7 Tips for Writing Song Opening Lines

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In some ways, songwriting is like dating. For example, you are out with your friends and suddenly a guy or gal comes up to you and introduces himself/herself. The first words that a person says will determine whether or not you would want the conversation to go further.

In songwriting it's similar. That's why it's important to have a strong opening line. First lines that are interesting and mysterious attract the listener's attention and invite them to listen more. If your first line is boring and uninteresting, your listeners won't be inclined to listen further.

Strong Opening Lines

Here are some examples of songs that have great first lines:

The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin"

"You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips."

Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares"

"It's been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away."

Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"

"You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant."

Janis Ian, "At Seventeen"

"I learned the truth at 17 that love was meant for beauty queens."

Elvis Presley, "Can't Help Falling in Love With You"

"Wise men say only fools rush in."

Barry Manilow, "Somewhere Down The Road"

"We had the right love at the wrong time."

Joshua Kadison, "Beautiful In My Eyes"

"You're my peace of mind in this crazy world."

Bruce Springsteen "Hungry Heart"

"Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack, I went out for a ride and I never went back."

Rachel Proctor "Me and Emily"

"Floorboard's filled with baby toys, an' empty Coke bottles an' coffee cups."

Bread, "The Diary"

"I found her diary underneath a tree and started reading about me."

Writing a Great First Line for a Song

Remember, make your opening line intriguing, match it with a memorable hook/chorus and mix in a catchy melody. Also, avoid long intros and get to the opening line within the first 40 seconds of your song.

Try to listen to some of your favorite songs and pay close attention to the first line. What do you notice? There are certain techniques songwriters use in order to write opening lyrics that catch your attention and pull you in.

1. Open with a question, as in the song "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" by Dionne Warwick.

2. Open with a strong statement: Alison Krauss' song really caught my attention with this first line "Baby, now that I've found you I won't let you go."

3. Open with a time frame, like in Sinead O'Connor's song "Nothing Compares," which begins with the line "It's been seven hours and 15 days since you took your love away."

4. Open with a setting: Cyndi Lauper's song "Time After Time" is a good example of this. Her song begins with the line "Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you."

5. Open with a comparison: "You fill up my senses like a night in the forest" is the first line of John Denver's cleverly-titled hit called "Annie's Song."

6. Open with contrast, as in "You're my peace of mind in this crazy world" from "Beautiful in My Eyes" by Joshua Kadison.

7. Open with a conversation: Some songs start off with a conversation, as in "Excuse me, but can I be you for a while" from "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos. The song "That's What Friends Are For" begins as if in the middle of a conversation: "And I never thought I'd feel this way..."