Nashville Songwriters


       Helping Songwriters Write Better Songs

            How To Write Better Songs

   You Don't Have To Read Music Or Play An Instrument To Write Songs

                           by Nashville Songwriter Roy John Fuller

  Many successful writers don't play the guitar or piano but they can still hear the song melody in their heads. Anyone with basic music skills can help you establish the chords for your song melody. Don't let this stop you from writing songs

                                               Start With A Great Idea

      Before you can write a hit song you have to have a hit idea. Don't waste your time developing an idea that doesn't rock the house. How do you know if you have a great idea?  First, the idea should excite you. Never write about anything that doesn't excite and move you.   If the song idea doesn't keep your total attention and devotion you will not be motivated to spend the countless hours developing, moving parts around and re-writing the song to make it a hit song. It usually requires a huge effort on the part of the songwriter from writing, re-writing and pitching a song before any material success is realized from that song. Don't spend a lot of your valuable time on a bad song idea. That doesn't mean you have to have an old clich or catchy title to start writing a hit song.

You have to have a great song idea. One that can project images of actions or love. You song idea can about a songwriter that meets the love of his life while co-writing a new hit song. Could be called  "Love From A Hit Song", etc., but you need to be able to sit down and write out a list of actions or events that will take place in the lyrics of the song.   They need to eventually develop into the climax of the song where you and your new soul mate get married for instance. In any case, test your initial idea from several angles and ask your friends or fellow songwriters what they think of the song idea before you reach for that pen and start writing your heart out. Make sure you have a hit song idea first. Something new and unique with a twist of its own

                           Writing An Interesting Melody

     A Hit Song consists of hit lyrics and a hot melody. One without the other will not make a hit song, it takes both. If you write only lyrics you will need to co-write with someone that is a good melody writer. A hit melody must have variety and excitement just as the lyrics does. Never settle for the first melody that comes into your head, it will almost never be the best melody you can write. A great melody requires constant re-writing to make it a hit melody. You should have melody change ups in the chorus and the bridge.

     Most songs fit one of several basic patterns such as a verse with 4 or 5 lines, a chorus of 4 or 5 lines, another verse of 4 or 5 lines and possible a bridge. My focus will not be on song structure as there are many books and articles on correct song structure. We will focus primarily on things you can do to make your songs better and hopefully hit songs. The most successful song structure I see in hit songs on Billboard is Verse - Chorus -Verse - Chorus - Bridge - Chorus.

     Make sure you have a melody that can be complemented by one of the song structures above. If you have a melody that uses its own verse, chorus, bridge or other structure, you may not be able to locate lyrics that can be used with your melody. You do not need a full production melody to know if you have a hit potential melody. It does have to be interesting, exciting, new and refreshing though.  Take your melody idea and experiment with slightly different versions. Go high or low here and there instead of vice versa. Switch things around and try for the melody that's the most original and unique. You will need to make a great professional demo of the song later, but for now you just need a great unique chord arrangement.   

                                                        The First Verse

      The first verse is the most important verse in the song. Not that the other verses are not important because they are also important to a hit song. If the listener is not excited by the song during the first few bars and lines of lyrics they may stop listening to the rest of the song.  The first few lines of lyrics must get the listener's attention and set the stage for the rest of the song to develop. Be sure to use colorful and descriptive words and adjectives. Don't tell the listener what is happening, let the lyrics show the listener what is taking place in the song. Make sure you explore the where, what, whom and "what happened then" concept when writing your lyrics. Try to keep reading those good parts over and over in your mind.  Then try to add some new and interesting information in the song via imagery. Let your characters act it out in the song. That way your listener becomes part of the song.

      Remember you want one main idea only in your song. Once you determine what your idea is you have to fully develop that idea and not introduce other ideas that will water down your idea. Write strong lines that will develop your idea and contribute to the listener's understanding of the situation of our song. I recommend always using the third person point of view when writing songs at first. He, she or they is better at first than I or me. You can experiment with writing first person songs later. Also, Try to write happy, faster paced songs at first. You can write sad, slow, cheating songs later after you have developed more skills and have had some chart topping successes of your own. You want all the odds in your favor when trying to write your first hit song.

