Top Lyric Writing Tips with Pat Pattison

Lyric writing pro Pat Pattison recently held a workshop at JMC for students to give their music an extra leg up and to help them ‘writing better lyrics’. Brisbane Songwriting student Jade Mills went along to listen to his advice. 

Here’s some of the tips she learned… 

“ Most importantly: What do we what when we write songs?

I think that this is the best thing I heard during the workshop - not to say there weren’t a million and one other little gems in what Pat was saying, because there was. 

    'The goal as a songwriter is to make people feel what you are feeling.’ 
Now that we know this is the most important thing about why we write lyrics, how do we accomplish it? Well how do you build a house? Tools!  

There are no rules in lyric writing - only tools.  

Pat believes that everything you want to sing about falls into two categories: Stable and Unstable. Which when you think about it rings true. If you are sad, lost, lonely, heartbroken, angry these feelings are unstable. If you are feeling happy, grounded, in love, warm these feelings are stable.  

With that in mind Pat equipped us with some simple practices that can really help in making a lyric stable or unstable. 

We can manipulate: 

The number of lines in a section
How many lines we have in our verse, chorus or bridge. If this is an even number the section is stable. If it is uneven the section is unstable. 

The length of the lines 
If every line is the same length or you have alternating lengths of short - long - short - long, the section is stable. If one line length is longer than all the other lines the section will be unstable.  

The rhythm of the lines
This involves how many stressed syllables are in each line. Rhythmically stable lines are made up of the same number of stressed syllables – or follow a distinct pattern. Varying the number of stressed syllables among lines deviates from a pattern and can cause instability.  

These examples make up just some of the many tools that we as songwriters have at our disposal. As Pat has said himself, the music is capable of creating a feeling just as much as the lyrics are themselves so learn as much as you can, get feedback and most importantly feel!”

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