Here’s 3 things songwriters do that keep them from rising to pro level.
Saying Too Much
Who hasn’t heard of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)?
The concept is clear and widely known. But unfortunately, knowing and understanding are two very different things. Listen to your last song for a moment and tell me: Could it be made simpler, more straight-forward?
Experience tells me that there’s always a way to simplify, or, as I like to call it, get to the core of the song. Take out a couple bass drums. Let the bass follow the kick. Experiment until you find the simplest, best solution and take out whatever you don’t need.
I do this when I get to mixing. I’ll go through each track and mute it to see what it does to the song. More often than not, I’ll wind up several regions throughout the whole song, which makes my mixing easier and thereby improves my whole sound.
So what do you listen for? You listen for the groove. If it doesn’t add to the groove (meaning the flow of your song) it’s clutter and you need to take it out.
If you start bobbing your head as soon as you take something out, that’s a clear sign that it should stay out. Your only alternative is to work on the timing and see if you can get that groove back.
Hooks Don‘t Hook
Many songwriters rely too much on their hooks. This is not a huge mistake in itself, hooks are very important, but they are only one of 3 important factors when it comes to songwriting.
The other two factors are Groove and Lyric-Less Storytelling. Without these, your song will never reach its potential, no matter how great your hook.
Why? Because your audience won’t even get to your hook. They will turn your track off. And that’s death.
Think about it: Why do you think A&Rs only listen to the first 15 seconds of a track?
They listen to 3 things:
- Is the production on par,
- Does it sound like this year and
- Is it interesting to listen to?
If your song isn’t captivating, you got yourself a big problem, because you will lose your audience before they’ve even heard your singer’s first line.
Your way out of this problem is Lyric-Less Storytelling, which is the process of taking your audience by the hand and leading them through the song.
Skilled Lyric-Less Storytelling relies on subtle, psychological principles that subconsciously capture your audience’s attention and keep it until the very end of the song.
We already talked about KISS, now let’s talk about it’s brother, overwriting (I don’t really have a cool abbreviation for this one. S.T.Y.F.I.? Stick To Your First Idea?).
If you’re like most songwriters, then it will sometimes take you weeks or months to finish a song. And when you write on a song for a very long time, something happens:
You get bored with it and you decide to change what was working.
This is a big problem in electronic music especially, where songwriters let their songs mutate into over-complicated constructs with way too many clever bits.
Focus on what’s important. Songwriting is an emotion game. You’re not speaking to the logical brain of your audience so don’t make it more “interesting”, make it more straight-forward.