songwriting tips

Here are some tips for great songwriting that we have learned along the way, and what we use to base our song evaluations on:

Title
A good title invites you to listen to a song much like a good cover makes you want to read a book. Is the title catchy, or unique and does it make me want to listen to the song?
Repeating the title within the song helps the listener identify the song. Is the title repeated with the song?

Lyrics
Do the lyrics do a good job of telling the story or painting the picture?
A good hook or chorus sticks in the mind of the listener and makes the song memorable. Does the song have a good hook or chorus?
Is the story focused? Don’t try to present too many ideas in one song. Keep the listener on track with one thought or main idea. Save your other thoughts for another song.
Is the rhyming structure good and not forced. Put the rhyming dictionary down and pick out words that tell the story. Drawing out an emotion or creating a visual image is more important than rhyming “sky” with “why”.

Theme
Does the theme or content relate to most people? Write about things that are common to the human condition: love, laughter, sadness, loss, friends, money, work: things we can all identify with.

Structure
Does the song structure fall in to one of the most commonly used formats? Some commonly used formats are:

  • verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus
  • verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, chorus
  • verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus

Is the key appropriate, and is the tempo appropriate?
Key and tempo are the two critical considerations when recording a song. Choosing the wrong key or tempo can take a great song and make it unlistenable.
Is the overall length appropriate? Unless it’s a club/dance mix, four minutes should be enough time to tell your story.

Melody
Is the melody interesting?
Is the vocal range accessible without too many jumps or awkward moves? People like to sing along with their favorite songs. Keep the melody simple. The best melodies are keep within one octave.

Style
Does the music match the style of the lyrics and vice versa?
Is the song too predictable? Try to create points of interest for the listener.
Is the chord structure appropriate? Many hits songs have been written with three chords or less. Don’t try to impress people with your knowledge of music theory.
Is the song too cliche?

Emotion
Does the song generate an emotional response from the listener? Love, hate, joy, sadness – make the listener feel something.
Does the song make you want to listen to it again? Write something that makes the listener want to hit the “repeat” button!
Does the song peak and resolve? The musical term is called “tension and release”.