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HOW TO WRITE A CATCHY SONG



Get to the chorus


You ever listen to an intro so long that you hit the skip button and move on to the next track? Don't be that song! In today's saturated market of catchy pop songs that start with a chorus, you have a very limited window to capture the attention of your audience and reel them in. You have a maximum of 30 seconds to get to your chorus before losing more than 90 percent of your audience. Don't be the band with the three minute long intros in a world of three minute long songs. If you're not starting with a chorus, at least start with an intro or verse that builds into your chorus. Your livelihood counts on your ability to grab your audience's attention and the number one way to do so is to expose them to the hook which is not only the best part of the song but usually the chorus. I'm not saying you have to start the song with a chorus but don't wait to long or you'll lose your chance. Think I'm lying? Check out the song "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins. That song repeats the chorus like seven times. There's not much there other than chorus but it was still a number one hit. Why? Because that chorus slaps and they knew it so they repeated the hell out of it.



Keep it short


Unless your band is servicing a niche market of symphonic black metalheads that like seven minute songs, keep your songs short! Nobody wants to listen to six, five, or even four minute long songs anymore. Focus on writing songs between three and four minutes and you'll find the sweet spot. Remember what I said about the MTV generation and their attention span? They have no patience for your epic solos and your 2 minute bridges and your minute long intros and a chorus that will never come. Give them something to remember by keeping your songs short and too the point. Besides, your braindead bass player will have a much easier time remembering the songs if they only have to remember a 3 1/2 minute song. Also, when you're up against the clock and only have one song left to play for the night, you'll be glad that it's a three minute banger instead of an 11 minute epic ballad that'll make the sound guy tear his eyes out because the tour manager is threatening to pull the plug on the PA because you're cutting into the headliners guaranteed timeslot.



Play the chorus/hook more than once


Remember that super catchy riff and lyric that nobody can get out of their head and still hums days later? Play that shit twice! That's what your audience came to see and sing at your show. Rob them of the opportunity to belt out their favorite lyric more than once and you'll be sorry. Everyone wants to get in on their favorite part and if it only happens once per show, you're robbing them of their opportunity. I don't care if no other part of your songs ever repeat themselves, the chorus/hook has to be played at least twice if you want to hold your audience's attention and make an impact. Why come and see you live if the only time you play their favorite part only happens for 15 seconds per show? It's not worth the ticket price and the ringing in their ears.



Make the second chorus even bigger than the first


It can be hard to beat something that's already great but at least try. Whether you add a little more sauce to the guitar lead, or a few extra vocal layers, you have to do something to make that second chorus the pinnacle of the entire song. Hell, add a tambourine if you have too, just make it bigger and fatter than the first. Composing a song is all about building up to a high point and if your high point happened at the beginning of the song, what's the point to the rest of the song? Make the first chorus catchy as hell but save that extra 5% for the second chorus and you won't be sorry.



Something you can dance too


Don't forget you'll be playing these songs live in front of an audience one day. You know that super complicated 11/19ths and 73/29ths part your guitar player spent 17 months writing in his bedroom alone? Throw that shit in the trash and write a catchy two-step that your crowd can groove too. Only 0.0005% of the population gives a shit if you can write in a timing other than 4/4 and 6/8 and those guys are outside the venue smoking cigarettes and pretending like their opinions matter. Your true fans are standing inches away from you in the pit dancing and screaming your lyrics back at you. Play for those people, play for your true fans and give them something they can dance, mosh, or crowd kill too and you'll be rewarded with a fan base that gives more than they take. A true fan shows their friends your music and buys them a ticket to your next show.



Drums have to follow guitars


This may seem counterintuitive, but having the drums and guitars locked together is more important than anything else you do. Ever heard a song on the radio where the drums did their own thing and completely ignored the guitars? No, of course you haven't. It's so disorienting to the listener that a song like that would never make it on the radio. Your entire job as a member of a band is to work as a part of a team to achieve a cohesive sound to support the vocalist. If you fail in this one role, you've failed your band and even more important, the listener. You have to sync up with your bandmates or you may as well toss the entire song and start over. If you have too, take a recording of the song home and try every single beat you can think of until you find one that not only matches the guitar, but enhances it to a point where you're generating momentum that your vocalist can build on. Even the most lame guitar riff can be made cool and energetic with the right drum beat. So experiment, try anything and everything until you find that perfect beat that makes the whole thing groove and you won't be disappointed.



Tell a story


How can you expect your audience to get your message if you don't know what the message is? The number one job of the vocalist is to compose lyrics that tell a story that resonates with your audience. If you don't have a story to tell, your audience doesn't have a story to identify with. It's that simple. Find your story, find your message of delivery, and deliver it with as much passion as you can. Don't forget, you can literally save lives with your lyrics. Remember that as you're thinking that no one cares and it's just stupid lyrics that no one listens too anyway. Lyrics can save lives. So be real. Be truthful. Pour your heart out and your audience will respond in kind.



Don't get too far off topic


Both lyrically and musically, don't venture too far off topic when you get to the bridge or interlude of the song. The audience wants a little reprieve from the rest of the song, they don't want an entire side quest. Offer them a breath of fresh air or a little respite from the onslaught of notes that came before it. But don't stray too far! If you take your audience on a 10 minute long journey through an acid filled mind scape and back again they'll completely forget where they started and the journey back to the last chorus will be lost on them. Make it meaningful but keep it simple so it doesn't feel disjointed from the rest of the song.



Composition is key


Since you can't all solo at once, you may as well start thinking of each other instead of yourselves. A cohesive sound is achieved by writing your individual parts while taking each other instrument into consideration. For example, you wouldn't put a drum solo in the chorus because it would step all over every other instrument. Especially the vocals. You can't shine all the time or you'll burn out before your time has come. I know it's hard but try to listen to the song from an outsider's perspective. What does each part need from you to make it the best it can be? If it's a soft and somber section you wouldn't toss in a bunch of blast beats and bass drops, you'd find something to match the "feel" of the section. That goes for the instruments as well as the vocalist. You wouldn't throw the main vocal hook over a guitar solo. It wouldn't make any sense. So listen to your other bandmate's sections with a critical ear to write a part that not only fits the instrument but also the song as a whole. When it comes to the chorus, give those vocals a chance to shine by taking a back seat and holding down the rhythm without getting too fancy. If you take nothing else from this, just remember that it's a "band" of musicians, not a "solo" of one musician.




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