Lyric Writing: Writing Lyrics to Music


Authored by Pat Pattison


Course Code: OSONG-222

Next Semester Starts
June 26, 2023

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Placing that perfect lyrical idea into a melody without it sounding unnatural is a common obstacle to many songwriters. An unfortunate setting of a word or phrase can sink the emotion of the song, calling your listener's attention away from WHAT you are saying to HOW you are saying it. Writing Lyrics to Music analyzes a variety of song forms to instruct you on key lyrical and melodic components: stressed and unstressed beats, rhyme positions, melodic sections, and tone. You'll work through different musical feels and time signatures, and discover how the natural shapes of the words follow the shape of the melody, ultimately creating a much more expressive composition. This is a "can't miss" course - it's bound to take your writing to the next level. It will also make you a more valuable co-writer.

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By the end of this course, you will:

  • Identify stressed, non-stressed and secondary syllables in a lyric line
  • Write your own lyric patterns to match musical patterns
  • Identify rhyme and hook positions within a song
  • Define 3/4 and 4/4 writing styles
  • Create the melody, verse and chorus lyrics
  • Work with multiple note values and swing time phrasing in 4/4 time
  • Work with bridges and pre-choruses
  • Gain independence and confidence in the writing process
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Lesson 1: Stress in Language

  • Identifying Stressed and Unstressed Syllables in a Lyric Line
  • Notating the Rhythms of Stress Patterns
  • Writing Your Own Patterns to Match Existing Patterns
  • Identifying Secondary Stresses

Lesson 2: Musical Stress

  • Identifying Stressed and Unstressed Positions in a Musical Bar
  • Notating the Rhythms of Musical Stress Patterns
  • Writing Your Own Lyric Patterns to Match Musical Patterns

Lesson 3: More Musical Stress

  • Stressed Positions Caused by Isolating a Note
  • Stressed Positions Caused by a Rest before a Note
  • Stressed Positions Caused by Lesser Note Values Preceding a Note
  • Stressed Positions Caused by Anticipating a Note

Lesson 4: Melody in 3/4 Time

  • Stressed and Unstressed Syllables in Our First Song Section
  • Matched and Unmatched Phrases in the Song Section
  • Rhyme Positions in the Song Section
  • The Hook Position in the Song Section

Lesson 5: Creating the Lyric

  • Brainstorming a Title, Using a Rhyming Dictionary
  • Developing Ideas That Move the Song Forward
  • Identifying Special Positions in the Melody
  • Creating Contrasting Ideas
  • Finishing the Song

Lesson 6: Melody in 4/4 Time

  • Creating a Straightforward Setting in 4/4 Time
  • Working with Multiple Note Values
  • Identifying Cases of Stressed Notes on Weak Beats
  • Identifying Anticipations
  • Working in a Verse/Chorus Format

Lesson 7: Creating the Verse/Chorus Lyric

  • Gaining Speed and Experience Brainstorming from a Title
  • Working with Longer and Shorter Phrases
  • Working More Easily with Contrasting Sections
  • Constructing Effective Bridges

Lesson 8: 4/4 time; Multiple Note Values

  • Working with a More Complex Setting in 4/4 Time
  • Working with Multiple Note Values
  • Working with Sections Whose Note Values Are Different
  • Identifying Anticipations More Quickly
  • Working in a Simple Verse/Chorus Format

Lesson 9: Creating the Lyric

  • Gaining Speed and Experience Brainstorming from a Title
  • Working with a More Complicated Arrangement of Matched Phrases
  • Writing Lyrics for More Complex Structures
  • Developing Your Setting Up Rhyme Schemes

Lesson 10: 4/4 Swing Time; Phrasing

  • Working with a More Complex Song Form
  • Working with Swing Rhythm
  • Gaining Independence and Confidence in the Analysis Process
  • Skipping a Few Steps

Lesson 11: Creating the Lyric; Sectional Contrasts

  • Gaining Independence and Confidence in the Writing Process
  • Dealing Effectively with More Complex Structure
  • Working with Two Kinds of Bridges: Prechoruses (or "Transitional Bridges") and Primary Bridges

Lesson 12: The Last Mile

  • Gaining Independence and Confidence in the Writing Process
  • Working with Two Kinds of Bridges


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

This course does not have any prerequisites.

