Songwriting Tips, News & More

Three Tips for Writing Better Song Intros

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 08, 2017 @08:00 AM

Three Tips for Writing Better Song Intros

by Cliff Goldmacher


In an era of significantly shorter attention spans and increasingly distracted listeners, you, as songwriters, have an even greater responsibility to grab your audience as quickly as possible. The first and best place to do this is in your song’s intro. This can be done partly in your songwriting and partly in the production of the song demo. By writing better song intros, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting your listeners into your song right away.

1. Keep your intro short and to the point
I’ll start this article with a story. I was backstage at a music conference a few years ago listening to two panelists chatting before going on stage to do a song critiquing session. One of the panelists was a seasoned conference veteran and the other was relatively new to the game. The new panelist was asking the older panelist what he should do as he’d never done a critiquing session before. In response, the older, more experienced panelist said “If you can’t think of anything to say, tell them to cut their intros in half.” In other words, it’s a common mistake to make your song’s intro longer than it needs to be. I get it. As writers, we love the idea of setting the scene and creating a mood before we get to the verse but, unfortunately, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. Perhaps your mom will listen – and enjoy – a long, winding introduction to your song but unless your mom also happens to run a record label, it’s probably a better idea to keep your intro short. It’s our job to make every note count and the best way to do this is to use only as much runway as is absolutely essential to set the scene.

2. Use a catchy instrumental hook/riff
Think of the intro to Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” You know immediately what the song is from the first notes of the opening riff. There’s no reason you shouldn’t consider a similar approach in your own songs. A catchy intro riff is the perfect way to no only grab your listener’s attention but make your song is memorable so that it can be recognized almost instantly when it begins to play. The “hookier” you can make your songs the better and an intro riff is exactly the right way to go about it. A common device is to replay that intro riff at various points throughout the song like after each chorus and in the outro as well. The trick here is to make sure that while the riff is catchy, it’s not too repetitive. One way to avoid this is by modifying the intro riff by a note or two when it comes back around so that it’s recognizable while not overdoing it. Another way to avoid needless repetition is to leave out the riff in the body of your verses and choruses.

Creating a memorable intro lick is as difficult as writing a great melody or a meaningful lyric. A few was to help yourself along might be to start the song with a great groove or feel and to mine your chorus melody for direction. Anything you can do to get the various parts of your song to relate will make the overall cohesion of your song that much better. Finally, intro riffs sit in that murky area between songwriting and production where they’re not melody and lyric but they are an integral part of your song’s identity. That being said, it’s well worth your while to keep them in mind when demoing your songs.

3. Use dynamics
The hallmark of a polished and professional song demo is not only the great recording quality and performances of the musicians and vocalist but the dynamics. In other words, the way a song expands and contracts with volume and intensity does wonders when it comes to getting – and keeping – a listener’s attention. Often, coming out of the gate with a big, splashy intro is a great way to catch your listener’s ear but it’s also the subsequent dip of volume into the verse that serves to highlight just how dramatic/memorable the intro actually was. Secondly, carefully consider which instrument you’re going to use to convey your intro riff/hook. Sometimes the song calls for a bolder statement of theme like from an electric guitar while at other times it can be more a more subtle piano figure. Depending on the song, it can also be extremely effective to have multiple lead instruments play the hook/intro lick in unison for a more “orchestrated” feel. As I mentioned earlier, keep in mind that when it comes time to play in the verses and even the choruses, it’s better to let the melody of the song (i.e. what the singer is singing) take precedence and the lead instruments should take a back seat.

When it comes to your song intro, you only have a precious few seconds to make an immediate and lasting impression on your listeners. This is important not only for pitching your song to the music industry decision makers but also for anyone who you’re hoping will respond well to your song. Keep your intros short and impactful and you’ll have gone a long way towards achieving your goal.

