Converting a Book Chapter to Song Lyrics


The title of this blog is cool to me (and possibly you).  It’s cool to me because it turns out his one of my most favorite ways to write a song – as far as getting the information or the lyrics from another person goes.  Yes, writing lyrics with another person (physically in the room or on the computer) is fun!  But it can be frustrating if you are both stubborn about giving leeway on what should go where in the song or what words should be used to convey your message.  But that’s from a musician point of view (ex- mine). 

This blog is more about how you go about taking a chapter of a book, any book, and creating a song out of it. 

First, there are a few things to know legally.  You cannot plagiarize written works (unless the work is “Public Domain”).  In other words, you cannot write the words directly as they are from the book into a song.  You cannot take a sentence from the book and add it to a song as is.  It’s better to read the sentence and think about it.  After you think about it, re-write it in a different way, thus creating a line to the lyrics.  When I write lyrics this way, I like to totally re-create the sentence to where it will say basically the same thing, but read completely different. 

I once heard a famous musician talk about writing lyrics to a song where he said, “my best advice for writing lyrics to try to explain what’s going on by watching an old episode of Gun Smoke”(or any other old western).  He continued by saying, “try to write about what you’re seeing and explain it”.  After you’re done writing, I can promise you that if you give what you wrote to someone else, they will have no idea that you were trying to explain about the episode.  It will paint a picture in the reader’s head, but it won’t be obvious that it’s from the old tv show because old westerns allowed for such interpretation.

Writing lyrics from a chapter of a book is sort of the same premise.  Read the chapter you want to write lyrics about and really understand it.  Then think about what the message is or what the overall theme is – what is that part of the book talking about?  It should be a pretty complex thought with many different steps to explain it. But once you have that written out, shorten it down to about a page, or half a typed page.  Then, you have it at that length it should be and it will flow pretty well! 

Check out a few blogs to help you out!

Three Simple Tips for Beginning Songwriters
Rhyming the Words

Have a chapter you are ready to convert?

David Hawkins