What Makes A Song Great?

I’m often asked the question, “What makes a song great?”  So, here are the answers, in my opinion:


A great song connects with people.

Timeless songs connect to millions of people and continue to do so over time.  When you play a great song for someone, they are able to connect to it emotionally. That connection is what causes someone to love your song.  If your song about your broken heart connects me to a time when I had a broken heart, I’m connected and interested.

A great song causes a reaction.

The listener is compelled to do SOMETHING when they hear a great song.  It might cause them to dance, laugh, cry, sing along, etc – but they will do something in response to a great song.  It’s almost impossible to avoid reacting when you hear a well written, great song.

A great song is memorable.

There are things about the song musically and/or lyrically that stick in the listener’s minds.  That’s why they are called “hooks”.  If you hear the song “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, you will be singing it the rest of the day.  That’s a very hooky song in every way.  They have started teaching people to give CPR while singing that song because it puts the chest compressions the right space apart and because almost everyone can remember that song.

The song is crafted well.

The writer put in time getting the craft right.  Usually, the rhyme scheme is solid with close or perfect rhymes.  The structure helps the listener follow along.  Lines that rhyme are just as good as the line they rhymed with.  The song is easy to follow and communicates clearly.  Great songs are usually products of great craftsmanship.

A great song stands the test of time.

A great song will usually be relatable and relevant 25 years or 50 years after if was written.  There may be exceptions, but a great song sticks around.


I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have ideas on other aspects that make a song great!

Marty Dodson


SongTown Co-Founder
Songwriter/Cook/Student of Songwriting

6 thoughts on “What Makes A Song Great?

  1. Lennon and McCartney once said if they thought of a melody and then couldn”t remember the melody a few minutes later they never bothered with it because it wasn’t good enough.

  2. This fits with connecting to people: A great song often will say what a person feels, but cannot find the words to express themselves. So the song speaks for them. Remember the popularity of dedicating songs to someone on the radio?

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  4. Thank you for not “monitizing” this page in an annoying way. I avoid pages that do. I don’t have ads on my web site either and I appreciate people who dislike the clutter and intrusiveness of ads.

    I found your page because I just finished song sketches for 100 original songs and I’m at the revision stage where I’m going to make sure I actually enjoy playing each one start to finish. I like your list.

    A DJ once told me that a great song is one that hits people in the head, the heart and the groin (you can dance to it).

    I also listened to the top 100 best selling songs of all time and took notes about what has worked for others. Some of them I’d never heard, like “Da da da” and “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” and I thought at first that they must be on the list as a joke. Of course, each song was a product of its time and sales do not always equal popularity, but it’s a good yardstick across the years. Perhaps many of the best selling songs would not hit the charts in other times. Sometimes they were breaking new ground with a new sound that later became imitated. Some songs have cut across the years to remain popular. Not that the goal is to sell records, but if you find a time machine, go back in time and write “White Christmas” and you’ll be set. 😉

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