I've been listening to a lot of musical theater lately, and have become curious about the process of writing songs where different people are the composer/lyricist (for example, Rogers and Hammerstein, Webber and Rice, Menken and Ashman, etc). This also occurs outside of musical theater, but it's what I'm most interested in.

I want to ask a question in the vein of:

What is the typical process of writing songs (particularly for musial theater) where one person/team writes the lyrics and a different person/team writes the melody? Do either the lyrics or melody get written fully first and then sent to the other? Does the composer write the basics of the lyrics and then give them to the lyricist for fleshing out--or vice versa? Is it a full collaboration the entire time?

Ex: Rogers and Hammerstein, Webber and Rice, Menken and Ashman

I'm asking because the lyrics and melody of most musical theater songs seem extremely intertwined, and I have no idea how one would be written before the other--but on the other hand, constant collaboration seems like it would really slow down the process. So: how does this work?

I'm posting on meta because I'm not sure a) if this question is on topic for this site, and b) even if it's on topic, if it's too broad. If it is too broad, is there a way I could narrow it down--maybe by restricting it to a single composer/lyricist pair? Would it still be on topic for this site then?

Thanks much!


A problem with your proposed question is that everyone uses a different process. In fact, the same lyricist might use a completely different process when working with different composers.

There is one related question that IMHO is on-topic and answerable:

How can a set of lyrics lead to a melody line or a melody line lead to a set of lyrics?

There are hallmarks of lyric and melody that go together and so a good answer to that question would be an explanation how each element leads naturally to the other.

I think the question of whether collaboration slows things down or not is missing the point of collaboration. It's not about speed, it's about making a work of art that could not be made at all or could not be made as well by one person alone. Collaboration doesn't make things faster or slower, it makes them possible.

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