Do you need a beat picked out before you write lyrics or a melody? How can you write songs that will fit into a drum pattern after the fact? In this article, we’ll discuss how beats interact with your lyrics and how to internalize rhythm…even if you haven’t added a beat track to your song yet.
Can You Write A Song Without A Beat?
Yes, you can write a song without a beat—you just need to focus on your internal rhythm. That is, you need to build a strong sense of flow in your head so that the lyrics you write follow a steady (i.e. repeating) rhythm pattern. But how do you develop “flow” in your mind and, therefore, in your lyrics? It’s not that hard or abstract of a concept, actually.
Having flow really just means having a grasp on the concept of poetic meter.
Internal Rhythm, Flow and Poetic Meter
I have a full article just explaining meter, stresses, and how they relate to songwriting. But, in short, your lyrics will “flow” better if you employ a repeated meter scheme to your words and syllables.
A lot of new songwriters don’t even consider the concept because they haven’t studied poetics or prosody. I studied, penned, and published written poetry (especially in the New Formalist school) before I ever started making music so that influenced my perspective. It also means I spent plenty of time analyzing rhyme schemes and metrical feet.
Beats Are Just An External Metrical Guide
Does it feel easier or more natural when you write lyrics while listening to a pre-made beat or a drum loop? It’s probably because that beat forces you to stick with a repeating meter.
Writing lyrics without any music playing means you can easily add too many syllables to a line or write inconsistent stress patterns. Both of those can lead to a song sounding off-beat (i.e. the lyrics not fitting into a drum pattern the way that you want them to).
2 Easy Ways to Fix Un-Metered Lyrics
If you’ve been writing lyrics without music to tether it’s rhythm, then you may experience issues with your song’s flow. I have two easy suggests on how to fix this issue:
- Use a metronome when you write your lyrics, or
- Pick a metrical foot for your song and stick with it (I usually let the first line of lyrics decide the meter for the rest of the song, but you can pick a footing beforehand, too)
Can You Write A Song Without Drums At All?
You don’t need drums or percussion in a song at all if you don’t want to. The flow of your lyrics and the pulse of your accompaniment (guitar, piano, etc.) will carry a rhythm anyway. Several common genres of music forego the use of drums, including:
- Traditional & folk,
- Indie folk and acoustic singer-songwriter,
- chamber folk/pop
Don’t underestimate the power of a drum-less song. It often allows the emotion of the melodic and lyrical content to shine.
Does Music Have To Have A Beat?
No, your music doesn’t really need a beat, a drum pattern, or a standardized tempo. Songs without a drum kit are fairly common and, without the addition of percussion, the importance of keeping tempo is diminished.
There are honestly some styles of music that don’t keep a steady rhythm and it’s normal: namely, folk and classical. In fact, the concept of rhythm to classical musicians is a bit different than how modern (pop/rock/rap) musicians perceive it:
If your song is arranged for just a voice and a simple accompaniment (maybe a piano, maybe a guitar or two) then keeping a consistent tempo is not as important. Natural pauses in the tune, between sections, etc. don’t have to align perfectly with a beat because the beat in those situations is implicit.
Can You Have A Melody Without Beat/Rhythm?
Yes, melody works well without a beat. And, even if you want to add a rhythm section later, it’s not that complicated to quantize a melody. You can easily compose melodies without a beat or metronome.
Your body has a natural propensity for rhythm. Even without an audible pulse (like a drum loop or a metronome) present, your brain will likely gravitate to a rhythm as you play notes.
Beats have their place in music. The drum pattern of a song can make it incredibly catchy because rhythm influences brainwaves. But that doesn’t mean every song you write needs a killer drum loop.
If you want to write songs without beats or drums, spend some extra time on the meter of your lyrics. A solid footing (double entendre intended) for your lyrics will provide implicit rhythm to the song.
Thanks for stopping by. If you found this content helpful, then here are a few more articles about songwriting for your consideration: