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Tips to Writing a Good Song : Keep the Music Simple

Updated on September 23, 2011

There are many self made musicians on youtube and myspace with tons of talent. Do you ever wonder how you could be like them? What makes some songs better than others? How do you make people want to sing your songs over and over again?

Anyone can write songs, but it does take some skill to make a song a hit. In this hub, I will offer one important tip to write good songs -

Keep the Music Simple

Some of the best songs have the same chord progression or melody or structure repeated over and over and over again. Pop songs tend to be more successful when they are kept simple. This does NOT mean that the song is BORING. Boring songs do not take the listener anywhere emotionally, and they do not inspire people to listen to them after one listen.

Simple tunes can often be very beautiful. Simple tunes can also be very interesting.
Don’t be surprised, but simple tunes often come naturally to us, as harmony and beauty in music is something that is an innate quality for most of us. For example, nursery rhymes and most children's songs are very easy to learn, and they hardly have any dissonance or weird intervals. When we write songs, we should not be afraid to begin with a simple tune.

HOWEVER, while composing a simple tune might come very easily, turning your tune into a song that flows requires time, a discerning ear and keen musicianship. In fact, while some songs may hit us in a moment of inspiration, many songs require time and effort to prune and ferment.

So how exactly can this idea of a simple song be executed with class? Here are some ideas.

For a start, you can layer your melody over a chord progression that is a little unique. Sometimes, writing a C2 instead of a C chord can make the song sound more interesting, as the color of the song changes.

Alternatively, you can dress up a simple tune could be layering different harmonies on top or underneath it. Often singers tend to harmonize naturally by singing a third below or above the melody. Sometimes, a clashing note at the end of the phrase that resolves will make the tune sound more sophisticated or jazzy, and this is a very effective strategy that can do wonders for your song.

One favorite method is to vary a tune’s rhythm while preserving the notes each time it is sung. For example, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘Happy Birthday to you’ are two songs with the same rhythm but different tunes. Dong this tastefully keeps the feel refreshing, and keeps your listeners’ ears perked up, as they will be listening out for little musical surprises.

Sometimes, you can vary the mood of your verse, bridge and the chorus. Moods can be varied by using various chord progressions, or rhythms or changing the instrumentation... eg. major vs minor, fast vs slow, high register vs low register... transposing to different keys..

Yet another important strategy is to write stellar lyrics that will shine through a simple melody (instead of being overpowered by a melody that draws attention to itself). Simple often means effective, and this allows people to reflect on the lyrics, while they enjoy singing the tune. Songs that have complicated tunes are often hard to master, and this is discouraging for people when they are trying to learn your song. This is especially for songs that are telling stories, or for songs like religious songs - where lyrics and words are of high importance.

Have fun with these tips! And feel free to experiment, and combine these tips too. Writing music is a process that you should enjoy. Perhaps you might have some tips of your own too! Please share them with others in the comment boxes below!


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    • StellaSee profile image

      StellaSee 5 years ago from California

      Oh wow..when I first began reading this, I thought it would be more of an article on 'songwriting' and less music theory stuff. I still need to take a class in it! About good lyrics, recently I saw on TV advice on how to write a good love song and they gave three tips.

      1. keep the lyrics simple - don't make it too personal because then people might have a harder time relating to it.

      2. have contrast - have a quiet start and then crescendo to the chorus part

      3. show not tell - instead of saying 'I broke up with her and I'm sad' say something like 'my heart ached as tears rolled down my cheek'

      I think I went a little off topic but anyways! I enjoyed reading this article~ thanks for sharing your tips!

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      Great tips on how to jump start a song composition. I have to agree that songs do not have to be so complicated. Although I love songs that are governed my intricate chord progession such as those you hear from progressive rock bands like Dream Theater. But if you really want your song to become a sure hit, you always have to employ "easy listening". Like putting yourself on the listeners shoes. Thinking about what tunes would they love to hear and start working from there. I love how you emphasized on keeping up by making "stellar" lyrics. I guess words collate the entire beauty of the song.

      Voted up for this very well written hub. :D

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Good advice on Writing a Song! These tips should help anyone who wants to compose. Simple, but yet very effective. I like these suggestions. Thanks Charlotte. Voting Up!