Critique Your Own Songs: 6 Songwriting Questions That Can Teach You How!

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My #1 goal in doing mentoring sessions is to help people learn how to critique their own songs…

I’m trying to work my way out of a job, in a sense. If writers learn to critique their own work, then they don’t depend on me or anyone else to tell them when their songs are “good”. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself if you want to learn how to critique your own work.

 

Does every line in my lyric point to my title?

The lyric will be strongest if the answer is “yes”. If every line in your lyric points to the title, then you have likely set the title up well and stayed on topic.

Is my melody memorable?

If you keep forgetting what the melody is, that’s a bad sign. If you can’t get it out of your head, that’s a good one.

Can the listener keep up with my song chronologically?

If you jump back in forth in time, the song gets confusing. Make sure the listener can follow along with the timeline going on in the song if the song is not about one moment in time.

Are my pronouns clear?

This is one of the big mistakes I see. Make sure all of your pronouns are clear, especially if there are several “she’s” or “he’s” in the song.

Did I use “throw away lines” to get a rhyme?

This is the most common error I see. There will be a great line and the line that rhymes with it is horrible. Make sure your rhyming lines are as good as the line they rhyme WITH and you’ll make your song much stronger.

Are there any lines that make me cringe when I play the song for someone?

If you are honest with yourself, you know what the weak lines are in your song. Fix those and you’ll make your song better every time. Ask those simple questions after every write and you’ll be well on your way to learning to critique your own songs! Write on! Marty

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Marty Dodson
Co-Founder Songtown Songwriter/Producer/Student of Writing

16 thoughts on “Critique Your Own Songs: 6 Songwriting Questions That Can Teach You How!

  1. Marty, those are good tips. Regarding the “throwing away lines to get a rhyme,” tip, if I have a relatively weak line that I need in there to get a rhyme, I always put it first so that the listener is hopefully distracted by the fact that the next line “nails it.” Okay that’s not exactly what you said. 🙂

    1. Hey Jeffrey, Marty has a great video on the website that will get you over the hump. It’s free for members. As well as a PDF download members get that has 52 classic song ideas to write about.

      CM

    2. Get married 4 times , it’s a bit extreme method, But will give some material if you have enough money for demos after the court settlements

  2. Hi Marty,
    Great tips.. i have a question. I have written mainly country songs in the past. I always tried to include industry appropriate lyrics. I just wrote a song, that questions the existence of God. My beautiful step daughter has stage 4 colon, liver and long cancer. She has prsyed everyday and night of her life. She still is prayibg he will heal her. My sobg is called prove me wrong. It is from my heart and soul. My raw feelings. Thiu it has menorable hooks etc. Is it nit worth trying to sell a sobg, that questions if there really is a god, in the nashville circuut. Is this a taboo subject?

    1. Dear Eric: Yes there is a God, in fact only one, and we are not He. My sincere sympathy for you and your family. God does tell us in His Word to try Him but not to doubt that He alone is God. He also says His thoughts and plans are higher than ours. After all He watched His Son beaten tortured and murdered for a world of people who had shown hatred or possibly worse apathy for Him.
      We may not have the answered we wish but know that God is mindful of all His creation. Again, my sympathies and my prayer for healing and peace.

  3. I have a question that’s admittedly a little off topic, but is related in some way, pertaining to the recordings of songs. I honestly feel a little silly for asking this but here it goes: is it acceptable, as long as it’s a clean, clear, recording/performance of the song, to submit cell phone recordings of songs as demos to publishers, TAXI, etc?

    1. Tim, we have done several blogs on this and talk about it on our webinars….sharing our pro tips. It’s not a simple quick answer for a comment here. Involves some key factors. We’d love to see ya inside the members area where we go into depth.

      Cheers, Clay

  4. I really get the throw away line tip. I’ve an unfinished song that’s languished for years because I can’t relinquish my grip on one line that I feel is Hook Heaven… Lol

  5. “Did I throw away lines to get a rhyme?” I do exactly the opposite – I write additional lines to fit the rhythm. Then I have to practice the lyrics like crazy in order to catch up with the flow and do it smoothly. I do need to find the balance in my rhythmic patterns.
    P.S. I love the advise on your blog. Keep going!

    1. In songwriting jargon, a “throwaway line” is a line that is used in a song that should have been thrown away and replaced with a better line.

      Cheers, Clay

  6. Hi Marty, Clay, and all other creative minds here. Eric Spiegel, my heart is with you and your little one. When I read your comment, I almost couldn’t believe what I saw. Few months back, I wrote a beautiful poem about your situation. Its about a father who has a young daughter named Ariel, who has an incurable illness…until the father meets a stranger at the traffic lights one morning. I would love to share it with you if you like, and if Clay wouldn’t mind either. ? Thanks so much. Kind regards.

  7. I read somewhere there is a brain/chemical process that won’t allow you to smell your own bad breath (thank goodness – I love onions). I have a similar situation with showing/telling lyrics. I just don’t see the telling lines easily. Then a songwriter giving back to young songwriters showed me a simple test: If the conclusion is written into the lyric, that lyric is telling. EX:

    He came into the room mad as a wet hen – telling

    He burst into the room, his face bulging red with fists balled into hammers – showing

    conclusion – he is angry

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