How To Craft a Good Song
Okay, let me preface this article by saying a few things.
First of all, I'm not a songwriting "expert" by any means. I'm a songwriter and have been writing music for about 30 years, and have released a few albums and made my share of performance royalties. But I haven't had any "hits." So while I'm not a self-proclaimed expert, I do know a thing or two about crafting a good song. And secondly, you'll notice I said "good." I stopped short of saying "great," because I think there are people who may be more quailifed than I am to help you craft a "great" song. Or at least they claim to. Are you sensing that maybe this is an inexact science? Well, you're right. Meanwhile, I do want to offer some tips that may be especially helpful for you beginning songwriters.
1. Formulas are your friend--We hear so much stuff on the radio, both on terrestrial and satellite, that we call "formulaic." That means someone else used a formula that had previous success and applied it to their own songwriting. What does that mean to you? It means it's always a good idea, particularly in the Nashville/country music realm, to structure your song this way: Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Verse/Chorus Twice
It's not fool-proof but structure gives you an edge. One thing to note, and I'll say this because I live in Nashville and have become mildly familiar with the songwriting community here.....Nashville loves bridges. Make that, Nashville DEMANDS bridges. So always put one in there whether you think it's necessary or not.
2. Melodies rule--It doesn't matter whether you write music first, or whether you write lyrics first. But it's most important that your song has a memorable melody line. Also, I've found that my best work comes to life when I write melodies that don't exactly follow the chord progressions. Those are usually the kind of melodies that stick in your head and make people want to sing along. Another trick you might attempt.....try to write the melody line even before coming up with an accompanying chord progression.
3. Hooks are your friend--I'm going to play the country music card again, because even though I don't listen to it all that much (I live here, and I'm not kidding, but I do respect the songwriters here), it's important to have a good lyrical hook in country music. But that should apply to any kind of music to draw attention. In rock or other types of music, sometimes a musical hook is equally effective. Having both melodic and musical hooks is a treasure, and one you should be glad to nurture if the combination finds you.
4. Don't force anything--I write my best work when I'm not trying. That's not to say that if you're trying to be a professional songwriter that you shouldn't write every day whether the urge hits or not. It's just saying that you should let the song flow out whether or not it it's any good. If it sucks, throw it aside. If it's great, you'll know because you won't want to stop playing it for yourself and everyone you know.
5. Tweaking is your friend--You can keep editing a song right up until and even after you record it, and you should, if it's your song. If you're fully satisfied, more power to you. But if not, take advice of those around you and your own inner voice, and tweak that thing.
6. Co-writing can unlock doors--Co-writing is not just a Nashville thing. Artists are put in rooms with songwriters and producers everywhere to try and create magic. I've found that co-writing opens up my own mind to try new things when creating music, and it also helps open up doors in the industry, because your co-writer has a whole set of folks on his/her side that might hear your work.
That's about it for now.....and should be a good bit of information for the beginner or intermediate writer. Those of you who write all the time may tell me I'm crazy, or may say it's good advice. Either way, I'm confident I've offered some mildly helpful, and hopefully entertaining advice. Now go have some fun making music!