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Advice > Articles > What Makes A Good Song Good?

What Makes A Good Song Good?

If you are a songwriter (solo artist, band, and even producer), your compositions are one of your greatest assets. In her book Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Robin Frederick says, “Any song that expresses your feelings in a way that's honest and moving FOR YOU is a good song—even if no one else thinks so. But any song that expresses your thoughts and feelings in a way that reaches other people and helps them feel something deeper and/or understand something better, is a really good song—and one that may even have commercial potential.”  While there’s more than one way to skin a cat and no guarantees of success, you should consider a few more thoughts inspired by this highly recommended book: 

 

  • Title: Many great songs start with great titles. A great title defines the message of the song, is used as the hook of the song, and is typically the line that everyone remembers. Great titles have emotional energy and use action words and strong imagery.
  • Lyric: A great lyric is often born from a great title and answers the scenario (who, what, where, and when) it suggests. It uses words, phrases, or images that both relate to and contrast with the title. While lyrics are often very personal for the artist, they are best when they are also very meaningful and relatable for the listener.
  • Melody: Great melodies are memorable, emotionally powerful, and balance repetition and variation. A melody with no repetition sounds unfocused and weak, as if it's wandering around with nowhere to go, which will cause listeners quickly lose interest and tune out. However, a melody with too much repetition is simply boring. Good melodies walk the line and mix repeated phrases with variation. 
  • Structure: The most common contemporary song structure is verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. Listeners like this song form because it provides enough repetition to feel familiar and enough variety to keep them interested. It also gives you, the songwriter, the chance to add emotional dynamics to your song. Many of today's  best songs feature a conversational, intimate verse followed by a big, powerhouse chorus with plenty of emotional punch.
  • Style: Great songs that are stylistically interesting and fresh tend to push the boundaries of innovation—not in a way that loses society, but in a way that keeps people fulfilled and interested, and in the best case scenario, expresses the musical vision and integrity of the artist. Music is always changing, and no one really knows where it is going next, but one thing’s for sure—it’s going!

 

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Keep in mind that the above insert does not suggest that your goal should be to write hit songs for the masses only, but rather to show you that writing music in general—whether in the form of songs, instrumental tracks, jingles, or beats—is a definite craft that requires training and practice. For further resources, be sure to check out Jason Blume’s This Business of Songwriting, John Braheny’s The Business and Craft of Songwriting, and Jimmy Kachulis’s The Songwriter’s Workshop.]



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