How I Format All My Lyric Sheets

By:

Sarah Spencer

Writing Lyrics | Here's how I format all my lyric sheets and stay organized as a songwriter! #songwriting #songwritingtips #lyrics #writinglyrics

A well-organized song lyric sheet will make your life sooo much easier when you’re writing lyrics and sharing them. As a songwriter and a graphic designer, lyric sheets are my weird special cross-section of interests. Communication is key in a lyric sheet.

When handing someone my lyrics, I want to make sure they can read my lyrics clear as day, know who wrote it, know how to reach me, and view me as a professional.

There’s also a bit of an industry expectation with lyric sheets. I’ll point those out as we go.

Can all of that be done with one tiny 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper? Absolutely!

Why format your lyric sheets when you’re writing lyrics?

Format your lyric sheets to:

  • Give a great first impression to industry professionals
  • Easily find your contact info, co-writer info, and other meta info
  • Help your lyrics read better
  • Put your best professional foot forward

A well-organized lyric sheet will show that you’re a pro.

You want to make the best impression of your song, and a well-formatted lyric sheet makes a great impression.

Who could be reading your lyrics? Think music publishers, artists, A&R, producers, potential co-writers, or anyone who may be given a copy of your song and lyric sheet.

It also ensures that all your meta information is easy to see, like your co-writer’s names and your contact info.

A formatted lyric sheet that is legible also helps your lyrics to be understood more clearly. When your lyric sheet isn’t a jumbled mess, it’s just plain easier to read. We don’t wanna miss a word!

And lastly, when you format your lyric sheets, it is a mark of a professional. It shows that you care about the quality of how you present yourself and your songs.

Want a free lyric sheet template? I’ll send it to ya!

This Google Doc lyric sheet template is yours to use! Check out the comments in the sheet, too, I labeled each section with notes so you know exactly how to use it without referencing this article.

Google Doc Lyric Sheet Template for Writing Lyrics

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). I’ve tweaked it a bit for my own purposes over the years, and this format is one I use all the time.

What do my lyric sheets look like?

Here’s a basic birds-eye-view of the layout:

📍 This graphic has a colorful background and labels. Those should not be included in your actual lyric sheets. They’re just here for the educational purpose of this article. :)

Lyric Sheet Format Overview

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. Your lyrics super legible. This is how industry folks expect to see a lyric sheet.

This plain sheet also makes it super easy for you to replicate time and time again, without having to mess with the colors and fonts each time.

The font is simple and at a legible size

A sans serif like Ariel or a serif like Times New Roman are classics. Use any similar font. Steer clear from handwritten or script fonts, like Comic Sans or similar.

Keep the size of your font legible. Meaning, not so small that when it’s printed, we have to squint to make it out. If you have a lot of lyrics, use with Chorus labels instead of full choruses (more on that below) and play with the margins of the page to give you more space.

Everything is on one page

This makes it easier to see the big picture of your song. For example, a reader can easily tell how many choruses you have, if there’s a bridge, etc.

And a biggie: When you have everything on one page, you never risk your pages getting separated. This is critical for those in-person pitch events or anytime someone asks for printed lyrics. Get all your lyrics and meta info on one sheet. Back and front is fine.

Let’s go section by section:

The sections of a formatted lyric sheet

The Header

This is probably the most important part of your lyric sheet because it has all the relevant songwriter “meta” info. Including how to contact you!

Title:

Put your title in quotes so it’s easily to see among the other lines of text. You can even make the font a size or two bigger if you like.

Songwriter Info:

Here’s where you’ll want to include all the pertinent info about who wrote the song.

  • All writer’s names
  • All writer’s publishing
  • All writer’s PRO’s
  • Optional: Copyright date

Here’s an example of what that could look like:

© 2022 Sarah Spencer / Publishing Company (ASCAP),
Co-writer 1 / Their Publishing (Their PRO),
Co-writer 2 / Their Publishing (Their PRO)

Contact info:

Cri-ti-cal! Do not forget this step if you’re hoping to make any kind of professional relationship with the person who’s reading your lyrics.

Include 2 ways someone can get in touch with you. That could be an email address (I always recommend an email because pretty much everyone uses email), your insta, management’s email, or your phone number.

Only give out the contact info you feel safe giving out. You May not necessarily want your personal cell on the top of all your lyric sheets, and only share it with certain people. How do you want to be contacted? Share what works for you!

So all together, your meta info will look like:

© 2022 Sarah Spencer / Publishing Company (ASCAP),
Co-writer 1 / Their Publishing (Their PRO),
Co-writer 2 / Their Publishing (Their PRO)
Hello@sarahspencer.com
c: 000-000-0000
www.sarahspencer.com

Can I include meta info in the footer of my lyric sheet?

Keep your title and writer info at the top. It’s where folks are used to looking right away to see who wrote a song and what it’s called (a.k.a. what the hook might be).

If space is at a premium, you could put your contact info in the footer and your writer info in the header.

The Lyrics

Here’s where all your lovely words go!

The overall idea with your lyrics is to indent stanzas further and further to the right.

This is to help people scanning through your lyrics, interpreting the structure, or listening down to your song.

When you indent your stanzas, folks don’t have to focus on keeping their place in a long stack of lines. And instead, they can just focus on the song!

If someone is listening down to your song while holding your lyric sheet, and they look away for a second, they can easily come right back to your lyrics and not get lost.

Some people even prefer to listen with eyes closed, then come back to your lyric sheet.

Indentations like this help them find the sections they’re looking for quickly.

Here’s a loose guide for indenting:

Verses: No indentation.Verses are written right up to the left margin. A.k.a. there are no spaces or indents before the verse lines. Break lines where they make sense in your song, and break stanzas with a paragraph break.

Pre-Choruses: 2 spaces of indentation. Just a little nudge to bump them out from the left margin.

Choruses: 5 spaces or 1 tab’s worth of indentation. You may even want to bold your choruses.

Bridge: 5 spaces (or 1 tab) plus 2 more spaces for shorter lines. Longer lines, 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. (It’s also totally ok to set your bridge flush to the left.)

Should I repeat choruses in my lyric sheet?

For repeated choruses, you do not need to copy and paste the whole chorus. Simply write Chorus, or bold it. Sometimes I write [Chorus] in square brackets. Give this quick Chorus label it’s own paragraph break.

Should I include a note about instrumental breaks?

You certainly can. A simple [Instrumental] or Instrumental will work.

FAQ

What not to put on your lyric sheets:

  1. Don’t include chords.

    Lyrics only, darlin’. Your demo recording will communicate the chords and chord changes.

  2. Do not label every section/stanza.

    This is what our indents are for. 💫

  3. Don’t include bpm, tempo, fret to capo, etc.

    These are not necessary to know when someone is listening down to your song. This info will all be inferred from the recording, anyway. (And likely will change when the song is formally cut)

  4. No drawings or clip art.

    This will come across as very amateurish. Keep it simple.

  5. No handwritten lyrics.

    Type it out so it’s easy to read and accurate.

  6. Do not include musician credits or “recorded by [artist name]”.

    Again, this is just not relevant information for a lyric sheet. At best, it comes across as amateurish, at worst may seem braggadocios.

  7. No hints about what the song sounds like.

    Don’t include genres or descriptors about the vibe of the song. We want the song to speak for itself!

Gorgeous!

Want a free Google Doc Lyric Sheet Template? I’ll send it to ya!

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Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at SarahSpencer.com or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.