Great Lyrics" take AGES of Politics to Filter Down to the "Commercial" Realm and be "Acclaimed"...
"WIND BENEATH MY WINGS" (Sung by Bette Midler) was such a song.

Dunno the Stories behind "DON'T LAUGH AT ME" and "I HOPE YOU DANCE", but I'll bet their Writers TOO had to endure a buncha Politics before Their "GREAT Lyrics" ever hit The Airwaves.

I'd add "Patience" and "Perseverance" to the Attributes List of Any who aspire to write "Great" Lyrics....(& even Run-of-the-Mill Lyrics, too!) RARELY do Lyrical Dreams come True "Overnight!"

Big Hugs,

#180954 - 11/19/02 10:38 AM Re: The way to become a great lyricist.....  
Joined: Nov 2001
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Chuck Cheesman Offline
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Chuck Cheesman  Offline
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Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
I like the tone of Teri's original post on this topic. I think you've written a great lyric when you have something important to say and have found a way to say it in a musical setting. Songwriting is about communication. Of course, we all have our own definitions of "great." Is it great to simply communicate an important idea or emotion? Persuade people about social or political issues? Or is it great just to sell a lot of records and receive praise, awards, and money? Or maybe write a love song that wins the heart of your sweetheart? Or maybe all or some of the above? Depends on what's important to you.

And the times change. For example, I wonder if Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" would be such an important song if it had been written last year instead of so many years ago. Maybe it wouldn't be a hit, but it still would be a great song in my book. He had something to say.

But no matter what, I think you have got to study and learn the craft.

Chuck Cheesman

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