Songwriting Tips from Jeff Nelson

Some songs are for a general audience, some songs are for close family and friends, some songs are commercial and some songs are for your dog. Determine the purpose of the song and develop it accordingly.

If you feel that your song is good enough for publication, here are some things you need to know. Publishers and the general public look for certain elements in a song. You need to learn the rules for songwriting. It’s okay to color outside the lines, but as one dancer has said, “Learn the rules, then break the rules.” Practice writing formula songs first, then, you can break out and exercise your creativity in appealing ways.

Every song needs some kind of logical structure, especially if it’s to be sung by a congregation, choir or group of people. Solo songs can be more loose in structure. Generally, there will be a verse or verses, a chorus and maybe a bridge. The verses should be very similar in length and the corresponding lines should be very similar in meter (number of syllables or beats).

The verse usually poses a problem or sets up a situation. The chorus answers the problem or brings a culmination to the situation. The chorus should sound like the climax of the song in meaning and music.

One of the most common errors in writing a song is touching on too many subjects. There should be one main thought expressed. If you have more, just create other songs with those ideas and simplify.

The thought in the song should be universal or common to human experience. Try to touch an emotion. Listeners are always drawn to emotion in a song.

A good hook (catchy phrase) in the song keeps the listener’s attention. The hook can be melodic or lyrical, and it should repeat in the song. This is the part that you come away humming.

In general, you have less than 20 seconds to draw the listener into your song. The first line is very crucial. At publishing companies, they only listen to the first 20 seconds (if that), so you have to say something appealing right away.

If you are trying to pitch a song to a publisher, here are some tips. Send your demo to a contact in the industry. Unsolicited songs rarely get a listen. Find out which artist is looking for songs and send a demo to their management. Don’t hold your breath! In the songwriting field, you have to develop a thick skin. For some more submission information, please see the paragraph about recording demos on the recording process page.

There are many other rules and common practices in songwriting; such as, choosing a good title, marrying the lyrics and the music, using melody to create a visual of the lyric, etc. If you’d like to host a songwriting seminar in your area, please click here for more information.