Strong Opening Lines for Songs

Writing Your Songs First Line

Hispanic man composing music on guitar
DreamPictures / Getty Images

Well, so far I have compared songwriting to storytelling, fishing and selling a product. Here's another comparison; 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 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 attracts the listener's attention and invites them to listen more. If your first line is boring and uninteresting chances are your listeners won't be inclined to listen further.

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

  • "You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips" (from "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" by The Righteous Brothers)
  • "It's been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away" (from "Nothing Compares" by Sinead O'Connor)
  • "You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant" (from "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie)
  • "I learned the truth at seventeen that love was meant for beauty queens" (from "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian)
  • "Wisemen say only fools rush in" (from "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" by Elvis Presley)
  • "We had the right love at the wrong time" (from "Somewhere Down The Road" by Barry Manilow)
  • "You're my peace of mind in this crazy world" (from "Beautiful In My Eyes" by Joshua Kadison)
  • "Got a wife and kids in Baltimore Jack I went out for a ride and I never went back" (from "Hungry Heart" by Bruce Springsteen)
  • "Floorboard's filled with baby toys, an' empty Coke bottles an' coffee cups" (from "Me and Emily" by Rachel Proctor)
  • "I found her diary underneath a tree and started reading about me" (from "The Diary" by Bread)

    Remember, make your opening line intriguing, match it with a memorable hook/chorus and mix in a catchy melody. Also, avoid long intros, 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 its first line. What do you notice? There are certain techniques songwriters use in order to write opening lyrics that catches your attention and pulls you in, these include:

    1. Opening with a question - As in the song "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" by Dionne Warwick.

    2. Opening 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. Opening with a time frame - Like in Sinead O'Connor's song "Nothing Compares" which begins with the line "It's been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took your love away."

    4. Opening 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. Opening 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. Opening with a contrast - As in "You're my peace of mind in this crazy world" from "Beautiful In My Eyes" by Joshua Kadison.

    7. Opening with a conversation - Some songs start off with a conversation as in "Excuse me but can I be you for awhile" 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..."