So you’ve written a song that you are proud of. Good for you.
Songs, unfortunately, are like the children of their songwriters and it is human nature to see their good points while overlooking their less perfect ones. Meanwhile, said child may have an irritating whiny voice droning the same monotonous demands over and over again, all laced with trite, overused idioms.
“But he’s so cute!”, our heart insists. Sure she is, but sit the tyke down and have a nice Q&A complete with bright lights and every brutal interrogation tactic you can muster. Allow me to suggest some questions you should consider.
1. Are You Lyrically Finished?
You have used one of the many effective song forms, and all the beats of the melody are filled in with words. No one can question that your pride and joy is indeed a song, but is it finished?
By that I mean does the story line go anywhere? Does the second verse propel the song forward?
Is what you have to say, said, in a way that is creative, unique, and interesting? Are your rhymes serving your lyric or the other way around? Is there a sense of resolution?
2. Do You Invoke Feelings?
There’s a wide range of emotions that a song can prompt in its listeners:. For example, joy, sadness, regret, adventure, wanderlust, anger, jealousy, revelry, and of course, love.
Will your song cause the audience to respond emotionally? If not, what’s the point?
3. Are You Saying Anything New?
Far too many songs are simply rehashes of their predecessors.
The country music market is currently overflowing with guy-hits-on-girl-in-tight jeans-in-a-bar songs.
If you choose to tackle the same old subject matter, are you approaching it with fresh language, from a fresh angle, in a fresh setting?
4. Is Your Melody Addictive?
Will your song get stuck in the ears of your listeners? Do you have sufficient variation between sections? Does your chorus burst on the scene and keep the ear prisoner until it makes a graceful landing?
Compare yourself to the hits. Are you achieving what they are melodically?
5. Are You Too Personal?
Perhaps someone’s son broke his leg while trying out for the circus. This plot line is undoubtedly important stuff to that family, but unless it is one of several examples of someone’s daredevil nature leading to a point, it is too personal and specific to provide identifying factors for listeners.
Is your song about a universal truth but told from a very original perspective? You want your song to be commercially viable, so don’t clip its wings with singularly personal information.
6. Do You Have a Realistic Range?
When a recording artist considers your song’s album potential, is its musical range wide enough to be dynamic, but not so enormous as to intimidate?
Unless you, the songwriter, have the coveted honor of being invited to compose for a specific artist, you shouldn’t exceed about an octave and three for broad appeal.
7. Is Your Melody Your Melody?
If your tune is extra memorable, and it better be, are you sure you are not on top of another songwriter’s melody?
It is so easy for this to happen accidentally but you don’t want to risk a lawsuit. Play it for enough in-the-know ears and ask about any similarities.
8. Will Your Lyric Quickly Face Extinction?
There are timeless words, and then there are words that will instantly date a lyric to a certain decade. Avoid overly trendy pop culture and technological terms unless it truly enhances the flavor of the song.
9. Are You Monotonous?
Repetition is a good thing both lyrically and musically and is also a very effective tool in creating memorability and catchiness.
There is, however, repetition to the point of monotony.
Don’t bore the ears of your listeners. Vary the sentence structure. The most common mistake is to make a verse too similar melodically and chorally to its chorus. Are there ever exceptions? Of course there are.
10. Do You Need A Sex Change?
Sometimes, the light-bulb goes off too late and a song gets recorded in a male key with a male vocal, when it would have worked much better as a female tune.
Consider the advantages of keeping your song lyrically unisex. A lot of songwriters feels that female artists are more likely to cut a song demoed male than vice versa. Maybe, the song would be fresher going against the obvious stereotype.
Just give it some thought before you proceed.
In our enthusiasm to get onto the next hook in our hook book, we songwriters tend to get hasty and run headlong into the studio. We settle and rationalize. Give your song some fermenting time and wait for the warts to show. When they do, bring on this suggested interrogation.