Written by Ira Greenfield
This is a follow-up artilce to the one I wrote last month. I have been approached many times by songwriters how to submit their songs and win a songwriting competition. This is what I think that will work best:
1. Catchy Chorus or Hook
Having a catchy melodic chorus or hook that drives home the message always works well in a song. 2007 USA Songwriting Competition top winning song "Where The Music Takes You" by Ari Gold, Joe Hogue "JOJOHO" and Sean Petersen has such an catchy chorus that it not only won the songwriting competition but also hit Top 10 on the Billboard charts. This is a good evidence of a song with a catchy chorus/hook.
2. Good Verse
Writing a good melodic verse starts and keeps the listener involved and wanting to hear more. The 2008 USA Songwriting Competition top winning song "Home" by Jordan Zevon, Jordan Summers & Morty Coyle is an example. The catchy verse keeps the listener curious to listen for the upcoming hook.
3. Short Into or No Intro
Everyone just love long classic intros such as "Stairway To Heaven" and 'Wish You Were Here". However, radio friendly songs today tend to have shorter intros. Also, at a music industry judging level, judges and A&R want to hear the meat of the song. They just do not want to waste any time. The 2007 winning song had no intro, the song starts immediately, no waste of time.
4. Get to Quickly to the Hook
You really need to get to the point quickly. I have been visiting Nashville songwriting scene every year and their rule of thumb is getting to the chorus within 45 seconds for savvy songwriters.
5. Good Lyrics or Storyline
The 2007 runner-up song "The War Was In Color" had such a touching lyric about World War 2 and imagery of the lyrics just jump out from the CD.
6. Unique Idea
Many songs are almost the same. 2008 Winning song in the Folk Category "Snare Drum" by Lucy Wainwright Roche, had lyrics written about someone clapping his hands making "Snare Drums" sounds. Also, there are hit songs that just stand out for being so different: Womanizer and Poker Face. There isn't "I love you, you love me" cliches in songs like these. Using cliches like "You wanna break my heart and now I fall apart" are such cliches in lyric writing that it doesn't show any originality.
7. Good Use of Chord Progression
2008 Top winning song "Home" had Beatles inspired chord progressions with a twist. The 2007 winning song has retro "George Michael/Wham" inspired chords but with a more up to date musical feel as the song goes on.
8. Good Use of Melodic Line
2003 Top winning song "Lighted Up" by Gabriel Mann had a drastic change in the pace of the melodic line that by the time the chorus comes, it stands out and the melodic line slows down in the chorus works well.
9. Short Instrumental interlude in between Verses and Chorus as well as Chorus and Bridge
Long interludes between verses and choruses are frowned upon. There was an entry that was given to me to listen with a 1 minute intro, 1 minute lead guitar interlude between verses and choruses that I had to fast forward. The judges all want you to get to the point quickly, please do not waste their time.
10. Using The Right Instrumentation
If the song is a ballad, vocals and piano or vocals and guitar are sufficient. For a kicking Rock/Alternative song or a Dance/Electronica, a more produced version with bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals may be needed to display the use of the song. However, radio ready or polished production is not necessary. The runner-up of the 1999 Competition "Happy Valentines' Day" by Trina Belamide was recorded simply with just vocals and piano.
For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: