Great Songwriting In Any Genre


As co-founders of SongTown, Clay and I have had a lot of success as writers in the country genre. Many people assume that we are “country songwriters” and that what we teach only applies to country music.  This is a false assumption.  (Watch “The Bad News Bears” for more info on assuming) We have both had major successes in other genres.  Our success in country has more to do with opportunity and proximity than anything.  We are based in Nashville and most of our opportunities are in country music. We seize those opportunities, so we have had lots of success in country.  However, we have both had major cuts and hits in numerous other genres from R&B to Country to Rock to Dance.

During this past week in New York City working on music for a play that is being pitched to Broadway, I realized several things.  One of the biggest realizations – maybe more of a confirmation of what I already believed – was that, if you learn to write a great song, you can write one in ANY genre you choose.  That’s why we teach what we teach.

As we were doing the first reading of the play with actors, the book writer (the person who writes the dialogue for a play) turned to me and said “None of the plays that won Tonys for best musical this year had songs this memorable.  You have written several songs here so strong that they could easily have a life in mainstream music outside of the play.”

I thanked him for the compliment, but the reason the songs stood out to him was very simple.  I have learned to figure out exactly what I want or need to say.  Once I know what I need to say, I have a framework that insures that I communicate precisely what I intended.  There’s very little “Magic” that goes into it.  Yes, I’ve also learned to be creative in HOW I say what I need to say, but that’s a learned skill as well.  The songs said PRECISELY what he needed them to say – that’s why they stood out to him.

When you break it down, great songwriting is simply learning to communicate well.

We can teach you how to define what you want to say.  And we can teach you a framework to help you communicate that to your audience – in ANY genre.  The basics of communication are the same in any style of music.  If you perfect the ability to define what you want to say and then say it, you can write a great song in any genre.  If you don’t learn those things, you’ll likely never write a great song in ANY genre.

SongTown can teach you to be a better communicator.  If you practice and perfect those skills, you will increase your chances of connecting with your audience immensely, no matter what style of music you write.

Write on! ~Marty

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter and co-founder of


*SongTown is an online community founded by pro songwriters Clay Mills & Marty Dodson. Thousands of creative souls around the world have taken our classes and found a home in music with the help of the supportive ST community and access to real-world pros.


8 thoughts on “Great Songwriting In Any Genre

  1. Thanks Marty,
    I love writing all kinds of songs! I agree that it’s all about communicating… I think I actually communicate better in song than in person… (that’s probably true with a lot of us writers.) I’ve always been a little socially awkward, I guess…
    I went to a private high school, and I could tell that when I said something out loud, it never seemed to be what the kids around me expected… they always shot me a look that I thought said, “did you just actually say that out loud?” But it was a small Christian School so thankfully they accepted me anyway. But I think I’m just better when I write…my heart shows more…thanks for simplifying it all for us. I like your blogs! 😊🎶 They make me feel like writing a new song!

  2. I’ve had this conversation a million times. It seems every site I go on they are just writing Country but I’ve always written different types of songs as well a Country types. This is five songs I wrote with a Great Lyricist Phyllis Barash for our Musical DOG SHOW THE MUSICAL. For myself at Barry Butler at youtube I write and sing my own songs with MY own style. BUT I love Broadway….Great Article…..Barry

  3. Wow.

    This is so good, I read it twice.

    This post, itself, is an indication that you’ve developed an incredible ability to effectively communicate any idea.

    Thank you.

  4. I had that epiphany; that a Song is a communication. That first syllable is ‘com’, a Latin root meaning ‘with’. You communicate ‘with’ someone. If you’re ‘sending’ but they’re not ‘receiving’ then it doesn’t qualify as a communication.

    Meaningless words may be sent but not received.

    Meaningful words can be sent, and still not received.

    You have to have meaningful words, and enunciate and deliver them so the listener can receive them, and almost has no choice. If you’re sending well they can’t help but hear and comprehend your storyline.

    But how long can you keep them receiving? Knowing when ‘enough’ has been sent to ‘set the scene’, to ‘expose’ the story, the ‘character’ of the Singer Character and what the beginning of the story is, and making the judgment that it IS ‘enough’ and it is ‘time’ to get to the point, the gist of the story, the punchline of the joke, is a skill worth seeking mastery of. A novel has 50,000 words to tell its story. A Song has 50, or 100, or 200. How many is up to the Songwriter to judge. How much communicates, and when do listeners start drifting off to other thoughts?

    ‘To make a long story short’ people say, leaving out a mass of details unnecessary to illustrate the point they’re getting to. They know you don’t need all that detail. You need some detail, ‘enough’ to set up for the point, the punch line, THE Hook. One Verse? Or two, before the Chorus? Four lines? Or eight, before the Chorus? I don’t know who wrote the ‘rule’, “Don’t bore us! Get to the Chorus!” but it is one rule to obey. Other ‘rules’ may be flexible, subject to poetic license, bending to the will of the Songwriter and the whim of your Song. But that one is probably the heart of communication. Get my interest. Keep my interest. Don’t lose me going on too long with your story. Hit me with that line that sums up the story, THE Hook, and make me ‘get’ it. Make me comprehend why that line says it all.

    Communicate ‘with’ me.

    Good one Marty.

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