I will go into some more basics, nuts and bolts of chord sequences and lyrics, etc. in a later post but here I wanted to give you a few quick pointers as I assume most of you are already writing songs.
The 7 Second Rule
Your introduction must be the strongest part of your song. Typically if a listener hasn’t been grabbed within 7 seconds they will click onto something else. Vocals are a great way to grab people. Having your vocal start in the first 5 seconds is best. Often a version of the chorus (it is the catchiest part of your song isn’t it?) is a good start.
And if you can make the opening line of your lyric grab their attention, maybe get them curious, they may listen longer.
Some songs are full of hooks –those ear worm melodies that you just can’t stop singing. A great song often has 3 or 4. There may be a guitar riff that you can’t stop singing between verses. Then there’s that chorus melody – so catchy; plus of course that great chant in the backing vocals. And then that keyboard melody that happens between each line in the verse.
If your song title would look good on a t-shirt, it’s probably a good one. If not, consider changing it to something which will stand out when someone you send it to reads it. You want to encourage them to listen so yours rather than someone else’s so get their attention.
Title in 60 Seconds
Get to the title in less than 60 seconds. Make it stand out and repeat it as much as possible. If you actually managed to get someone to hear your song you don’t want them getting to the end not knowing what it’s called when they want to buy it/tell their friends about it.
2 Minute Wall
If a listener gets to the 2 minute point of your song and it’s just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, oh look here’s another verse, they are likely to get distracted and click onto something else. Make sure that before you hit the 2 minute point, something changes; a solo, a middle 8, a breakdown – something to vary the repetitiveness. Naturally after this new section you can return to your verse or chorus. But without the variety the listener may never get there.
If someone is enjoying your song and it suddenly stops, they are more likely to click re-play than if it fades giving them time to disengage. Especially if you stop it mid chorus so they’re waiting for the end of the chorus. The ear automatically wants the resolution so they will play it again to get it.
Of course some of you will say that all of this is sacrilege; that your music is art and art can’t be bent to fit such arbitrary “marketing “ rules. Only you can make that decision. And not all things are appropriate to all styles and all songs , but if it makes the difference between you playing to your dog or to Shea Stadium could it possibly be worth the compromise? It’s all worth nothing if people never hear it.