Make Your Poem a Song: Six Simple Steps


If you are not a musician, converting your simple poem to song lyrics can feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.  But it’s not that hard.  There are some musicians who make it sound like only a select few of us on earth have been “chosen” to be a songwriter.  It’s simply not true.  All you need to know are some basic parameters to be a lyric writer, which will then make you a songwriter once the music is composed.  Once you have these simple steps down, hand it over to a musician friend (or and voilà… you have song lyrics to a great song!  You will be a songwriter!

Wikipedia’s definition of song structure is – the arrangement of a song.  It is typically sectional which uses repeating forms in songs.

There’s a lot of different, scary, sounding terminology in the bulk of the article.  But it doesn’t need to be that hard. Let’s go over 6 simple steps when converting your poem to lyrics:

1.)    Read your poem and think about what the most important part of it is…. the point of it.  Once you do, often times that will become your chorus.  It can be anywhere from 2 – 8 lines.  I like to write by the “shorter the better” motto – so I’m using about 4 – 6 each time.

2.)    Repeat it.  The chorus (a lot of times, but not always) is often repeated.  You are trying to let the listener know what you are trying to tell them with your words.  Think about a few of your favorite songs.  Now think about the chorus.  You’ll hear that it’s repeated and that it’s telling you something specific about the piece as a whole.

3.)    Pull out verses.  The word “verses” freak a lot of people out who are not song writers or lyric writers because it sounds like music theory to them.  It’s not hard thoughVerses (simply put) are just lines that rhyme and have a similar syllable count.  I mean, if you are writing poetry, you already have this down in most cases, or else you wouldn’t be writing poetry I imagine.

4.)    Make the verse lines about 6 – 14 words long in each sentence - and anywhere from about 8 – 16 syllables long all together.  Read them out loud to yourself, to an online metronome (a device that keeps the beat with simple clicks) or tap out how fast or slow you want the beat to be on a desk or surface.  In modern music often times the verses are anywhere from 4 – 12 lines with a few choruses after each ending verse, and a bridge thrown in there towards the middle or end of the piece.  There are infinite combinations of how long you can make each one from song to song.  It’s so cool.  That’s why songwriting will never go away.

5.)    Create a bridge.  I like to think of the bridge of as the heartbeat of the song.  Because often times it’s different from the rest of the song (verses and choruses) and there’s usually only one.  But that’s the cool thing with writing lyrics. You don’t have to follow this stuff to the tee after you know the basics. You will be able to create whatever you want in any format you want.  When I state the bridge is “different”, I mean the words are more poignant or emotional at that point in the song.  Often times the beat changes (slows down or speeds up) and there’s a change in the music – more so than in any other part of the song.

6.)    After creating the above you usually put them in order of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.  This is a specific style of creating a song from your poem.  After you get these basics down (which will not take long) you should be able to explore the tons of other options and styles.  It’s so fun to create lyrics in different ways!

If you have any specific questions that I have not gone over here, feel free to email me at  I will get back to you to help you out.

Do you already have a poem you want us to look at?

David Hawkins