Guidelines for Writing Hit Songs

Would you like to learn the skills needed to write hit songs?

Don’t answer that. I’m sure that most of you seek to possess the skill of a hit songwriter–I know I do.

These guidelines will give you deeper focus when writing your songs. They will also provide you with the necessary tools to start writing potential hits.

First let’s begin with some useful definitions. Forget what you think a song is and what you think a hit song is because most likely the definitions you have in mind won’t help you write a hit song. You need clear definitions, not something vague like “a hit song gets a lot of radio airplay and sells lots of records.” So scrap that and try out the definitions below to add some clarity to your understanding of what a song is.

Definition of a song:

  • A song is a highly effective means of communicating emotion.

Definition of a hit song:

  • A hit song is one that communicates emotion to a LOT of people.

Why Hit Songs Are So Effective

Hit songs are incredibly effective for a reason. Be aware of that fact and keep these things in mind when writing:

  • Hit songs invite listeners inside a private moment.

  • Hit songs create a sense of forward momentum that makes the audience feel like they’re being swept along on a wave of pure energy.

  • All elements of a hit song work together to create that irresistible sense of forward momentum that listeners get addicted to.

  • Songs are emotional roller coasters that effectively build and release tension. Listeners love this feeling and hit songs capitalize on it by inviting audiences back for the roller coaster ride time after time.

Give the Music Industry What it Wants

A primary goal of record companies is to get mainstream radio airplay.

If you want to be a hit songwriter you need to write songs that appeal to the needs and wants of the music industry. Give the music industry what it wants and labels/artists/executives will seek you out for your music.

Spend some time studying hit songs and you’ll discover exactly what the music industry wants:

  • Big, memorable, catchy hooks

  • Plenty of contrast between song sections

  • Lots of forward momentum in the melody and lyrics

Lyric Worksheet

Sometimes starting your song is the hardest part. Use the title of your song as a guide to develop a rough lyric and jot down the following:

  • Related words, phrases, and images

  • Contrasting words, phrases, and images

Answer the questions raised by your song title!

Finding the right questions will help you stay focused. A good title suggests questions that need to be answered in your lyric, such as…

  • Why do you say that?

  • What happened to make you feel that way?

  • What will you do about it?

  • What does that mean?

  • Why is it important?

  • Why did you do that?

  • What does that look like?

  • Why do you want that?

  • Why are you doing that?

Writing Lyrics

In a song you only have a limited amount of space to communicate a clear message to your listeners. Song lyrics need to focus on moments that bring:

  • drama + insight + change

Listeners live vicariously through songs so its important to write material that they can relate to. Appeal to their emotions. Make the situations in your songs exciting for your listeners by creating bold main characters and dramatic situations.

Dramatic elements to consider for your song:

  • Who is involved?

  • What will happen next?

  • Who is doing what to whom?

Every song raises questions that listeners want answered. If you don’t answer the fundamental questions that listeners have about your song you will lose their attention. Answering these questions will keep listeners involved in your song:

  • What led up to this situation?

  • Who is involved?

  • What motivates him/her?

  • Why is the singer saying these things?

  • Why does he or she feel this way?

Writing hit songs is not easy. It takes creativity, passion, practice, focus, lots of rewriting, and plenty of other things you’ll figure out along the way. If you’re committed to your writing you will see results. Keep working at it and someday you might just write that hit song that launches your songwriting career.

References [books]:

Both of these books are excellent resources and I highly recommend them for serious songwriters. These books have expert tips and techniques that will guide you in writing songs that compete with the best music on the market.

Hit songwriting is a combination of art, craft, and science. In order to be a great songwriter you have to take your craft seriously. With unwavering dedication and the right knowledge at your fingertips your songwriting potential is limitless.

Now get crackin’ at writing those hit songs 😉

Additional Resource:

Songwriting Tips by Molly-Ann Leikin

Article produced by Dexter Bryant Jr. [d.BRYJ]
Powered by DbryJ Music Media Group.

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One comment

  1. Praverb · October 7, 2010

    Thanks for the books I will borrow them from my local library today…

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