There’s no one formula for writing a hit song. But there are a few things that all successful songs have in common. In this article by Michael Russell, we’ll explore what those things are, and we’ll also look at some of the most successful songs of all time to see how they achieved their success.
There are a lot of factors to writing a hit song. First, you should focus on writing a good song. Once you’ve done that, you are not far away from writing a hit.
Like most other things in life, it takes persistence, patience, drive, knowledge, belief and maybe some luck.
Stop and think about your favorite songs. Really analyze them and figure out what it is that you like about those songs.
Different factors may come to play here. Maybe it is the good beat, lyrics that hit home, a beautiful melody, something spiritual or patriotic, or maybe even that it is humorous.
If you include one of these elements in your songwriting you are well on your way. If you combine two or more of these elements, you may have yourself a hit.
A Good Beat
Rhythm is important in music. I have to laugh and think of Jerry Van Dyke on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” years ago trying to play the banjo and sing, “I’ve got rhy-rhy-thm, I’ve got mah-mah-music…”
But, unless you are very funny like Jerry Van Dyke, your audience is not very likely to stay with you.
Your music not only needs to have a good beat, but must fit the genre of music you are trying to write. A Metallica beat in a George Strait type song may not get you very far. A song with a good enough beat might be a hit even with no melody and no lyrics. Remember “Green Onions?”
Along with the beat is the tempo. Country music is easy to write (I did not say it is easy to write well) because it is about people’s lives and everyday experiences. However, too often people write slow songs for country music, when in fact the industry is starving for upbeat country material like “Country Roads” and “Rocky Top.” It is much harder to write a good up-tempo country song than it is a tear jerker.
Lyrics in popular music can range from broken relationships to political issues, and just about any point in between. Those that tend to be the most popular are about situations you and I may encounter in our everyday lives; “Workin’ 9 To 5,” “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “God Bless The USA” (which ingeniously incorporates spiritual, political and patriotic views).
A beautiful or interesting melody can get you into the ranks of hit songwriter with no lyrics required. Going back in time to prove a point about beautiful melodies, you might consider songs like “Last Date” and “Sleepwalk.”
Songs with great melody lines are very easy to be found in many hit TV show themes like “Peter Gunn,” “Hawaii 5-0,” along with many of the 60’s surfer songs like “Wipe Out.”
Well done humorous songs usually find an audience, such as Ray Stevens “The Streak,” and Jerry Reeds “She Got The Goldmine, I Got The Shaft.” If you have a knack for both humor and music, you might make a fortune.
Spiritual and patriotic songs, if they are well done and come out at the right time, are easy hits. Every time the U.S. gets involved in any type of world conflict, the songwriters get their pens out.
Keep your ears and eyes open, and keep a shoe box to put your ideas for songs in. Every time you think of an idea for a song or a song title, write it down and drop it in the box. It could be your first, or your next, big hit.
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