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site,, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to:


Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Song Intro, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs

Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 01, 2017 @08:00 AM

Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success
by Karen Randle

It doesn’t much matter where you are in your songwriting at the moment. You can be a well-established songwriting pro with cuts with various major artists who knows his revenues ought to be higher. Or you can be a beginner songwriter coming out of the gate and trying to make your way…as long as you have your thinking straight and are serious about your songwriting, you can achieve greater success.

However, there are three “uncomfortable truths” about why most independent songwriters never will.


Truth #1: The most successful songwriters tend to get paid more for who they are than what they do.

Max Martin keeps placing songs with the biggest music artists of today, more any any other active songwriter today. Why? Max Martin has written and co-written 22 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits (most of which he has also produced or co-produced). Max Martin is the songwriter with third most number one singles on the chart, behind only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). As a producer he holds the record for second-most number one singles on the chart with 20 behind only George Martin (23). Additionally, five of these songs he wrote or co-wrote made their debut on the chart at number-one. Number one debuts songs include "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake and "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

You are not entitled to a high income. Just because you have your law degree…your doctor degree…your certification in whatever… and 25 years of experience…etc. This does not mean you will automatically get paid more.

Think about athletes. NBA player Derrick Rose who plays for the Chicago Bulls is one of the highest paid athletes—even though he has been riddled with injuries most of his career. Tim Tebow, whose NFL career never put him in the same category of the best athletes in the game, made millions in endorsements. Why? Simply for being “Tim Tebow.”

So building up who you are is vastly more important than what you do or your competency level.

Truth #2: No attempt in improving oneself - Writing songs on your own, never attempting to collaborate with other songwriters or producers. It’s in working on your SONGWRITING.

All the finalists in the Pop and Country categories in the 2016 USA Songwriting Competition are collaborations, written by 2 or more songwriters. This trend seems to be the same on most of the songs the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

Elton John collaborates with longtime lyricist and friend Bernie Taupin on most of his greatest hit songs. Elton recognizes that his strength lies in writing music, particularly melodic lines. And Bernie focuses on his strength - writing lyrics. Songwriters can learn from the pros: If you are great in writing music but bad in writing lyrics, it doesn't mean that you are toast at all. You can collaborate with a lyricist or a songwriter who is excellent in writing lyrics.

Truth #3: An old one: The definition of INSANITY is: doing the same things the same way over and over again while hoping for different results.

Albert Einstein is broadly credited with saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Many songwriters tend to do that. Example: they use the same chord progression and same rhyming clichés and wonder why their songwriting never seem to improve.
You need to be willing to look for and accept a different approach—even a different concept of yourself and your music, musicianship or songwriting. That different approach may include a fundamental change in the way you think of yourself, your role, your songwriting, your music artistry, and the way you present yourself to the music industry or audience.

Some of it might feel uncomfortable. It certainly will be different from what you see others in your same profession/music/category doing.

At the risk of being obvious, one way you fundamentally improve your songs is by collaborations. But most songwriters invest all their energy in only one means of increasing their value: “writing their songs all by oneself” better.

This is akin to trying to lose weight, keep it off, and be healthier only by reducing the quantity of calories, carbs and fat you eat—with no changes in physical movement, exercise, food choices, nutrition, nutritional supplementation and mental attitude management.  Yes, you can lose some weight by doing just one thing to further and further extremes, but as any dieter will attest, you hit a wall when no more pounds can be lost even if you eat nothing but a leaf of lettuce with a squirt of lemon for dinner every night.

Sorry, but getting better and better and better at your “thing” will slam you into an income barrier and will NEVER lift you over that wall.

You need to increase your value to your audience/music industry in multiple ways in order to improve your songwriting or music artistry.

If you want to leap-frog to a much higher success, then you must master improvement of yourself, use a more sophisticated approach to your songwriting and your music artistry and focus on learning the strategies that are proven to catapult to your music success.

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to:


Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, pitching songs, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Justin Timberlake