How-To

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics

Jon Ostrow on Mar 26, 2012

For most bands, the songwriting is the key factor in their success. And while we certainly don't want to underplay the importance of writing unique music, it is the lyrics that often make the difference between remarkable and unremarkable songs.

So what makes a great, remarkable lyric? Below are a list of five common mistakes that you should avoid when writing lyrics, as doing so will strengthen the overall quality of your songs:

1. Attempting to present too many ideas

Good lyrics often tell a story or explore a theme. It is this focus on one idea that makes the overall song have a cohesive feel from verse to verse. A mistake that many make is to attempt to present multiple ideas within one song, which more often than not will make each separate idea feel isolated from the rest of the song.

2. Missing a clear hook

Your goal is to have your listener remember the song far after it has finished as that is what will turn them into a fan and keep them coming back time and time again. An obvious hook line is crucial to the success of a song, as it is what will make it remarkable.

With few exceptions, any classic song example that we could give, songs that have stood the test of time, have an obvious hook line in it. Here's one:

3. Lyrics lack being grounded

There is nothing wrong with metaphoric and/ or philosophical ideas, but without a grounded underlying idea or theme that listeners can connect with, the ideas will fail. Frame of reference is key. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is a great example; while it was most certainly philosophical and metaphoric, it's themes were also deeply rooted in the struggles of England at that time.

4. Writing in awkward, backward phrasing

A mistake that many make when trying to seem 'interesting' or 'artistic' is the write in an awkward, backward style, breaking up a phrase in a way that doesn't make sense, but only serves to be 'different'.

Lyrics are always at their best when written in a way that makes sense to the listener. Be it a conversational style or otherwise, lyrics that a straight forward will make it far easier to connect with the listener.

5. Lyrics are not genuine

If you're not political, if you're not a romantic, etc., don't try to be. A disingenuous lyric will come off as such very quickly and is a great way to lose your listener. No matter what your idea or theme is in your song, your lyrics need to connect with you in order for them to take a life of their own. Otherwise the lack of conviction behind them will make the lyrics feel stale.


Which lyrical mistakes have you made?


The best way to learn from these mistakes is to outline which have been made most often in the form of a comment below, so that together we can discuss the best solutions for each.

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