The #1 Rule Of Songwriting – The Song Is King

by Marty Dodson
Jun 17, 2022

If you’ve been hanging around SongTown for a while, you’ve heard Clay and I talk about the idea that “The Song Is King”.

When we say that, we mean that, when we write, we are there to serve the song, NOT to serve our own interests. I believe that music and songs have a “life” of their own. As we are creating, we come to hundreds, if not thousands, of junctions where we have to choose one of the forks in the road.  When co-writing, if everyone in the room is choosing a fork that makes the song better, you are on your way to a strong song.  If ANYONE in the room is holding on to something that doesn’t make the song better, you’re doomed. 

The fork you take can radically alter the course of your song. 

Many times, we start out with a title for our song and realize as we get into the chorus that the song doesn’t really support the original idea very well. Or perhaps that there is a better choice for the title. Hanging on to the original title could kill the song.  Same goes for a killer line that just doesn’t work in your particular song.  It’s hard to let those things go, but it’s imperative you remember the song is king if you want a great song .

Sometimes, in a co-write situation, one person or the other develops a “sacred cow” mentality where they hang on to their idea or their line for dear life. Often, even if it makes the song weaker to keep it! If you, or your co-writer are so adamant about a line or idea that you can’t let go of it to make the song stronger, then you are making yourself, and not the song, the king. This is an important lesson to learn when both mastering the art of co-writing or writing solo.

The Song is King - SongTown

Even in solo writes, I have critiqued people’s songs and found them to be so in love with their “sacred cows” that they won’t remove them even if it destroys their song.

Whether you write by yourself or co-write. Whether you write commercially or for yourself, your songs will be better if you put the song FIRST as you write. At every little fork in the road, make the choice that makes the song stronger, even if you have to toss out a KILLER line in the process.

If you’d like to hear a song I wrote with artist Eric Paslay where we started out with a title something like “This Old Guitar” and we let the song lead us to another title, check it out below!

The song is king!

Change These Strings – Eric Paslay, Marty Dodson. Dylan Altman

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 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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