Here are the basics that you need to write a great song in any genre:
1) A recognizable structure – people can get confused if a song does not fit one of the common song structure patterns. We are used to songs being in some variation of the Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus format. Straying too far from that can leave a listener wondering where they are in a song. “Pretty Woman” is a hit song that wandered all over the place. But, most people I have polled can’t sing that song to me. They can sing pieces of it, but they can’t put them together. Song structure is important.
2) A consistent rhyme scheme – the different sections of your song need to have consistent rhyme schemes. All of the verses should have the same rhyme scheme. All choruses should have the same scheme, etc. Changing the rhyme scheme from verse to verse is unsettling for the listener.
3) Singable, catchy melody – by and large, listeners want to sing along with a song they like. If the song is too rangy or too hard to sing, it turns the listener off. They want it to get stuck in their head and they want to sing along.
4) A predictable time frame – most great songs are between 2 and a half minutes long and 3 and a half minutes long. Writing a song much shorter or much longer doesn’t feel right to most listeners.
5) A great opening line – you need to draw the listener in from the first line. You can lose them or keep them with that one line of lyrics.
6) Melody and Lyric that fit well together – writing a happy song with a minor, “down” melody doesn’t usually work. Nor does the reverse. Making your music and your lyric have the same “feel” gives you a strong, consistent message.
7) A lyric that makes sense – I know I’m going to get grief over this one. Yes, I know that “Yakety Yak” was a hit song. But for every hit song you could name that DOESN’T make sense, I could name you ten that DO make good sense. Generally, people want to understand what they are hearing.
8) Touch some universal emotion – if you want to write a great song, you have to tap into some universal human emotion. Not doing that leaves people with a “so what” feeling.
If you write songs with all of those fundamentals in place, I predict that you are writing strong songs.
What are your thoughts? Did I leave any fundamentals out?