What Comes First: Music Or Lyrics?

What Comes First: Lyrics or Music? Do Lyrics or Music Come First in Songwriting?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

When it comes to creating music, the debate over what comes first—lyrics or music—has been a topic of discussion for decades. Songwriters, musicians, and artists have their own unique approaches to the songwriting process. Some believe in crafting the music first, while others prioritize writing the lyrics. Understanding the different methods and their respective pros and cons can provide valuable insight into the creative process of songwriting.

What Comes First: Lyrics or Music?

The age-old question of what comes first, lyrics or music, in songwriting often leads to differing opinions among songwriters. Some argue that the lyrical content drives the emotion and meaning of the song, while others believe that the musical composition sets the tone and atmosphere, ultimately influencing the lyrics. The truth is, there is no definitive answer, as both approaches have their merits and can lead to powerful and impactful songs.

Background on Songwriting Process

Songwriting is a deeply personal and creative process that varies greatly from one artist to another. It involves the creation of vocal melodies, chord progressions, and the overall structure of a song. Whether it’s through personal experience, storytelling, or pure imagination, songwriters draw inspiration from a wide range of sources to bring their music to life. Understanding the different approaches to songwriting can shed light on the intricacies of the art form.

Understanding the Different Approaches to Songwriting

Traditional Approach: Music First

In the traditional approach to songwriting, the music comes first. This method involves crafting the instrumental components, such as chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms, before adding lyrical content. Many songwriters who follow this approach find inspiration in the musical structure, often using instruments like the acoustic guitar or piano to develop a foundation for their songs.

Pros and Cons of Writing Music First

Allows for exploration of musical ideasMay limit lyrical content creativity
Sets the tone and mood of the songDifficulty in fitting lyrics to existing melodies
Provides a strong musical foundationPotential disconnect between lyrics and music

Benefits of Writing Music First

When songwriters prioritize the music, they can create a captivating and emotive musical landscape that lays the groundwork for meaningful lyrical content. This approach allows for the exploration of various chord structures, melodies, and rhythms, setting the stage for a compelling song structure.

Drawbacks of Writing Music First

On the flip side, focusing on the music first can sometimes pose challenges in aligning the lyrics with the existing melodies. This may result in a disconnect between the emotional depth of the lyrics and the musical arrangement, potentially impacting the overall impact of the song.

Modern Approach: Lyrics First

Contrary to the traditional method, some songwriters prefer to begin the songwriting process with the lyrics. By crafting the lyrical content first, they aim to convey a specific message or emotion, which then guides the musical composition.

Female Singer With Music Band
Female Singer With Music Band

Pros and Cons of Writing Lyrics First

Allows for focused storytellingPotential limitations in musical creativity
Establishes a clear lyrical directionDifficulty in finding suitable melodies
Emphasizes the emotional core of the songMay require adjustments to fit musical arrangement

Benefits of Writing Lyrics First

Starting with the lyrics enables songwriters to delve deep into storytelling and convey a specific message or emotion. This approach emphasizes the importance of lyrical content, setting a clear direction for the musical arrangement to follow.

Drawbacks of Writing Lyrics First

However, the challenge lies in finding melodies that seamlessly complement the lyrical content. This may require adjustments to the initial lyrics or limitations in musical creativity, potentially affecting the overall musical structure of the song.

When is it Appropriate to Use Each Method?

Appropriate Use for Writing Music First

The traditional approach of writing music first is often suitable for songwriters who find inspiration in musical composition and wish to establish a strong musical foundation before delving into lyrical content. This method allows for the exploration of chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms, laying the groundwork for a compelling song structure.

Appropriate Use for Writing Lyrics First

On the other hand, starting with the lyrics is appropriate for songwriters who prioritize storytelling and wish to convey a specific message or emotion through their music. By establishing a clear lyrical direction, this approach guides the musical composition to complement the emotional core of the song.

Tips for Successful Songwriting with Either Method

Regardless of the chosen approach, successful songwriting requires dedication, creativity, and a deep understanding of the art form. Whether writing music first or starting with the lyrics, songwriters can benefit from the following tips:

  1. Embrace Collaboration: Working with other songwriters or musicians can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the creative process, enriching the songwriting experience.
  2. Experiment with Song Structure: Explore different song structures and arrangements to add depth and variety to the musical composition, enhancing the overall impact of the song.
  3. Draw Inspiration from Diverse Sources: Seek inspiration from personal experiences, favorite songs, or various art forms to infuse creativity and originality into the songwriting process.


Aspiring and seasoned songwriters alike can draw inspiration from the diverse approaches to songwriting, whether it’s through crafting the music first or beginning with the lyrics. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each method and knowing when to appropriately utilize them, songwriters can embark on a creative journey that brings their musical visions to life. So, whether it’s the chord progressions that ignite the creative spark or the poignant lyrics that set the tone, the art of songwriting continues to thrive through the fusion of music and storytelling.


Are there any famous songs where the lyrics came first?

Yes, many popular songs, especially in the realm of rap and rock music, have been crafted with the lyrics as the initial inspiration, leading to powerful and evocative musical compositions.

Can a song be written simultaneously with both lyrics and music?

Absolutely. Some songwriters prefer to intertwine the creation of lyrics and music, allowing them to complement and influence each other throughout the songwriting process.

How important is music theory in the songwriting process?

While a fundamental understanding of music theory can be beneficial, it is not a strict requirement for successful songwriting. Many songwriters rely on their intuition and creativity to craft compelling music.

What role does the chord structure play in the songwriting method?

The chord structure forms the backbone of the musical composition, influencing the overall mood, atmosphere, and emotional depth of the song.

Can songwriting skills be developed over time?

Absolutely. Like any art form, songwriting skills can be honed and developed through practice, experimentation, and a deep passion for creating music.