Songwriting

What Makes A Song Great?

by Marty Dodson
Dec 5, 2016

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

A great song will usually be relatable and relevant many years after it was written.  So let’s take a look at what makes a song great…

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. Therefore connection is a big part of what makes a song great.

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. A book like Song Building can really help with this aspect and get you writing hookier tunes.

The song is well crafted.

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!

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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