Stephen Sondheim Quotes About Songwriting

“When I’m writing a song, I try to be the character.” – Stephen Sondheim

“Two of the hardest words in the language to rhyme are life and love. Of all words!” – Stephen Sondheim

“Lyrics have to be underwritten. That’s why poets generally make poor lyric writers because the language is too rich. You get drowned in it.” – Stephen Sondheim

“One difference between poetry and lyrics is that lyrics sort of fade into the background. They fade on the page and live on the stage when set to music.” – Stephen Sondheim

“Music straightjackets a poem and prevents it from breathing on its own, whereas it liberates a lyric. Poetry doesn’t need music; lyrics do.” – Stephen Sondheim

“So many good songs get written fast, because you know exactly what has to work.” – Stephen Sondheim

“Making lyrics feel natural, sit on music in such a way that you don’t feel the effort of the author, so that they shine and bubble and rise and fall, is very, very hard to do. Whereas you can sit at the piano and just play and feel you’re making art.” – Stephen Sondheim

“The worst thing you can do is censor yourself as the pencil hits the paper. You must not edit until you get it all on paper. If you can put everything down, stream-of-consciousness, you’ll do yourself a service.” – Stephen Sondheim

“I firmly believe lyrics have to breathe and give the audience’s ear a chance to understand what’s going on. Particularly in the theater, where you have costume, story, acting, orchestra.” – Stephen Sondheim

“I was essentially trained by Oscar Hammerstein to think of songs as one-act plays, to move a song from point A to point B dramatically.” – Stephen Sondheim

“The more restrictions you have, the easier anything is to write.” – Stephen Sondheim

“One of the hardest things about writing lyrics is to make the lyrics sit on the music in such a way that you’re not aware there was a writer there.” – Stephen Sondheim

“My idea of heaven is not writing.” – Stephen Sondheim

“Every writer I’ve ever spoken to feels fraudulent in some way or other.” – Stephen Sondheim

“I fell into lyric writing because of music. I backed into it.” – Stephen Sondheim

“Every single song I’ve ever written is sung by a character created by somebody else. Some might have a jaundiced view of love, some don’t. But none of these songs is me singing – not a single one.” – Stephen Sondheim

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