Writing Music Or Writing Lyrics – Which Comes First?

What’s the best way to begin writing a new song? Do you start writing music first, or do you start with lyrics?

What’s The Right Approach?

I don’t think there is one “right” way to go about writing a song. There are tons of hit songs that are written one way, and just as many that are written the other. It all comes down to what works for you. I’ve written many songs using each approach. I think I write better lyrics when I write them first, but a more interesting melody when I start with that. I’m still working on perfecting my craft. Having said that, I believe the melody is the most important part of the song. It’s the melody that grabs us in the first place. If we have a great melody, the listener will stick around long enough to listen to the words. Of course, at that point we had better have some great lyrics to keep their interest.

Writing From Emotion

When writing a song, whichever approach I choose I always write from emotion. Let me explain: If I’ve written some lyrics which I feel are good, I notice the emotions I feel when reading through them. I use this as a starting point. It tells me what the overall feel of the melody should be. When writing melody first I notice the emotions I feel when listening to the music. Then I use this to tell me what the song might be about.

Putting It All Together

Whichever way you approach it, you have to fit what you’re writing with what you’ve already written. The lyrics you’ve written will dictate the rhythm and flow of the melody, and vice-versa. But remember that nothing needs to be carved in stone. Always be open to changing and tweaking lines of words or melody to make them fit together nicely. Sometimes I like five lines of lyrics in the second verse, when there are only four in the first verse. So when writing music I will accommodate that with an extra line of melody.

Which Way Is Best For You?

I enjoy using either approach when writing a song. I guess it helps to keep it fresh for me. If you always write one way, try it the other way. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.