The Biggest Songwriting Mistake


One of the biggest mistakes I see when I critique songs is that the writer will often try to say too much in their song. Since songs are roughly three minutes long, there is not enough time to explore multiple themes in most songs.

Your best bet, whether you are trying to write commercially or you are just writing for your own pleasure, is to pick ONE concept or idea and keep everything focused tightly around that idea.

In the classic Bonnie Raitt hit, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, the singer is talking about loving someone who doesn’t love them back. They don’t get into the idea of “How will I ever live without you?”, “How did it come to this?” or even “Is there any way I can make you love me?”. Everything in the song points to the one singular idea of “I can’t make you love me”.

Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”, Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup”, The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” are other good examples of songs that stay tightly focused and explore one idea very well.

In many of these songs, you find the writers exploring different ways to say the same thing. “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t. I can’t make your heart feel something it won’t” is really just saying the same thing twice, but it brings home the ONE message.

If your songs tend to wander and explore too much real estate, challenge yourself to write a song in which you only try to say one thing. Say your one thing and then keep pointing everything else in the song back to that one idea.

If you can master the concept, then you will have tightly focused songs that pack a punch. Saying one thing and saying it very well is the key to a well crafted song! Write On




Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Marty Dodson Co-Founder
Songwriter/Producer/Outdoor Fan

One thought on “The Biggest Songwriting Mistake

  1. Thank you Marty. Guilty as charged!!! I have had some success as a writer…but far too many times turned down…I hear people hum my tunes..I Garner interest from an occasional Artist…but often to no avail..but It maybe too complicated themes. Thanks for the insight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *