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I am compiling a list of songs by a certain singer-songwriter.

I am trying to choose the proper words for the headings of two major list’s sections:

  1. Songs that are written entirely by this author, both lyrics and music.

  2. Songs where the author has set music to another authors’ poetry.

I need help to put these draft wordings in order, making them short, clear and correct (both stylistically and grammatically). One of my attempts was like this: Songs on his own lyrics / Songs on other authors’ lyrics, but it seems quite awkward to me.

For example, I don’t know which word is right: other authors’, other writers’, other people’ or something else? Likewise, I get confused between lyrics, poems, poetry, words, works and similar words.

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  • You might say, "Original Works" for the category where he's written both music and lyrics. And "Musical Adaptations" for where he's set other people's works to music.
    – Jim
    Aug 19, 2012 at 23:38
  • @j6910 Jim's comment about "Adaptations" is wrong. The correct musical term meaning "Adaptation" is "Arrangement," but that means "altering the music," not "using somebody else's words as lyrics". The answers giving "Music by" and "Lyrics by", or "Composer" and "Lyricist", are correct. If the composer changed words that were written by somebody else, you could say "Lyrics adapted from [name of the original poem] by [name of the original poet]", or "Lyrics based on ....".
    – alephzero
    Sep 4, 2015 at 23:36
  • I don't think there's a standard term for songs with music and lyrics by different people. You could use the heading "Music and lyrics" and "Music only"/"With other lyricist". You don't need to include possessives/apostrophes in a heading, and it's often neater to omit them.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 19, 2023 at 12:33

2 Answers 2

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On a song-by-song basis, this format is often used1:

Lyrics by Dean Eikmann, Music by Dorothy Page

or, if one person composed both:

Music & Lyrics by Theresa Jones

So, if your singer/songwriter is Dave Brown, you could use:

Music & Lyrics by Dave Brown

as the first heading, and

Music by Dave Brown

as the other. You could also add a third heading:

Performed by Dave Brown

in the case where he may have performed songs that were written and composed by others.


1Examples of this format can be found here and here. Moreover, this page list several songs in both formats, along with songs that were performed by another artist, such as: "The Way We Were" Lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman, Music by Marvin Hamlisch, performed by Barbra Streisand.

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The author of music (the musical notes) is called a composer, whether or not there are words that accompany the music.

As noted in the comment by Jim below, the author of the lyrics (the words/poetry) is called a lyricist.

Someone who does both is often referred to as composer/lyricist or composer and lyricist.

Another form often used is words and music by X.

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  • I think a composer is anyone who's written music, regardless of whether they've also written the lyrics or not.
    – Jim
    Aug 20, 2012 at 1:12
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    @Jim Agree, but to answer his Q, that is a composer. That is not ALL a composer is.
    – bib
    Aug 20, 2012 at 1:20
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    If I am reading the question correctly OP wants to have two sections, One for songs where only the music was composed by the person and the other for songs where both the music and lyrics were written. OP needs headings for those two sections. I suppose they could be headed as "Composer" and "Composer and Lyricist"
    – Jim
    Aug 20, 2012 at 1:42
  • If the poem pre-existed the musical composition, and had nothing to do with it originally, lyricist wouldn't be right. We wouldn't call William Blake the lyricist if his The Tyger were set to music by a modern composer.
    – TimR
    Dec 18, 2023 at 22:00

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