                                                  The Second Verse

       The second verse needs to continue the story to another level. Don't just repeat what the listener already knows, add new information, new action that will contribute to the listener's understanding of the basic story line.   Keep asking yourself, "then what did they do"?  Or, then what happened? Be sure to use more colorful, descriptive and entertaining words and lyrics. Use rhyme carefully and don't overdo. Rhyme is used to help sell your song to the listener.  The rhyme will help the listener predict what's coming next and in remembering the lines to your song, especially in the chorus where you will usually repeat the lines.

                                                     Writing The Chorus

       The chorus is where you bring your primary idea to bear. This is where you provide the solution or the result of the actions in the verses. The melody of the chorus should be a change up from the melody of the verses also. You need to use variety here to keep the story interesting, but to the point.  Always stay on target with your one idea and every word of the song needs to contribute new information to the idea you are developing. Don't take off on another angle that leads you away from the main basic idea of your song. Every line of your songs needs to point to the main idea or title of your song. If any line of your song does not point directly to or complement your main idea and title, cut it now. Always keep reading your title and main idea over in your head while you are writing new lyrics or re-writing old lyrics.   Stay on track with your one main idea.

       Use repetition in your chorus to drive home the main idea of the song. Repeat the title more than once. Use rhyme in the chorus to drive home the main idea that you are repeating.  The chorus is not the place to inject new angles or directions. It's the place to drive home the main theme of your song and maybe the consequences of the actions in the verses.

       I'm not sure a song is really ever finished.  I have songs I have been writing on for years with demos completed and I still find a better more creative way to deliver the message. Always stay open to new ways to improve your songs with new lyrics and new melody changes. Strive to make your song as strong as possible. Only then will it have a chance of being hear and recorded. Make sure you have tied all the lines of you song back to the title. Can the song do without one of the lines?  If so, cut it now and write another.  It won't survive the test of pitching a song these days. Publishers and recording artists are not looking for good songs, they want hit songs that will further promote their careers. The good songs they record will be written by their friends, etc. You need a hit song to get anyone's attention today. That's why its so important to have a great idea before you start writing the song. Only a song with a great unique idea and carefully crafted lyrics and melody will get consideration in today's competitive songwriting market. Don't fall into the trap of writing long songs. The average radio song is 3 to 4 minutes with less than 4 minutes more desirable. Long songs may not get airplay.


         Consider co-writing with another songwriter. Co-writing offers many rewards, one of which can be hit songs. Find someone that brings something other than what you bring to the table. If your strength is writing lyrics, find someone that is a better melodist that you are. The combination can result in stronger songs. When it comes times to cutting quality song demos and pitching to artist you have two resources to contribute with a co-writer.


                                          Final Songwriting Comments:

        I have been writing songs many years now and I have a collection of some nice song starts, tunes, verses, etc.  I literally have a suitcase full of napkins, torn off paper with lines on them and let's not even talk about my home studio where I have hundreds of tunes to music waiting on lyrics to finish them. The best advice I can give to a songwriter is stick to just one song and force yourself to make it strong.  Make sure you have a hit idea though before you spend your time on a song. .

      Roy Fuller a BMI songwriter has had several Top 10 Billboard Pick Hits starting with "Angel In Disguise" (1975 Nashville Columbia Studio B), "Your Song" (1975 Nashville Columbia Studio B), "The Image of Me" (1978 Nashville RCA Studios),  "Giving Up Getting Over You" (1979 Nashville Tandem Studios),  "The First Time" (1981 Nashville Woodland Studios), "Do It" (1981 Nashville Woodland Recording Studios), "The Shoe's On Another's Foot" (1981 Nashville Woodland Recording Studios).  He has Pick Hits and write up's in Nashville Entertainer,  Songwriter Magazine and other music industry publications.