John Cashman and his team at Digital Firefly Marketing asked me to provide a story line for an infographic and I’m so glad they did. It forced me to distill the essence of the songwriting process into something simple, including steps you can follow to write your own song. Check this infographic, How To Write A Hit Song, for what I hope will inspire you to at begin or continue your songwriting journey. And below are steps you can take to do some real work, have some real fun, and hopefully create a song you’ll be proud of.
How To Write A Hit Song
First of all, no one really knows what a hit song is, until it becomes a hit. There are great songs that never become hits, and mediocre songs that do become hits. Thus, the most important step is to simply…begin. Don’t try to figure out a formula for how to write a hit song because as soon as you do, the formula will change.
You have to write your song and not someone else’s song. Honest expression resonates universally. When you express a heartfelt emotion the odds are you’re not alone in your experience. My most personal songs are the ones that went on to become hits, sometimes to my own surprise.
- Live Life – Fall in love, fall out of love, see a movie, read a book, keep a journal, save your ideas, look back but move forward
- Input – Listen to music you like, listen to music you don’t like. Imitate, emulate, then forget it all and create. Don’t chase a trend, be the trend.
- Experiment – Don’t judge your ideas, make a mess, dare to fail, keep it private until you’re ready to go public.
- Do The Work – Make an appointment with yourself and show up to work. Even when you’re not inspired make sure to write during your appointed time. Make some music and let the melody form words. Make some words and let them form melody. When you are inspired chase the inspiration. If you don’t finish, come back to it the next day and the day after that.
- Develop Your Craft – Talent is important. Hard work is more important. Be a ruthless editor. Hold your song up against hit songs you like. Is your song that good? If it isn’t, keep working on it until it is.
- Make Sure It’s A Song – A song is not a poem or a novel. It has it’s own form. Make sure you’re writing a song. Tell a story. Make it rhythmic, make it rhyme, make it understandable and always look for a great hook. The hook is a lyrical line or melodic phrase that makes the song memorable.
- Record It – Pro-Tools, Logic, Cubase, Garage Band and more…there are so many ways to record your song. Make a track that fits the style of your song.
- Get It Heard – No one will knock on your door to ask you if you’ve just written a hit song. Post your song anywhere and everywhere online. Submit it to songwriting contests. Give copies to everyone, from your local bar band to the backstage bouncer at a concert.
My first hit song became a hit because I gave a copy to a friend who had a brother who was dating the personal assistant to someone famous. That’s a crooked road straight to success! But you know what, most creative people creative because they have to and not because they’re thinking about success. It’s a strong impulse, a deeply felt emotional drive that spurs us through long nights or long days of experimentation, failure, success, rejection and acceptance. So if you’re writing a song just to make it a hit, forget it. If you have a sincere desire to express yourself and be creative, then go for it. That’s how to write a hit song.