I have been asked so many times how do you write a good song. Here are five main ways you can use to your advantage:
1. Song Structure
We have received many songs at the USA Songwriting Competition. Many songs received are free-formed and hard to follow. Every good song has a good structure such as AABA or Verse/Refrain. Structure such as: verse leads to the chorus back to the verse and then chorus, bridge and lastly chorus is probably the most popular. Let’s stick to what works and then break the rules once you are good at it.
2. Compose Good Lyrics
I like songs with a good story or lyrics that actually say something. Avoid cliches such as “I’ll never break your heart, I’ll never tear you apart”, words like that has been done before and you want to say it in a different angle. Write lyrics that would bring imagery to the listener as well as a hook to it. You want a theme to begin with it. A good idea is “Unbreak My Heart”, this shows great sense of craft and artistry even in the title itself. In this case, the writer “created” a word “Unbreak”. If it was “Don’t Break My Heart”, it would have been quite ordinary and would not have the same effect.
3. Compose Good Melodies
Many songs we received sound more improvisational than actual composition. You have to sit down to sculpt out a melody for the verse and a melody or hook for the chorus. You want to make the melody chorus sound memorable and sound a little different from the verse. Good melodies are found in the current hit “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. The bang on chorus is catchy and well thought out.
4. Developing good chord structure and background music.
You need a good chord progression to go with your melody. It doesn’t matter which come first and it doesn’t matter if you collaborate with someone who is a keyboardist, guitarist or producer who writes a great chord progression or produces a music “bed” for you to write your melody. There is no secret many hit songwriters/artists do it this way: Jason Derülo, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey have all written songs this way by going over a piece of background music.
5. Artistry And Intangibles
This is probably the hardest to come by. Iconic songs such as “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eye Peas, “Poker Face” by Lady Ga Ga, “Californication” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, “Believe” by Cher, “Angie” by Rolling Stones, “My Way” by Paul Anka are examples of songs that have been composed and re-composed over many times before the song can be recorded. Love them or hate them, there is a sense of artistry in each an every one of these songs. I would suggest focus on what you are good at: If you are good at say writing music but not so good at writing lyrics, I would suggest hooking up with a lyricist, someone who can write good lyrics.
Ira Greenfield works in business development at USA Songwriting Competition. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: http://www.songwriting.net.