What is Toplining?
Toplining is when a track is already written and a lyricist writes lyrics over the existing track, as well as the melody. This can happen when you are working with a producer and they cannot formulate lyrics over an existing track, or something they have created. They bring in a co-writer than can topline their song.
How do you topline?
First, ask what your track writer is looking for. What mood they are trying to convey. See if they have any idea of what they are looking for. Next take that track and play it in your car or your home and try to free sing. Free singing is when you sing or hum whatever is coming to your mind when you hear an instrumental track.
“I love writing lyrics. How can I get into toplining?”
Meet with different producers or musical individuals. You can meet other producers, instrumentalists, mixing engineers through different groups such as Facebook groups, organizations, or events. See if they have any unfinished songs without lyrics that you can write over. You could even topline your own music by writing a beat first. Try mapping out the entirety of the song, then go back and write over it. If you are not great at producing and creating beats, that is perfectly okay. Just connect with someone who is and write over their song. Producers are great at listening to sounds and putting them together to make something beautiful. Leave that task to people who practice producing and honing in their craft. Leaving it to them means you can spend more time honing in your craft of lyric writing.
Who owns the song?
It should still always be an equal split. It is easier and fairer this way. This should be the case on all of the songs you co-write. If the toplining project is for a commercial, the split depends on what type of contract you signed in regards to the commercial you are writing for. Each contract is different, so just be sure to read the terms you signed to.
Next time you get a project with only the track, try using these tips! Maybe you can create your own tips and keys to the topline. Everyone has their own way, especially lyricists.