Another day has blown by and I still haven’t put my pen to paper. There was a time that melodies and hook lines rolled through my brain like a roller coaster on a daily basis. Now they are much less frequent and probably due to my cautiousness of words. Yes the number of songs I write these days are fewer than in the past. But it isn’t the quantity, it’s the quality that counts anyway. Here’s a couple of tips on writing a song that I picked up along the way.
The “hook” is the money - Hey, I know this is a no-brainer. But let’s face it, not everyone can grasp the obvious. If you look at great music of the past 50 years you will find that most of the Billboard toppers had a “hook” or “catch phrase” that just burned into the minds of the listeners. Examples?
* “We Will Rock You” – Queen
* “Johnny B. Good” – Chuck Barry
* “Born In The USA” – Bruce Springsteen
* “Old Time Rock and Roll” – Bob Seegar
* “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Bonjovi
All of these songs have one thing in common: a “hook” that grabs the listener. I could name off hundreds more, but it would just be fodder for argument.
Co-writing pays – I know we are all the greatest songwriters of all time. But let’s face the facts. Another set of ears on a song can do wonders for the end result. Bring is someone whose vocabulary is a little deeper than yours, or that is at least different. The best way to mix up some good lyrics is with one or more people co-writing with you. It just works.
Put that thing away - Never, and I repeat, NEVER do a “one and done” draft on a song and send it out to an audience. What I mean is don’t write it today and play it tonight in a club or something. Do yourself and your listening audience a favor and put it on a shelf for a few months. Come back to it and play through the song. If it still feels good, then take it out there. If not, don’t toss it. Work on it. Craft it. Sit down with another writer and play through it. Be open to their suggestions. You may turn a crappy song into a hit. But some songs just take time.
Not every song is good - Look, you are going to read this statement in about every music article I write: “Leave Your Ego At The Door!” Not every song you write is a good one. Sorry. The song may mean something to you. It may be your form of expression or some deep line of hogwash. If it’s bad, it’s just bad. And, if you’re living in an efficiency apartment with four other band members don’t argue with me about all of your songs having some deep inner meaning. You need a “hit” to get out of that dump!
And finally there is this - We aren’t all going to be music legends. The thing about a “Legend” is it is more myth than truth. Be honest with yourself. If you make it big that’s great. Just don’t make that your only goal as a songwriter/singer/musician. Make a living at it. Express yourself through your music, but be smart about it. Make some money, play some music, meet some people, and enjoy your life.
About the contributor - John Shelton in and around the music industry for over 40 years. Like many out there in the world he’s a self-made artist and musician. He is the founder of Suthun Musik Company and can be found on the web at www.suthunmusik.com as well as Facebook. John’s music can be heard on Reverb Nation.