I love a good songwriting contest. It brings out the best in songwriters because the contest deadline gives them something to write for.
I am amazed though, by the amount of people out there that put pen to paper and just go for it. It’s fantastic. You also get to hear some wonderful talent out there too.
Anyway, back to the list of common flaws in songwriting from a judges point of view.
Please don’t take this list as absolute truth. These points are only observations that I have made followed by some suggestions on how to address the points.
1. Lots of cliches and platitudes in the lyrics.
It amazes me that we are all unique, special and different and yet when we write a love song for instance it all sounds the same lyrically.
We as songwriters need to quieten our minds and listen for the true essence of ourselves. Only then we can write a song from our own unique, and different perspectives. It does take a lot of practice to get there though to get to that stage.
2. Clumsy lyrical delivery.
The rhythm of the lyrics and melody is all jumbled up and the song doesn’t have a natural flow to it. It’s like there are too many words in the song and the writer is having a hard exploring all of the ideas.
Remember, a song is at its most effective when you are dealing with one concept/idea. If you find you have too many ideas in a song then pick one to run with and write another song (or two) with the leftovers.
3. Not enough attention paid to the song format.
There have been many a time where I have been listening to a song and I have said to myself ‘there should be a bridge here’, or a chorus has been written that doesn’t stand out enough.
It pays to have an idea of what a verse, chorus, pre-chorus and a bridge does and how you can use them.
4. Songs go on too long.
This is mostly a formatting thing as well but sometimes you can tell that there is an anthemic phrase that the songwriter loves because it repeated over and over and over and over (you get the idea) again.
There is nothing wrong with a long song as long as the journey and the story is there for the listener. if say after 3 and a half minutes you are starting to repeat things and your idea runs out of steam then finish the song.
5. Past, present and future tenses are mixed up.
Be careful that you don’t mix up your tenses when you are telling the story in your song. This sends a mixed and confusing message to the listener.
People want to be taken by the hand and led on a bit of a journey, unless you are the songwriting equivalent to Quentin Tarantino you should be aware of how the story is going chronologically.
There you have it, a small list of things to consider.
Practice, practice and practice your craft, have fun with it, share it with others and when a songwriting contest comes around, put your best foot forward and have a go.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
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