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How-To Guide for Writing Trans-lyrics

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How-To Guide for Writing Trans-lyrics Empty How-To Guide for Writing Trans-lyrics

Post by sonic-nancy-fan Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:10 am

*I had no idea where to post this and Aerlith suggested that I post it here. If any other moderator/administrator can think of a better place to put it, feel free to move it.*

How-to Guide for Writing Trans-lyrics

This will be a how-to guide for how I write trans-lyrics and some tips I have learned after a lot of practice and effort. I do not claim to be a good trans-lyricist; I have just noticed that there are many people who want to learn how to write trans-lyrics or write some for a song yet have no guidance. Whenever I first started, I searched for some 'tips of the trade' but could not find any. I have experienced the struggle of learning how to write decent trans-lyrics first hand so I will try to give some guidance, guidelines, tips, and overall help. If anyone has any questions or thinks I should add something, feel free to comment or contact me in some way.

Choosing a Song:

  • Can you find the lyrics to the song?

If you do not natively speak the language of the song, then not having lyrics will be problematic. You have to find some form of the lyrics, the original lyrics, Romanized, or and English/other translation. Without any lyrics you cannot translate a song unless you get someone who knows the language of the song to tell you what it means or write the lyrics down. Chances are that you do not have access to someone like that so make sure you can find the lyrics to the song.
You found a song that you want to translate and found the original lyrics for but no translation
There are three possible things you can do:

1.       Ask around for people to translate it and hope someone does.
Sadly, finding people who will do this is very difficult and does not happen often.
2.       Use multiple translating websites and programs to try to get the basic idea of the song and write lyrics based off of the meaning of the song.
Face it; machine translations are significantly less accurate. You may be able to get the basic meaning of the song but for more symbolic songs, the symbolism will most likely be lost since it will not be a word-for-word translation. Avoid doing this as much as possible.
3.       Do not do the song.
Sometimes not translating the song is better than writing lyrics that misrepresent the song.
Tips and things to consider when choosing a song:

  •  Find multiple translations. A translation is an interpretation, so comparing multiple interpretations will allow you to understand different views of the song’s meaning. This should make your lyrics more accurate to the song.
  • Find a Romanized version. While this is not necessarily needed, I would recommend it. Listening to a song and trying to match the syllables is difficult without having the Romanized lyrics. Having them will make it a lot easier and more accurate.
  • Choose a song that does not have a lot of play-on-words or extreme symbolism. There is no way that trans-lyrics can accurately capture the meaning of songs like that, in my opinion.
  • Does the song have an off vocal? This is something to consider if you are planning on covering your lyrics or hoping someone else will cover them. Most likely, people will not cover your lyrics if there is not an off vocal.

How I Write Trans-lyrics:

  • What process do you go through?

I will have to describe the format of my computer screen first.
Left side of screen
*Tab 1 = The song alone or with English subs
Tab 2 = Another translation
Tab 3 = Romanized lyrics with parts if multiple people are singing unless the video has Romanized parts
Tab 4 = or some equivalent
Tab 5 = or some equivalent if I feel it is necessary

*(If necessary) Middle of screen
-MP3 of the song if no video is available

Right side of screen
-Word document

*I would show a picture but I do not want to call anyone out or promote anything*
I know that this is fairly vague so if anyone would like more of an explanation then please ask.
Actually Writing the Lyrics:
Now for the fun part, writing the lyrics. As much as I know you will want to just go for it and start immediately, there are a few things to consider:

  • Trans-lyrics are your interpretation. There are rarely completely accurate translations out there. DO NOT USE THIS AS AN EXCUSE TO STRAY FROM THE MEANING OF THE SONG. You did not make the song, somebody else did. It would be doing the creator of the song an injustice to just write the lyrics how you feel and not at least try to grasp some of the meaning of the song

             o   Here is where the multiple translations come in handy. Trans-lyrics are an interpretation and translations are as well. Everyone interprets things differently. Seeing different views will allow you to get a better grasp of the song. Plus, having more material to work with makes writing lyrics easier.

  • Is the song created for an anime/game/thing or is it just a song that was chosen for the thing?

          o If the song was written for an anime/thing, look up information about the thing. If it is a song for a giant robot anime and they mention robots in the song, do not write it off as a bad translation. Odd things in lyrics may simply be referencing other things. Take into consideration the plot of the thing the song is coming from.
         o This also opens up the thought of ‘creative freedom’. If it is a character song, make sure you know the character. That way, you can insert parts of their character into the song and spice it up a bit. If it is a character that lies a lot, make their lines sound halfhearted. If the character is bubbly, make there be a happy undertone to the lines.

