The Secret to Better Songwriting in 9 Steps!

That title got your attention, didn’t it? Did your heart skip a beat? Was your level of interest increased? Were you feeling that, possibly, you found a clue how to do this songwriting thing better? Well, we will let you in on the secret; there is no secret. It is a continued process of defining and refining.

There are tips, though. Did you see how the paragraph above sparked your interest? How it made you want to take a deeper look inside? That is what a song needs to do to get the continued attention of the listener.  We have been working with songwriters writing reviews of their songs. As consultants, we are able to step back and take a view of the entire picture, hands on our hips, ears ready to receive, without emotional attachment. One of the main things that continue to show up time and time again is that most of the songs do not grab the immediate attention of the listener. We found long intro’s, to forced lyrics, to boring melodies, to confusing changeups. If we feel a yawn coming on within the first 20 seconds, be sure that your listener will feel the same way.

If we feel a yawn coming on within the first 20 seconds, be sure that your listener will feel thesame way.

With some of the reviews fresh on our minds, here are some tips to writing a better song.

1. The introduction needs to be short, but inviting.

These days, people will not sit through 30 seconds of instrumental music to see what the song is all about. Online, they will move on to another song, or another artist profile. Get into Verse 1 by 10 seconds and start your story quick!

2. The opening lyric line needs to be super strong!

Think about it from the listener standpoint. If you are not emotionally attached to a song and the song starts off with vague lyrics, are you going to want to listen further? They might give you a line or 2, but if something doesn’t reach out and grab their cerebral cortex, they are going to check out.

3. Reveal your chorus by the 1-minute mark, at the latest.

Keep verse 1 short.  Four lyric lines and then enter either a pre-chorus or right into the chorus. Make sure the chorus is different melody line wise than the verse. Do not repeat the same melody line over and over in the verse and chorus. Change it up. The last line of the chorus is where the hook should be. The very last part of the chorus lyric can either be your song title, or something that strongly suggests it. Have the song title somewhere in your song if possible.  Make it memorable.

4. Verse 2 needs to continue the story from Verse 1.

Expand on the thought from verse 1, or maybe tell another side of the story that you told in the first verse. Make sure to keep your lyrics either first person or 3rd person. Switching back and forth will confuse the listener.

5. Get back into the chorus again and keep driving home the main thought, which is the hook.

Make sure it makes sense! Change the intensity, do something different musically. Keep the same melody line, or maybe give it more ummphh. Resist the urge to copy and paste chorus 1 into chorus 2.

6. Here’s where you may want to go into a bridge…

…which would be a new thought and hopefully different music, either break it down with the same chords, or use new chords and melody line. Try to keep the listener guessing. Also, a bridge without any lyric is not called a bridge. It’s called a musical interlude, or a solo section. Be an engine and not a caboose in your songwriting. Drive that train! Don’t be pulled along.

7. Now get back into the chorus again,

or maybe do another short verse with a final lyric thought. Come up with something that makes other songwriters say, “I wish I’d thought of that!”

8. The end of the song is super important.

Always leave the listener wanting more. You can end with a chorus or 2, or maybe one final lyric line that really drives the hook home. Don’t leave the listener wondering what you were trying to say. A confused listener is not the goal of any songwriter.

9. Say what you mean to say.

After writing your lyrics, take a hard, objective look to be sure the entire lyric takes the listener from Point A to B.  Before you come up with a melody line, remove filler words that do not need to be there. Writing the song will flow better if you don’t write lyrics to a melody line. Write the lyrics first, then once they are clean and tight, write your melody line. Use as few words as possible to tell your story. Reduce it to the ridiculous.

Use the above as a guideline.  The tips will help you start and finish a song.  Apply them to one of those songs that are collecting dust on your shelf — Hopefully they will help you take an ordinary song and turn it into extraordinary.

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Keith Mohr and Sue Ross-Mohr of “The Mohr Creative Group” have years of experience serving independent Christian artists, musicians and songwriters. Keith founded www.indieheaven.com in 2002, the leading portal for Christian independent music. Sue Ross-Mohr founded www.theinnervizion.com in 2003, a creative promotions /marketing/ consulting service to individuals and companies worldwide. Check out Keith’s song critique service at: www.nashvillesongpitcher.com

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