In his 1976 hit, “I Write the Songs ,” Barry Manilow sang about putting “the words and the melodies together.” In the simplest terms (although the process can sometimes be quite complex), that’s what songwriting is all about: the blending of lyrics and music.
A question people sometimes ask us is this: what do I create first– the music or lyrics? This is just like the age-old brain teaser of what comes first, the chicken or the egg? We are not about to debate the issue of the chicken versus the egg, but when it comes to songwriting, there is no definite “right-or-wrong” answer. If an idea or a theme strikes you, you will likely write the lyrics first and then create the music that matches the song’s mood. On the other hand, if a melody swirls in your mind, you might want to expand it and then add words to it. Either way, it works!
History tells us that various musicians have their own, individual approaches to the process of song creation. For instance, opera composers like Puccini and Rimsky-Korsakov wrote music first, and then had the librettists create words. However, the famed team of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein usually wrote the lyrics before the music. While many musicians may disagree with this statement, English theatre and film director Peter Brook said in an interview, that “never in history has a guy written the tunes, and someone has come along and put the words to them. I once asked Richard Rodgers whether he had any tunes in his bottom drawer waiting for a lyric. He told me that it was only when he heard the lyricist’s precise words, such as Hammerstein’s ‘O, what a beautiful morning,’ that the melodies emerged.” Others may argue with this “lyrics first” approach. For instance, The Beatles’ hit “Yesterday ” began as a melody in Paul McCartney’s dreams. Later, he added lyrics to it. But Elton John reversed the process – at least in this particular case . As you can see, he created an impromptu melody to match an existing text!
Whether or not you are interested in writing your own songs or playing the ones already created by others, our teachers can help. When they come to your Manhattan, Brooklyn or Riverdale home or office, they will offer their guidance and inspiration, no matter what instrument you play. And if you take voice lessons, you’ll be able to belt out any song – music AND lyrics!