Kimbra on What Makes a Great Lyric (Video)

+ This video lesson is excerpted from Grammy-winning pop artist, Kimbra’s Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production course on Soundfly.

“Lean into the unexpected… the ambiguity of a lyric is what makes a song mysterious.” ~ Kimbra

In this video courtesy of her online course, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and producer, Kimbra reflects on the most important aspects of lyric writing that help a songwriter build a higher and more personal level of storytelling.

Additionally, throughout this newly published video on Soundfly’s YouTube channel, she talks about a number of things that she keeps in mind when writing lyrics. Here’s a quick recap of some of her tips. 

1. Say something honest. 

Lyrics that appeal the most to her are lyrics that manage to say something very honest, that might be hard to say otherwise. If they feel powerful to you to sing them, maybe it’s because they are. 

2. Search for ambiguity. 

At the same time, “real life” is often full of complexity and ambiguity. A single song is able to balance all kinds of contradictions and oxymorons. How can you level out being direct with introducing a sense of ambiguity and mystery into your lyrics? 

+ Read more on Flypaper: “5 Ways to Write a ‘Character Song’.”

3. Lean into the unexpected. 

Kimbra asks: “What has love not been compared to?” It might seem impossible to find an answer to that question, but plumb the depths of your imagination and see what you can find (do you think anyone has compared love to a three-week old grilled cheese found in your couch cushions?).

Look for opportunities to pair words that seemingly don’t belong together to introduce elements of surprise. 

4. Prioritize meaning over rhyming. 

Rhyming is an important part of songwriting, but what’s possible when you break your rhyme? 

+ Learn production, composition, songwriting, theory, arranging, mixing, and more; whenever you want and wherever you are. Subscribe for full access!

5. Don’t be afraid to throw things out. 

Kimbra emphasizes that one of the hardest parts of songwriting for her is when it feels like a song isn’t moving forward, so she encourages us to do anything to get back to a place of progress, including throwing out things you’ve already written. 

6. Be an active observer. 

If you’re feeling stuck, maybe it’s time to get outside yourself. Talk to people, ask questions, listen to other people’s conversations, etc. Scour the environment around you for inspiration. 

+ Read more on Flypaper: “6 Bad Habits in Songwriting, and How to Break Them.”

7. Ask yourself reflective questions. 

Whenever Kimbra finds herself in a rut, she can use prompting questions to help get her thinking creatively.

Some of the questions that Kimbra likes to use to help herself write include: 

  • Where am I? 
  • What do I need to say? 
  • Who do I wish I could say this to? 
  • What do I want to make someone feel right now? 

That pretty much sums up all of Kimbra’s personal tips for writing better lyrics. Don’t forget to check out her incredible course on Soundfly for even more advice, tips, and guidance in your writing and production process.

Want to try some of these tips out? Start by writing using some of the reflective questions that Kimbra shared at the end of this video.

First, pull out a blank sheet of paper and come up with some quick answers, but don’t stop there. What other questions can you ask yourself that might lead to ideas for song content? Start looking for themes and building a story.

If you’re feeling inspired after this exercise, go ahead and try turning your thoughts into lyrics!

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by Ryan Lott, Com TruiseJlinKiefer, RJD2, and Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production.

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