Some people are hesitant around collaboration because they would rather not share the limited copyright pie available with someone else. But if it made your life easier and increased your overall output (and possibly even your income) then why not?
One thing to remember; a good lyricist should also understand music, how and why it creates an emotion, how a singer sings different sounds and stresses, as well as being able to write great lyrics that elicit feelings and emotions. To collaborate well we need to understand each other, and how we each work.
So, here are a few reasons why some songwriters love collaborating with lyricists…
It can be a huge relief to hand over the writing of the lyrics to someone else.
For many composers and songwriters, coming up with lyrical ideas, let alone the actual lyrics, can be incredibly daunting, and sometimes even creating stress. Never a good thing.
Collaboration with someone writing lyrics can ease this when you find the right writing partner. So, once you have handed over the lyric part of the responsibility to someone else, you can concentrate on the music.
I know many composers who stick to composing and never write songs, simply because having to think about the words as well is simply too daunting. Collaborating with a lyricist means that you can write instrumentals and songs. And remember, creating a mix minus the vocal will give you an instrumental version that can be pitched also.
It can mean that you produce more tracks overall.
One of my co-writers once told me that collaborating with me meant that he could produce about three times as many tracks as when he writes all aspects of a song himself. And he isn’t alone. Quite a few of my co-writers have said that writing lyrics really slows down their creative process.
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 that can be sung easily is an art in itself.
You can use a lyricist to write words in a ‘voice’ you yourself can’t create.
Many composers write in several genres and styles, but 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 really 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 and wild imagination.
If you can’t imagine the situation, you can’t write about it convincingly.
Some people find it hard to imagine themselves doing something they have not experienced, 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.
Another aspect of this imagination tool, is that co-writing with a lyricist will free up 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.
Leading on from all this, 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 top-line melody, just beats and chords, and asked to write lyrics. I love a challenge!
So if all of this hasn’t given you enough to ponder over your morning coffee or afternoon tea, then how about this – sharing skills and responsibility can be FUN!
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Amanda West is a professional lyricist specialising in music for sync licensing and runs Sheeaun Music a boutique label, publishing house and song metadata compiling business. She is also an integral part of the Online Musician team.