By Cari Cole
Let’s talk about writing hit songs!! The way I teach songwriting is by co-writing with my students, or sending them to our team of CCVM Songwriting Experts, and showing them how it’s done. They get to see all of our techniques up front and personal. I’m all for theory – but hands on is what does it. So in my style, I’m going to give you some of the behind the scenes of songwriting: the nitty gritty, how to make it happen, and my version of the alchemy behind a hit song. By hit songs I mean, songs that resonate with a lot of people (not songs that sell out).
I’ve been writing songs for over 30 years, and that’s not bragging — I’m still trying to get good at it. New writers to the craft should be patient. It’s going to take a while to get good. You’ve got to be willing to suck at first.
But there are some basic absolutely foundational tools and techniques to make your writing flow in the right direction — and hopefully, I’ll save you a little of the time it took me.
Here are my Top 3 Kickstart Tips for Writing Hit Songs:
1. Work from a list of Titles and Concepts.
In my Step Up to the Spotlight Program, I have a document called The Song Creator Daily Pages. It’s a way of writing a little bit every day. Get out a notebook (designate one for songwriting) and at the top of Page 1 write: “Song Creator Daily Pages”. Underneath write “Titles”. This is where you will keep a running list of Titles. Write 10-20 Titles here before next week.
2. Choosing subjects to write about.
Write songs that are emotionally charged, preferably from real life experiences. Real life is so much more interesting than fiction, and you have all of the images and metaphors to draw from. For my young newbie songwriters, try writing a song for someone or about someone. I start my students writing songs as young as 7-8-9 years old. I wrote my first song at 6 years old called “Tell Me Why”. It wasn’t a great song – but it was so exciting to express feelings that otherwise had no other outlet.
3. Write a little bit every day.
Set aside 20-30 min every day to flex your writing muscles and get your brain working on ideas and concepts. Ever hear people say “I wrote that song in 10 minutes?” That’s because their brain was at work creating that song around the clock so when they sat down to write it flew onto paper. Refer to one of your Titles for an idea to write about and write in your newly designated Songwriting notebook.
Songwriting Tools and Help:
- Masterwriter.com. A must-have for every aspiring and professional songwriter. Everyone uses it. Made by songwriters for songwriters. Has an awesome rhyming dictionary (better than any other) and some great other features like recording, drum loops, and time-stamp copyrighting.. check it out.
- Co-writing: Some people think they should write everything on their own. That is a crutch or somehow waters down their essence. Not true. Matter of fact, besides being a standard in the industry (you’d be surprised), some of the greatest songs ever have more than one name on the credits. Artists are always writing with other writers or producers, it’s one of the ways to get better at your craft. You can always write on your own, too.
Write with someone more experienced than you. Find writers who help you write in your voice and find your style and not superimpose theirs on you.