Arts & Entertainment, Music, Business

Writing Lyrics


Lesson time 09:34 min

As the writer of most of Metallica’s lyrics, James Hetfield has developed a unique method of letting the lyrics follow the music. Learn how to use the voice as a percussive instrument, keep track of ideas, and write lyrics inspired by life.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Write From Your Life · Fill in the Blanks · Let the Song Tell You Where It Wants to Go · Keep It Vague · Writing “Enter Sandman”


[MUSIC - METALLICA - "NOTHING ELSE MATTERS" ] METALLICA: (SINGING) Trust I seek and I find in you, every day for us something new, open mind for a different new, and nothing else matters. - I do most of the lyric writing. And my background around that is really didn't do well in English, did not study literature whatsoever. I was more of the read other people's lyrics and learn like a Leonard Cohen or a Tom Waits or a Nick Cave. [MUSIC PLAYING] As far as subject matter, I've evolved with it. It's evolved with me. I've changed over years and writing about what is important to me. That sweat. In our younger days, it was about showing up, playing music, getting crazy, destroying things, hanging out with people. That was important. And as my life got a little wider and maybe a little more complex, started understanding how I thought about other things, really impactful or scary things, being controlled, you know, "Master of Puppets," a specific song about being controlled and the manipulation of the world, the powers that be, and addiction for sure, master of puppets, that false sense of I'm being controlled. [MUSIC - METALLICA - "MASTER OF PUPPETS" ] (SINGING) Master of puppets, I'm pulling your strings, twisting your mind, smashing your dreams. Blinded by me, you can't see a thing. Just call my name 'cause I'll hear you scream. That was a big theme for me, you know, especially my teenage years is kind of held over. You know, a lot of stuff is from my childhood, you know, still sorting stuff out, you know. They say the first 40 years of your life is you doing stuff, and the-- the last 40 years is you figuring out why you did it or how or how you can not do it or make up for it. So there's a lot of that in my writing as well but just being true to where I am. I know that criticism is difficult for me at times. But if I'm writing from my heart, it really can't be wrong. If you're an artist, and you're doing what you feel is right, it's not wrong. It's just not. [MUSIC PLAYING] My way of writing, it's probably extremely unorthodox. I will basically have spaces. Here's the spaces where I need a consonant or a vowel or whatever it is. Here's where I need a vocal (SINGING) Loss of interest, question, wonder. And then I will search through some of my one-liners. I have lots of stuff just throughout the day, whether it's on a voice memo or notes or actually writing them like off to never-never land, something like that. That will end up in a song at some point possibly or maybe not. So have lots of these one-liners, and then-- and then kind of go to them when I have the cadence like, oh, rhythmically that fits. So I'll plug that in, and then, okay, there's a-- there's a pretty strong statement. Start building around that. [MUSIC PLAYING] There's a point where the song tells me what it's supposed to be instead of me telling it what it's supposed to be. I'll start off w...

About the Instructor

With 28 albums, 8 Grammy Awards, and a home in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Metallica have been creating iconic music together for over 40 years. Now, they’re teaching what it takes to build and sustain success as a group. Get an exclusive look into their process for songwriting, building an album, and performing, and how they took charge of their creative destiny so you can do the same.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


8x Grammy Award–winning rock band Metallica teaches you the keys to communicating, collaborating, and successfully creating as a group.

Explore the Class
Sign Up