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What is most important for a successful song?

Discussion in 'The Writers' Block' started by kbold, Dec 4, 2019.

  1. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    I thought the hits were all being written by a couple of Swedes.
     
  2. coreytree

    coreytree Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I think this is a topic that’s long been debated and discussed, and like so many questions, the answer can be “it depends”. Aside from different ideas about what “successful” is (everything from you being happy with the result to being commercially successful), I have personally been focusing on melody as important. That includes good melody throughout - hook, chorus, verse, bridge, etc.

    My personal pit to avoid has been leaning so much on guitar licks and riffs when writing - been doing that for way too long - and I can get to feeling stuck if I do guitar first when writing. Too many old habits my can fingers fall into. I’ve gotten so I write away from guitars, instead singing into my phone to capture ideas. It can be very spontaneous and freeing for me to do so.

    One thing I like is creating something that has elements of familiarity, but something unusual at the same time.

    I’ve also been exploring song structure variants to try to keep a song feeling interesting from beginning to end.

    Obviously, lyrics can be very important, yet that often depends on the genre and the intent of each song. I know it’s my personal weak point, and so I’ve been working in that a lot as well.

    There really are no rules, though writers and producers may come up with guidelines that may help propel them at any given time.

    For me, one important thing is to write a LOT in order to improve. Don’t stop. Keep creating.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  3. telestratosonic

    telestratosonic Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    1) Melody is most important, imho. I want to be able to sing a song while out for a walk. For example: Crazy, She Loves You, Blue Spanish Eyes, Across the Universe, If We Make It Through December, Yesterday, to name but a few. For me, not only my own compositions but any song has to meet the 'stand-alone-melody' standard.

    2) Writing 'good' lyrics is a challenge, especially alone. I do ask my wife for imput though. When I'm driving alone I'll tune in to country stations. Unless, I go to SirusXM stations, everything is New Country.
    I'm no fan of New Country. Most melodies are 'flat-lined', unlike classic country tunes by Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, etc. See 1) above. However, if one doesn't mind the usual New Country song themes, the odd song has pretty good lyrics. And this is my reason for listening. I like to listen to a song's lyrics as well as the melody.

    3) Around sevenish each evening, the wife and I will settle down to watch television for a few hours. Ozark, Better Call Saul, The Civil War, The Dust Bowl Years, Walking Dead, Washington, American Idol, 48 Hours, Hell On Wheels, etc. We're all over the place. I'm in my recliner with my lightweight Epiphone Les Paul Jr. in my hand while the wife is on the couch. I don't use a pick when doing this; just my thumb and index finger. A pick is too loud. Whatever music is being played, I try to land on the key and play along with little riffs of my own.
    Bottom line is that I'm fiddling around on the guitar for several hours every night. Believe it or not, I've come up with a few melody ideas and snippets of possible lyrics doing this. I keep a notebook handy just for lyrics. When I'm out walking, I'll sing if no one's within earshot. If I get a song idea, I'll whip out my iPhone and record it. If I don't do this, I'll probably forget it.

    Just my two cents worth. By the way, I'm still working on that #1 hit. ;/)
     
  4. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    The KISS rule is for most of us.
    Fortunately, Paul Simon and Elvis Costello were skillful enough to transcend it.
     
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  5. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    why are there no more story songs that are successful?

    like "whiskey in the jar" or "the legend of bonnie and clyde" or "wreck of the edmund fitzgerald"?

    too slow to the chorus? lack of listener attention span? is a story song by definition going to be unsuccessful?
     
  6. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Afflicted

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    Knowing how subjective music taste is.....one person's music is another person's noise.
    Admittedly, I feel a lot of what's out there is noise but I'm 73 and jaded. :)

    "Story" songs....to me, they're just dull and just don't move me at all musically...that doesn't mean the songs are bad or that there aren't good venues well suited for the genre.
    You don't want to know what I think of sappy love songs. :)

    Carry on....be smart/stay safe.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
  7. Biffasmum

    Biffasmum Tele-Meister

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    Yep. Long winters!
     
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  8. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ugh. Almost all my songs are stories or situations. I just don't like writing feeling songs. It depresses me. Listening to 'em usually does, too. Pop schlock. I write songs to get out of my feelings. For me, song writing is pure escape.

    And highly addictive. So if the price is a bunch of dull songs, that's a price I'll cheerfully pay!
     
  9. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Afflicted

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    Ha....have I ever mentioned "song writing is a very personal endeavor".....only countless times on these forums. :)

    Song 'story telling' is great talent and I tend to think there's a huge demographic that the genre appeals to and many venues that prefer it.
    So...saying you're songs are 'dull' doesn't work for me....it's what you write and you're good at what you do and your playing gigs.
    'Story telling' in song is a 'strong point' too.

    Yes....it can be 'addictive'.
    On my latest song, when the word "Adrenaline" came to me back in August or so I thought...."chu, who in their right mind writes a song about a hormone!"
    Well...it certainly meets my personal song writing criteria of being parsecs away from cliche.
    But...being OCD once I start a song I waffled on through it until I was satisfied....it took about 6 six weeks, clip board in hand, to complete just the lyrics.

    Song writing is hard work and a lonely sport for us creative types.
    I wish all success in their music endeavors regardless of genre.

    Carry on...
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
  10. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Holic

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    Melody.

    In the words of Burt Bacharach, "no one whistles the lyrics."
     
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  11. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Holic

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    That's an interesting article, but it focuses on pretty bad and immediately forgettable modern pop rather than songs that will be remembered in 5 or 50 years.

    Compare that list to "Yesterday" or "Roxanne" or most other classics not recently written. Some principles from the list apply, but others certainly don't apply across the board, especially "The melodies are one note, repeated" and the quite obviously contradictory "Everyone likes to be surprised" and "But they also like hearing the same thing over and over". I imagine a young songwriter sitting down to write and thinking, "Ok, one note melody, very repetitive chord progression, but I still need to somehow surprise people. I need to repeat the title over and over, but use nonsensical words for a key part of the song. I need to sing to someone, but they need to be able to imagine themselves singing it. Got it."
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
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  12. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    What was interesting to me about that article was that it makes sense. We probably all do some of that some of the time. The elements seem excessive to me, but I've sure never written a hit.

    The thing is, you can have all that and still have a bad song.

    I remember being a judge in an arts commission competition for state grants for the arts. We had a singer-songwriter with a refrain he repeated at least thirty times: "I've got the urge the merge with the cosmic surge."

    Ow. Repeating it did not turn it into a good line.
     
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  13. TwangToInfinity

    TwangToInfinity Tele-Afflicted

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    lyrical melody, even when it is an instrumental.

    cool tone is good too.
     
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  14. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

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    a strong 'Melody'-it makes any song ''Memorable!''.The lyrical phrasing,the 'phrasing of etc'' also., but the melodic content wins everytime!a poor melody=a poor song,regardless of who sings it!
     
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  15. claes

    claes Tele-Afflicted

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    Being a songwriter is lonely unless you write together with someone. But not as lonely as being a writer.

    I think the right lyrics with the right melody is the most important. Obla-di obla-da or From both sides now.

    ALso as a songwriter you have to be prepared to fail, to make a fool of yourself.
     
  16. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    The melody and/or the hook.
     
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