  • Check for background information regarding the meaning of the song. I have found interviews with creators of songs that explain some of the meanings behind their songs. Do your research first. You can incorporate things mentioned by the creators into the lyrics as well if you want to.

The actual writing of lyrics boils down to personal style. After writing some lyrics, you will eventually develop your own patterns, trends, and different things you like to do and would like to incorporate in your lyrics.
The biggest questions that I think that trans-lyrics writers ask themselves:

Do my lyrics have to rhyme?

Remember when I said that trans-lyrics are your interpretation? That includes rhyming. In my personal opinion, it is best to rhyme if it is English trans-lyrics. Most English songs rhyme so English speakers are used to things rhyming and tend to like how that sounds. If you are writing trans-lyrics in another language, then I would judge it based off of if it is common for songs to rhyme in that language. EX: Japanese songs tend to sound like they rhyme due to a lot of words ending in similar sounds, so not rhyming when writing the trans-lyrics can sound awkward.

A couple of tips:

  • Focusing on rhyming can cause the lyrics to stray from their meaning. By focusing heavily on rhyming, you run the risk of altering the meaning of the lines more than you would probably like. I know that I am guilty of this and most trans-lyricists have probably done this at least once. Be careful to not stray too far from the lyrics just so you can rhyme.

  • Try looking at some songs that rhyme. Notice how it is not just every two lines that rhyme or every other line that rhyme. Parts from one verse may rhyme with parts from another verse. By splitting up the rhymes into two different sections of the song, you can still maintain the meaning of the song and it adds more depth to your lyrics. People may not immediately notice the rhyme, but when they do, they will be pleasantly surprised.           

             o   Consider rhyming in the middle of lines as well. Sometimes it is easier, and sounds better, to rhyme in the middle of the line than it does the ending.
Do I have to match the syllables?
Again, the lyrics are you interpretation. To me, matching the syllables is more important than rhyming. By matching the syllables, the lyrics will be easier to sing for others, especially if you do not cover the lyrics yourself.
Some things to consider about syllables:

  • Remember when I said that you should find the Romanized lyrics? This is where that will help. It is easier to match syllables when you can actually see what the lyrics are instead of just hearing them.

  • Sometimes singers hold out notes or a syllable is said twice. In instances like these, it is up to you to decide what you want to do. Do you want to add another syllable to make up for the held note or syllable? Or leave the syllable number the same? Personally, I tend to just do whatever feels right at the moment.

Lyric Format
When actually writing the lyrics, you will know how they are supposed to sound but it may be harder for other people to figure it out unless you sing your lyrics.
A couple of things to help others know how to sing your lyrics:

  •  Paragraph your lyrics. Split up your lines into parts where the singer stops singing. Having one long line of lyrics is really hard to sing.If people are looking to sing your lyrics, I doubt they are going to be picky if you typed it in block format or had a sentence into two lines if it helps them know how to sing it.
  •  Add unnecessary commas. Put commas in long lines to separate where the singer takes a slight pause. This will help to split up your lyrics and make them easier to sing.

Other Things to Note
Learning how to write lyrics that sound good takes a lot of practice, but there are some things that are good to know.
Here are some tips:

  •  Make the lyrics sound like they would actually be said. By that I mean avoid writing lyrics that sound like poetic verses if the lyrics are for a pop song. If it is a poetic, symbolic song, sure, the lines may not form a cohesive whole and be separate. However, if it is a song about a break up or loving someone, the lyrics should probably be written like someone would casually say them.
  •  If you stare at your lyrics for a long time trying to convince yourself that they sound good, they probably do not.

              o   Do not be afraid to take a break. The ‘creative juices’ will come back. If you feel stuck, leave the song alone for a while and do something else. (Like starting on a new song like I do.XD)
Remember, writing trans-lyrics is completely your interpretation. There is no true right or wrong way to write trans-lyrics. I just gave some tips and described how I write lyrics. Do not feel obligated to follow any of this.


Writing good trans-lyrics is not easy and will not happen very fast. It is a learning process. Practice does not make perfect, but it certainly helps. Keep trying and you will eventually write something that you deem good.
I believe that is it. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask. I will answer and add it into the guide.

Thanks to Black Rage Infinity for letting me use parts of his guidelines.

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