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Why It Is Important To Keep Your Songwriting Clean And Basic For Your Listeners

In creating songs, one of the best things you can do is to keep your songwriting as simple as possible. Keeping it simple does not mean lightweight or nonsensical or adding a lot of fluff, it simply means maintaining clarity so that your listeners don’t have to be doing mental gymnastics to keep up.

In an attempt to make their songs sound different from what’s already on the air, some songwriters may try weird song structures and arrangements. While there is nothing wrong with trying new things, you run the risk of overwriting or straying, which can turn out to be just too much for listeners. To ensure you’re keeping it simple, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing your songs.

 1. Visualize your songs in three parts

Keeping this basic song structure in your head is the easiest way to ensure your songs stay simple and are easy to digest by the audience. Most popular songs that are highly listened to use this basic construction, which can come in the form of verse - chorus - verse - chorus - bridge - chorus for example. You can even drop the bridge for some songs or add a “pre-chorus” if needed.

Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” has a pretty straightforward chorus, followed by a verse and pre-chorus then chorus again. There is a lot of repetition of “I get knocked down…” but this simplicity worked as it was a very popular hit song in the late 1990s.

Structuring your songs this way helps to maintain their simplicity and allows listeners to keep up with the regularity of the parts. In turn, this makes it easier for them to memorize and you do want your songs to be as catchy as possible, don’t you?

2. What’s the purpose of your song?

This is an important question that your song must answer in order to stick to the point and maintain simplicity. If you decide to write and you have no idea what it is about, then what you will get is an aimless composition that is meandering and possibly confusing to the listener, if it gets that far.

Are you writing a song about a particular person, a way of life, a recent happening, or a personal experience? Whatever it is, determine this reason before starting to write and keep coming back to it until the song is finished.

3. Don’t overthink when writing

The mind is a beautiful thing but it can also get out of control if you try to think too hard about any one thing. When writing your songs, try not to overthink the lyrics, melody, chord progression or any other element of the song. Listeners are weird creatures and what you think might not work could very well be the part in a song that catches their attention; on the other hand, what you think is the perfect hook could be a turn off. With that said, go with the flow and write what comes to mind. Of course, you should still edit and have someone else listen to it but be confident in your abilities and your song, which will help to prevent you from overthinking.

It’s important to remember that people have short attention spans, so if your song gives them too much to think about, they might just press the skip button or totally avoid it. Keeping it simple is what has worked for most songs over the years… it still works today.


♪ ♫ Mylène Besançon is the CMO of SongCat LLC, a top-rated online recording studio. We believe that by making professional music production financially accessible to anyone with a dream and a voice, we have the potential to change the musical landscape forever. Visit to learn more. ♪ ♫

Why It Is Important To Keep Your Songwriting Clean And Basic For Your Listeners

Reader Comments (2)

I think it really depends on what you're trying to achieve; if you're looking to appeal to a wide audience, then to some extent it will work in your favour to simplify to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, one can't discount the popularity of progressive - whilst it's more niche, there is clearly an audience for those who appreciate the 'mental gymnastics', as you put it. I'd say it's also worth noting that by pushing yourself to write more complex songs, it can only give you more of a musical arsenal to apply when writing a song, simple or otherwise.

If mass appeal is what you are striving for, then indeed, this is quite useful information. And by all means, you should adhere to the well thought out and good intentioned guidelines. But if appealing to a consumer base is a priority in your creative work, musical or otherwise, then you have severed the art from the word artist, and are now a commodity producer and should be referred to as such. We now live in a world where the slicing, dicing and the throwing together of someone else's musical ideas is commonplace and will earn you the title of "musician", so my statement will most assuredly fall upon deaf ears. But an artist is a person who creatively pursues their vision and pays no heed to the graphs and pie charts of the business world, and therefore creates beauty and furthers, in what I regard as, one of the very few worthwhile human endeavors, Art.

April 2 | Registered CommenterSean McAleavy

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