The Hit Songwriting Formula

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How a First Impression Can Be More Important Than Clever Writing

Original article from: http://www.secretsofsongwriting.com/2016/08/16/how-a-first-impression-can-be-more-important-than-clever-writing/

It’s an instinct that most songwriters have: to take a song beyond what you’d normally hear in the genre, creating something innovative and unique. You don’t want to give your listeners something so unique that it sounds strange and uninviting, and you don’t want something so much like everything else that it simply bores people.

It’s all a balancing act, and every songwriter worth their weight knows that.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” - Can't get past the hook?But it’s important for songwriters to know this: regardless of style or substance, and more important than any cleverness you might incorporate into a song’s design, a first impression is the most important aspect of any piece of music.

It doesn’t matter how shrewd or intelligent a song’s lyric might be, nor how astute you’ve been in putting all the elements together… if you haven’t made a powerful first impression, you’ve not really done anything.

We know that pop music thrives on the power of the first impression, but that quality has always existed in music no matter which genre you examine. Mozart was known as a genius of musical composition, and an analysis of any one of his symphonies could fill a book. And yet even with his music, it’s always been the power of the first impression that’s been the most important quality. People loved his music from the very first note.

The very best songwriters can give you music that will offer hours and hours of satisfying analysis: what did she mean by that line of lyric? how does that chord progression work? how does this verse melody relate to the chorus melody? But no one would wonder anything at all if the song wasn’t enticing from its very first note.

All this is to say that it’s extremely important to think about how, as a songwriter, you can and should entice the listener right from the opening chord, the very first word, the very first line of melody. And it makes all the following true:

  1. Before anyone does an analysis of anything you’ve written, they need to have been interested enough in the song to become curious. That requires a poignant first impression.
  2. A song won’t stand on its cleverness alone. But a song can stand on its first impression.
  3. Clever lines of lyric become meaningless if they are delivered using a boring melody or boring instrumentation.
  4. You need to provide something enticing to a listener within the first 10 seconds of a song. If your intro isn’t doing it, consider starting right in with verse 1, and no intro.
  5. Good songwriting is all about building song energy over time. So melodies should work their way higher, instrumentation should get busier, and the end of a song should be, even if barely, more exciting than the start.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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