You’ve done it. You’ve sat down and written a song that spills your heart out on the page for everybody to see. The only thing is, some of that storytelling didn’t come out quite right. Or maybe it did, but it just feels clunky when you listen back to the words.
Before you give up on the piece altogether, there’s likely one more thing you can do to make those lyrics hit home, and we’ve got just the tips and tricks for you.
Here are 5 tips for editing your lyrics to make your song complete.
1. Don’t be afraid to let go
First and foremost, you can’t be too precious about your lyrics when editing. Sure, if there’s a line or two that you absolutely adore and it works well in the song, by all means, use them again. But if you’re sitting around holding on to every single cliché line you’ve heard a million times before, then you might need to let something go.
Open a new document, or push any old lyrics to the bottom. Better yet, write new ones right alongside the old ones and challenge them to see if you can beat them. When doing this, please keep in mind that you don’t need to change every line of a song to make it perfect. For example, the Backstreet Boys smash “I Want It That Way” was iconically sent around to all the best lyric writers at the time to try and change the chorus, but no one could beat the original chorus, even though it only really makes perfect sense if you squint at it.
2. Know what you’re trying to say
When editing your lyrics, it’s important to know what you want to say with them. This is easier said than done. Each section of your song up until the chorus generally advances the story in some way, shape, or form.
If your song doesn’t seem to be doing that, maybe it’s time to revisit exactly what you’re trying to say in that section - and the song as a whole. In general, the verse and pre-chorus sections are usually leading into information in the chorus. Looking at your song as a whole may help you understand how to perfect your lyrics.
Create your own songwriter website in minutes to showcase your music. Design a website with Bandzoogle now.
3. Check the sonics
How does your song sound? No, not the production or the vocals. How do the lyrics sound when they’re sung? Do they sound rushed and forced like there’s not enough space? Do the rhymes make sense? Are there too many words? Too little?
When revisiting your lyrics to edit them, it’s important to listen for the sonics of the words when sung. This helps ensure that your listener can easily understand the song, and that it’s pleasurable to listen to.
4. Is it cliché in a good way?
Check to make sure that any of your cliché lyrics are serving a purpose or being used in a way that doesn’t seem like every other song that’s ever been written. Sure, the lyrics should be somewhat familiar if you’re writing in modern pop music genres. But there’s always an interesting way to say something. Whether that be straightforward, in a conversational tone, or with a metaphor you have yet to think up.
That being said, if something sounds cliché and you love it, keep it. This is just a tip to get your lyric editing brain rolling. After all, things become cliché for a reason.
5. Write lots of crap
Paraphrasing the words of incredible lyricist and teacher Pat Pattison, ‘Write a LOT of sh**. Because sh** makes the best fertilizer.’ What does that mean in terms of editing? It means you should edit a lot of songs. Or even edit one song a lot of times.
Not everything you write is going to be good. Sometimes it won’t even be remotely so. However, writing bad ideas will help you get to the good ones. You may have to put in your 10,000 hours before your lyrics get really good. The same can be said about editing your lyrics. Take it easy on yourself, and give yourself time. You’ll improve, your songs will get that much better, and it’ll get easier.
In conclusion, editing your lyrics is a lot like writing them. Though you’re not always going to beat your original version, every once in a while when you go back and edit, you end up writing something so incredibly deep you’ll know that those extra hours spent tearing apart your song were worth it.
Did we miss any tips and tricks? If so, let us know below. We’re always looking for new ways to improve and help each other. And with that said, don’t be afraid to get to editing. And most importantly, have fun with your songs. It’s a process.
Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles. In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
Build a stunning band website and store in minutes
- Promote your music on your own unique website.
- Sell music & merch directly to your fans. Keep 100%.
- Grow your fan base with built-in marketing tools.
Free 30 day trial, no credit card needed.