One of the most important defining features of a great song is that it surprises and delights the audience in some way. If you are going to make it big, you are going to need to make something new. That being said, there are a few basic rules about great songwriting that have become virtually universal. For example:
Timing. When it comes to writing a hit song, timing is (almost) everything. You’ve probably noticed, for example, that there aren’t exactly a whole lot of 10 minute long jams on the radio. There are even less 30 second long songs topping the charts! Looking beyond this ultra-simple metric of length, though, we can also make a few more conclusions about the timing of songs and the way they are structured. For example, most hit songs don’t have super-long intros before the singing and the heart of the song begins. Most hits also keep the solos short and sweet; and they tend to build toward some sort of musical climax. Yes—there are many exceptions to this rule; but in general, you should have those exceptions for the other songs on your album, not the singles.
Catchy Hook. This is another element that not every song needs to have, but that most-every hit probably should. If there isn’t at least one highly memorable and repeated phrase in your song that people can latch onto, the odds are pretty good that no one is going to remember your song enough to request it on the radio, purchase it in a record shop, or even torrent it to share with their friends!
Top-Notch Production. Low-fi music may have a certain cult-following—but you’re not likely to hear those songs on the radio, television, or the big screen any time soon. If you want your song to be universally appealing and commercially viable, you’re going to need to put the time and effort into making a professional-sounding recording.
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