Hello, Fancy Fam!
A well-organized lyric sheet will make your life sooo much easier. We all have goals for our songs, so let’s be ready for them when the happen by having neat lyrics sheets! You never know when you’re going to get that random perfect opportunity to send your lyrics off into the stratosphere. Let’s get them laid out all nice and purdy-like so you don’t have to run around at the last second formatting and looking for any missing info!
I format all my lyrics exactly the same, and now it’s super easy for me for format and set them up in a hurry.
The way I do this is based off of the format my friend Cliff Goldmacher teaches (he is a badassss! Check him out after you read this post) with a little bit of tweakage from what I’ve heard from other writers and folks around Nashville.
Basically, the goal of an organized lyric sheet is to be easy to skim through, with all the writer’s information made readily available, as well as obvious contact info.
Here’s a basic birds-eye-view of the layout:
Bird’s Eye View of the lyric sheet
You’ll notice a couple things right off the bat:
First, there’s nothing fancy going on here. There’s no branding, no colors, no fun typography. Just simple black and white text. This makes your lyrics super legible. It also makes it easy for you to replicate time and time again, without having to futz with the layout.
You’ll also notice that everything is on one page. This also makes it easier to see the big picture of your song – someone can easily tell how many choruses you have, if there’s a bridge, etc. Another perk to having everything on one page is that you never risk 2 printed pages getting separated!
Let’s go section by section:
This is probably the most important part of your lyric sheet because it has aaaaall the relevant songwriter “meta” info and as ways to contact you.
Title: Put your title in quotes so it’s easily determinable from the other lines of text. You can even make it a size or two bigger if you like.
Songwriter meta: Add you copyright symbol (option + G on a Mac, alt+ 0169 on a PC!) and the year the song was written. List each writer’s name, their publishing, and their PRO. For example, mine would be: Sarah Spencer / Big Oak Songs (ASCAP). Do this for each writer on the song.
Contact info: Cri-ti-cal! Put down at least one way that someone can get in touch with you! If you’re sharing your lyrics and an mp3 with someone, chances are they will get separated. Put any preferred contact info you like in this section. I also put my website so folks can check out my other work.
Here’s where all your lovely words go!
The overall idea with your lyrics is to indent stanzas further and further to the right, to allow the eye to easily see which stanza is what. This is to help people looking at your lyrics. They don’t have to focus on keeping their place in a long stack of lines. If they look away for a second, they can easily come right back to your lyrics and not get lost.
Verses: Verses are written right up to the left margin. A.k.a. there are no spaces or indents before the verse lines. As for individual line breaks – put them wherever you hear them in your song! :)
Pre-Choruses: In songs with a pre-chorus, give each line 2 spaces worth of indentation. Just a little nudge to bump them out from the left margin.
Choruses: Give your choruses 5 spaces or 1 tab’s worth of indentation.
Bridge: If your bridge is full of shorter lines, you can indent them 5 spaces (or 1 tab) plus 2 more spaces. If your bridge has longer lines, you’ll want to keep them fully left aligned, with no indentation. If you indent long lines, sometimes they break at the far right side of the paper and wrap back around to the far left. Super awkward. Don’t let that happen.
You’re all set up! Full disclosure – this is how I format all my lyrics and it works super well for me. Of course there are no hard and fast rules to lyric formatting, but anytime you can make your lyrics easier for someone else to read, it is definitely in your best interest to do so.
Want to know how I organize aaaall my gazillions of lyric sheets and lyric ideas and worktapes and cowriters and lions and tigers and bears, oh my? Coming up – How I Organize All my Songwriting Files!