Songwriters: Each Part Of A Song Lyric Has A Job

by Marty Dodson
Nov 30, 2017

The Basics Of Lyric Writing…

For those who are new to songwriting or for those who just want to remind themselves of the fundamentals, here are some of the basics of songwriting.


The instrumental piece that starts the song and sets the musical tone for the song. This piece establishes the groove or feel of the song.

Verse 1

Introduces the characters, context and setting for the song. All of these elements give the listener what they need to understand the song and they should set up and point to your big idea (title) of your song.


Introduces the big idea or emotion in the song. For example, in the song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, that statement is the big idea. Everything in the verses and bridge point to that big idea and everything in the chorus revolves around that idea.

Verse 2

Takes the big idea deeper. Many beginning writers make the mistake of giving more characters, context and setting. As a general rule, verse 2 needs to dig in deeper to your big idea. Giving more characters, context and setting tends to back the story up instead of advancing it. Be conscious of taking the big idea farther in verse 2 and it will be easier to write.


If you have a bridge, it should take the big idea farther than verse 2 did or it could sum up the whole song. Again, be conscious of moving the story forward. Not every song needs a bridge. My first publisher used to say “Don’t build a bridge if there’s no river to cross”. If there’s nothing to say, write an instrumental solo in or just go back to another chorus.


The musical piece that ends the song if you need one. Some songs stop cold at the end of the last chorus or another lyrical piece. Most have an outro to close out the song.


For most genres these days, it’s best to stick as close as you can to 3 minutes. 3:30 used to be the standard for pop and country, but that is shorter now because radio can squeeze in more ads if they have shorter songs to play. After I write 2 verses and a chorus, I always play the song down and time it to make sure I’m not getting long-winded.

Happy writing!

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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