By Cliff Goldmacher
Writing for yourself is where it starts, but keep the artist in mind throughout your process
When you’re starting out as a songwriter, a common scenario is that something in your life moves you to the point where you’re inspired to write about it, and thus, your song is born. This may still be the case – and on some level, I hope so – but if you’re hoping that someone other than you will record your song, here are some essential strategies to keep in mind.
1. Make your song memorable and easy to learn.
There are several ways to create a memorable song. First and foremost, is there something about it that sticks in the listener’s mind and sets it apart? That’s a great place to start. Almost as important, though, is whether the song is easy to learn. If it is, then lots of things can happen. Not only can music fans pick up on it and sing along, but an artist is much more likely to connect with it and learn it as well. Lyrically, making sure your rhyme scheme is consistent in the verses and that your choruses are simple and the same from chorus to chorus is a great start. Regarding your melody, while it should be unique and memorable, it also helps to keep away from something so complicated that it’s tough to learn. Remember, in order for an artist to record your song, they have to learn it. The easier you can make that job for them, the better.
2. Your song should be easy to sing.
Just as important as making your song easy to learn is making it easy to sing. Not only will that help the artist in the studio as they’re recording it, but if the song is easy to sing then performing it night after night becomes less of a chore if – fingers crossed – it becomes a hit. A few things you can do to make your songs easy to sing are to keep your lyric more relaxed and conversational and make sure your melody’s range isn’t out of reach for most artists. An early indication that you might be missing the mark is if your demo singer has trouble either with the range or remembering the melody. Demo singers are specifically trained to work in the studio, and if they’re having trouble, then how can you expect an artist – who isn’t necessarily a studio pro – to be comfortable with it?
3. Portray the artist in a favorable light.
Another thing to keep in mind is how the artist will “look” singing your song. As songwriters we sometimes forget that when someone else sings our song, most listeners will just assume that the words the singer is singing come directly from them. Given that you’re hoping an artist will attach their name – and reputation – to your song, it’s that much more important to make sure your song portrays the artist in a favorable light. Does it make them seem like a good person? Do they appear insightful? There are very few artists who want to appear like a lost cause or someone who’s not put together, so keep that in mind when you write. This may sound obvious, but often we write to process feelings of sadness or frustration, and while that may be good for us, it might not be all that interesting for another artist to record.
4. Craft a universal message.
This is a tricky one. While you want to write from a meaningful, personal place, it’s important to keep in mind that it still has to be a universal message that people can relate to. Here’s the good news. Sometimes our most personal stories are the most universal. In other words, by telling the truth in your writing and staying sincere, it’s highly likely that others will relate to what you’re saying.
5. Take a unique angle.
Given that pretty much ALL songs are about love and people, what have you done in yours to make it somewhat unique? …Have you taken a fresh look at an old story? These are the kinds of things that you should consider when reviewing any song you’re hoping to pitch to an artist. Also, it’s worth noting that writing about current events is problematic because, often, by the time a song gets cut, those events are old news.