By Amanda West
I recently asked some of my co-writers why they liked working with a lyricist so much. The following eight reasons are a summary of their responses. These aren’t my ideas, they are the reasons that successful TAXI composers and songwriters gave me for preferring to collaborate, rather than write the lyrics themselves.
Remember, a good lyricist also understands music, how and why it creates an emotion, how a singer sings different sounds and stresses, as well as being able to write words. To collaborate well we need to understand each other, and how we work.
Some people are reluctant to collaborate because they’d prefer not to share in the copyright. But if it makes your life easier and increases your overall output and income, why not?
The eight reasons:
- You can focus on the music. Working with a lyricist will free you up so that you can concentrate on creating music. Many composers prefer to work with just music and never create songs, rather than have to think about the words as well. Collaborating with a lyricist means that you can write instrumentals and songs. And remember, creating a mix minus vocal will give you an instrumental version that can be pitched.
- It frees a different part of your brain. If you don’t have to stress about finding the right words, you don’t have to struggle trying to use two different parts of your brain at the same time.
- If you can’t imagine the situation, you can’t write about it convincingly. Some people find it hard to imagine themselves in a situation, or feeling an emotion they haven’t felt. This is something that a good lyricist can do naturally. It’s much easier to sing the words as if you mean it, than to write them as if you know what you are talking about.
- There is a certain relief in handing over the responsibility of writing the lyrics. Coming up with an entire lyric on your own can be daunting. Co-writing with a lyricist can ease this.
- Working with a good lyricist can mean that the finished lyrics are more professional. Just as a good composer knows all the subtle nuances and tweaks to make a piece of music have the desired effect, a good lyricist knows how to use prosody; the sounds, stresses, line length, number of lines, etc., to create the same overall emotions required. Creating seamless, wonderful lyrics is an art in itself.
- You can use a lyricist to write words in a “voice” you yourself don’t have. Many composers write in several genres and styles, and can’t always “speak” or “think” the way someone singing in that style would. For instance, you may be great at composing Hip-Hop instrumental tracks, but can you talk the talk? If you are male, can you write romantic love songs to another man so that it can be sung by a female singer? Good lyricists can write as if they were many different people and have an incredible imagination.
- There are lyricists who can write lyrics to a melody or composition that you have already created. This is a skill which is little recognised, and not common. There is a lot more to writing lyrics to an existing melody than it would at first appear. And it is a lot harder than writing lyrics on a blank page. Many composers (and some lyricists) find it difficult to add words to melody after the fact, or may not even realise that they are not doing it well. Matching the stresses and moods, completing the prosody, so that it is seamless and smooth, is not easy. I have even been given music with no topline melody, just backing and chords, and asked to write lyrics. I love a challenge!
- Collaborating with a lyricist can mean you create more tracks overall. My co-writers tell me that using my lyrics means that they not only produce twice as much, but more than twice as much. It appears that lyrics seriously slow down the creative process of a lot of composers. The TAXI community has quite a number of skilled lyricists with a wide range of skills in virtually all popular genres of music. It’s easy to meet them on the TAXI Forum in the Collaboration Corner section, at the TAXI Road Rally each November, and in the chat room during the TAXI TV live broadcasts every Monday at 4 p.m. Pacific time.
Amanda West is a TAXI member and lyricist living near Galway Bay, on the West Coast of Ireland. She has collaborated with fellow TAXI members all over the world. She often crafts lyrics for songs in the rock, punk, jazz, blues, EDM, pop, folk, traditional Irish, and children's genres.You can hear her songs and see her credits here.