Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Songs are what it's all about. If you don't have good songs, and I mean really great songs, then you've got some work to do. You've got to get focused and get right down to business creating those masterpieces. Most of us have a pretty good idea of which songs we love to listen to--tunes that really light us up when we hear them--but what is it that these songs have in common? Are there some similarities that we can become aware of and apply when we're writing our own material? Absolutely! Here's an excerpt from Bobby Borg's "THE MUSICIAN'S HANDBOOK" (Another fantastic book that is a must have for career-minded musicians) that outlines some of the commonalities among hit songs.


Songwriting is probably the single most important skill for artists to master. But what makes a hit? Ralph Murphy, vice president of ASCAP in Nashville, conducted research in conjunction with Belmont University on eighteen #1 hits and found the following common characteristics:

1. Style/Genre: pop or country
2. Subject: romantic, sad/heartfelt, or humorous
3. Lyric: tells a clear story and/or relates a strong opinion
4. Person/Tense: in first person (I/me/my) or second person (you/your)
5. Melody: linear melody (very few chord changes) in the verse, growing to
a soaring melody (significant chord changes) in the chorus
6. Structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out
7. Tempo: mid- to up-tempo
8. Time Signature: 4/4 time
9. Introduction: up to 13 seconds long, but no longer
10. Authorship: co-written between the artist and another professional

Visit Bobby Borg at his web site

Notice the last similarity of hit songs in this list. Hit songs are almost always co-writes. Now most bands will usually have more than one contributing songwriter so essentially the songs that they produce would be co-writes, but I believe it's important for a band to consider stepping outside of their boundaries and bringing in an outside writer. This can really help you grow as musicians and songwriters. It can get the creativity flowing in a new and exciting direction and open up a whole new world of opportunities. Even the networking aspect of this alone can prove to be invaluable.


I think this is an exciting time for music and songwriting opportunities. There's so much great indie music being made right now and the playing field has clearly been leveled significantly. When it comes to bringing in an outside writer, don't feel that it has to be someone seemingly untouchable like Diane Warren or David Foster. Just look around you--there are plenty of great writers who are making some serious noise right in your own backyard. Look around at other indie bands who are getting their songs used in film and television or are being played on mainstream radio. Maybe you can contact these people through the social networking platforms that you use everyday like facebook and MySpace.


I think every band that is currently at a stage where they feel they've done all they can on their own and want to really step things up should seriously look into this. Really give it a fair shake too. Don't have one bad experience and say, "well that didn't work." If it doesn't work out with one writer, try another and another until you find the magic. Remember the list of common characteristics among hit songs from above; if you co-write with others you'll increase your chances of having a hit.

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