How to Become a Lyricist

By Nate Lee; Updated July 05, 2017
Young Musician
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Lyricists write the words to songs and usually team with composers to put those words to music. Whether it is for musical theater, pop singers, rock bands or advertising jingles, lyricists must be well-versed in the musical genre with which they express themselves.

Basic Education Needed

Though a college degree isn't an absolute necessity, lyricists need to know about poetry, and either play an instrument or have taken courses in music theory, song structure or the history of music. When working with a composer, sometimes the music comes first, and the lyricist must know how to fit the words to the structure and tempo of the music.

Skills Needed

Beyond being creative writers with a knack for colorful, symbolic words, lyricists are the biggest fans. They know the lyrics, or the best parts, to dozens of songs. They ask their friends what their favorite songs are, and why. They are often witty and good with plays on words. Musical theater lyricists have spent time on stage, directing or working backstage, and they must know how to tell a story with a song, or advance the action of the play. A lyricist must be extremely flexible in being an artistic partner with a composer, quite ready to throw away a favorite phrase to make the song work.

Teaming Up with a Composer

Lyricists find a musician or composer with an intense interest and some experience in the same genre -- musical theater, rock, pop -- and they develop their craft with her. Together, they can then record, produce or post online.

About the Author

Nate Lee was senior editor of Chicago's "NewCity" newspaper and creative director in a global advertising agency. A playwright and published poet, Lee writes about the arts, culture and business innovation. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Tulane University.