If you ever take time to analyze modern pop songs you will find that they have many element in common. Understanding these elements may increase your chance for success. Will it guarantee success? In life there are no guarantees. But, doing certain thing the right way will increase the odds in your favor.
In baseball there is a thing called the “sweet spot” That is a location on the bat that provide maximum performance from the bat. When the ball hits the sweet spot just right the result is usually a home run. Does the ball always contact the sweet spot? Of course not. But, the hitter practices and strives to make it happen. In song there are also certain “sweet spots”. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Fulfill Listener’s Expectations
When it come to writing a song you need to keep in mind that there are certain listener expectations. As a songwriter it is your mission to meet those expectations. If you fail to meet these expectations then you will lose your listener. Here are some to those expectations as it applies to current pop songs.
Whats That Song Called?
The first item in a pop song is the song’s title. The title needs to be prominent. In order for it to be prominent it must be repeat several times. Repetition is the key. The sweet spot for the majority of pop songs is seven. When you write your songs incorporate the song’s title at minimum seven times.
It all about timing
Also in regards to the title your listener will expect to hear it before the 60 second point in the song. Keep in mind that when someone wants to find your song they search for its title. If the title is found in a spot where the listener does not expect it, they will have a difficult time seeking that song out. The majority of instances the song title is be featured in the chorus. Therefore the song should be in the chorus on or before this point.
Are you talking to me?
The next item is the proper use of pronouns. Your song is a conversation between you and the listener. Many time a songwriter will try to write from a different point of reference. But when it comes to hit pop songs the magic pronoun is “you”. The sooner you use this pronoun the quicker you will engage the listener. The benchmark for using this word should fall about the 20 second mark in your song. Therefore make a point of using “you” in the first verse of your song.
Get to the point
One element in song form is the Intro. This is a short instrument interlude or riff that sets the stage and groove for a song. The days of expansive intros are long gone. One mistake I notice with novice songwriters is lush and long musical intros. The key to a pop song is to engage the listener as soon as possible. Most intro in pop music is around 8 seconds. If your song is 100 – 120 beat per minute that means that the intro should be about 4 bars of music.
Set the tempo
The pace of a song is determined by its tempo. Tempo is an important element in the song to establish a certain energy level. Slow music is regarded a calm and soothing while faster beats indicate excitement.
Don’t overstay your welcome
The length of a song is important. The average length of a pop song is about 3 to 4 minutes. In reality that is plenty of time to tell the song’s story. Any longer and you can lose your listener’s attention. If it takes longer to tell the story consider a major rewrite. There may be too much information or lyrics that don’t fully support the story.
Don’t forget to change thing up
Around the 2 minute mark the listener expect something to change. This is the two minute wall. This is typically where you will put a bridge or instrumental solo. Make it a point the change things up at this point. By this time you need to grab the listeners attention before that fall into a hypnotic trance.
Use this chart as a songwriting benchmark
Watch this short video on Hit Pop Song Formula.
The intention of this information is to provide you with some good guidelines to follow. These ideas are not intended to be cookie cutter solution. Think of it as a recipe to follow when writing a song. Two people can follow the same recipe and come out with similar results. But the skill of a Master Chef can make that recipe a work of art. Painters have limitations of the canvas. Songwriters in the same manner have certain limitation. It is though these limitation that we can bolster creativity.
Think this information as a blueprint you can follow when you write or rewrite your songs. It may seem easy but you will soon find out that writing to these specs will be a tough job. Hitting these points in a song take skillful and innovative writing ability.
I am sure you have your own option of thought regarding this information. I invite you to voice your options in the comment section.