We all know a hit song. Those classic smash hits that no matter what you do, you simply cannot get them out of your head. They’re just too catchy. But what makes these songs, among the many thousands created, hits? Within this blog, we’re going behind the music; focusing on how to write a hit song.
Is there a formula to follow?
Writing a hit song is not something that happens every day. What’s more, there isn’t a specific, rigid formula to it – otherwise, unsurprisingly, everyone would be doing it. However, there are certain practices you can follow. Although these practices may not always guarantee a hit, they will give your song the best chance at being not just good, but great.
Listen to the experts
Granted, an irritatingly obvious starting point, but you should listen to the experts. There are those who dedicate their professional life to the pursuit of songwriting and subsequently how to write a song – one such individual is Ralph Murphy. Murphy is a successful songwriter with a long list of well-known songs. He also has, like other professionals, listened to and analysed a whole heap of songs in order to study what made them popular – this process is arguably the worst kept secret of songwriting. It goes without saying that good writers, read; good songwriters, listen.
So, what does make a hit song?
For starters, a really good ‘hook’ will grab your audience. People need a good hook to get them into a song. What’s more, it shouldn’t take you all day to get to this point – your audience’s attention should be caught almost immediately. Whether this is with an attention-grabbing instrumental, or the infectious lyrics – hook them, and hook them quick for a hit.
The chorus is an integral part of the song. It’s also typically the part which gets people singing, as well as the crucial section which lodges itself into the listeners head for hours on end. A good, catchy chorus is essential for a hit song.
It is also important to let your ideas run free, being too judgemental with yourself when trying to piece together ideas (even when in search for that hook or catchy chorus) can only negatively affect your songwriting journey. Quite often, you’ll have to write a lot of good songs to get to that one great one, so don’t let over-judgement spoil your exploration.
Humans are pattern seekers, whether we’re doing it intentionally or not. We seek patterns in what we hear too. So, when writing a song, it’s important to consider its pattern, and not stray too far away from how you started your song initially – as doing so will make it less pleasing to your audience. In order to maintain your songs pattern, consider your rhyme scheme, and try to keep it the same in every verse.
It’s important to remember that your audience is impatient. This should already be evident by the need of a hook so very early on in the song. They also don’t want to be listening to a song for a very long time. As a result, in order to write that hit song and also for it to be suitable for the radio, try to avoid writing songs over 4 minutes.
In the end, the best pieces of advice we can give you is to just let your creative juices flow, don’t be too judgemental over your work, and most importantly, keep listening.
Also published on Medium.