Required Textbook(s)

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity (PC) or GarageBand (Mac)

Hardware Requirements

  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Pat Pattison


Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches lyric writing and poetry. In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries (Penguin/Random House), Writing Better Lyrics, 2nd Edition (Penguin/Random House), The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure (Hal Leonard), and The Essential Guide to Rhyming (Hal Leonard), Pat has developed several online courses for Berklee Online. He has written more than 50 articles for various blogs and magazines, including American Songwriter, and has chapters in both The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi) and The Handbook on Creative Writing (Edinburgh University Press).

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Pat continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. His students include Grammy-winners, professional songwriters, and major recording artists, including Gillian Welch, John Mayer, Tom Hambridge, Joelle James, Karmin, American Authors, Ingrid Andress, Liz Longley, Charlie Worsham, Greg Becker, Justin Tranter, and many more.

For Berklee Online, Pat has authored the following courses: Lyric Writing: Writing From the TitleLyric Writing: Writing Lyrics to MusicLyric Writing: Tools and Strategies, Creative Writing: Poetry, and Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice. He also co-authored the graduate course Songwriting Tools and Techniques. Read Less

Gabby Tulloch


Gabrielle Michelle Tulloch – know artistically and professionally as Gabby Michelle – is a songwriter, producer, music educator, and performing artist from Worcester, MA. Writing songs since the age of nine, Gabby studied at Berklee College of Music, where she was recognized for her creative approaches to songwriting and impactful lyrical content. After studying under his mentorship, Gabby has also served as the teaching assistant for renowned author, songwriter, and professor, Pat Pattison. 

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A passionate advocate for mental health, Gabby studied Music Therapy and psychology as well. She has performed and participated in a variety of mental health awareness showcases and events and, while a student, received an award of recognition for her contributions to mental health in the Berklee community. She credits her Music Therapy background for providing a more thoughtful and informed understanding of the relationship between music and the mind, and for recognizing the value of creative arts as a form of both communication and self-expression. 

Now working out of Nashville, TN, she continues to strengthen her craft while writing songs for her own artistry, other artists, and for sync placement. In addition, Gabby serves as a songwriting and lyric coach for writers across the globe, and strives to empower other writers to find their own, unique voice through the art of songwriting.  Read Less

Kelly Riley


Kelly Riley holds a Bachelor of Music in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music and is an experienced voice, guitar, piano, songwriting, performance, and music theory teacher. Ms. Riley is an award-winning songwriter, professional vocalist, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, ukulele, piano), experienced touring performer, and accomplished recording artist. She has opened for Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett and many of her songs have been featured in streaming, commercials, and TV, such as Mission Impossible, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless.

Shane Adams


Shane Adams is a twice GRAMMY nominated music educator, and award-winning producer, and songwriter. Shane is president of Artist Accelerator and is a founding instructor for Berklee Online, where he has taught lyric writing and songwriting since 2003.

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Shane is a featured songwriter and instructor for the Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum where he received their TOP TEN HITMAKER award for 2014. He co-developed their groundbreaking “Words and Music” curriculum which has enabled thousands of elementary through high school students to learn to the craft of songwriting. Shane has served on the Hall of Fame’s museum expansion advisory board and has facilitated other music outreach programs such as “Poetry in Motion” co-sponsored by the Nashville Arts Commission and the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

In 2013, Shane was named the Music Industry Professional of the Year by Chowan University, and in 2005 Shane earned the Tennessee-Songwriter-Association-International’s highest honor, the Hallman Award, for outstanding contributions to the songwriting community.

Shane is currently the featured composer for Fjor Films and has produced the music and scored several independent film projects, including Fortune Cookie (featured at both the Sundance and Hollywood Film Festivals).

Shane writes for iSing Magazine, and is an internationally recognized songwriting lecturer and music production panelist.

He is currently developing two songwriting apps for the iPad platform, and is in pre-production as co-host/co-producer for “Studio Soundtrack,” a songwriting radio program for National Public Radio. Read Less

Cassandra Long


Cassandra is a singer, educator, writer and performer based in Sydney, Australia. Having graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor of Music in Songwriting and Music Production, she currently lectures in the Music Department at JMC Academy Sydney as well as mentoring artists and teaching voice. Cassandra is the vocalist and co-songwriter for an indie folk duo, sagas, and is currently writing a book on vocal technique. 

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As an educator, Cassandra is passionate about supporting students while they hone their craft, using tools and techniques to form strong emotional connections with their audiences through song, and amplify their artistry. She is keen to instill her love of creativity and songwriting in her students. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Lyric Writing: Writing Lyrics to Music can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Degree Majors


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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