6 Most Proven Hit Songwriting Tips and Steps in Writing Effective Songs

Tip#6: Write with common structure and arrangement

It’s OK to be unique with structuring the song. But most hit songs do have some common structure. These are the following:

1.) Verse- Chorus – Verse
2.) Verse –Chorus – Verse – Bridge
3.) Chorus – Verse – Chorus –Bridge

As you have observed, all song structure used in hit songs do include a chorus. A common mistake in songwriting is ignoring the importance of chorus. And even you include a chorus, make sure it stands out from your song and make it sound different from your stanza or bridge.

3 Most Important Steps in Writing Hit Songs

If you are able to write even a single hit song, you have found a gold mine. This song can be an excellent source of income whether from royalties, licensing opportunities and exposure if you know how to market it. In my experience of writing songs, I found out that writing hit song is not that hard as it is used to be. But it can take days or weeks to complete even for a single song and requires a lot of patience. But before we start, before are the things you need:

1.) A musical instrument whether a guitar or a piano – it depends on whether you are better at playing guitar so pick a guitar otherwise use a piano.
2.) A cassette recorder
3.) A piece of notebook. I recommend purchasing a single notebook dedicated to writing songs. 100 leaves are fine.
4.) A ball pen

songwriting gears

songwriting gears

This tutorial assumes you can play common and different musical chords in your musical instrument. You do not need to be a great singer to write a hit song. As long as you can sing, it is OK.

Step1: Write a Great Lyrics

a.) Avoid using poetic lines; listeners of your song cannot associate your lyrics with reality. Instead write meaningful and easy to understand lyrical lines.

b.) Since your lyrics convey meaningful and easy to understand lines. Overall, it should have a clear and focused message. For example if you write a song about your dog. Then all the lyrical lines should support the song message. The song topic should not divert elsewhere or else listeners would find it odd and cannot relate.

c.) Write at most 10 words catchy phrase at the start of your chorus. Of course your chorus lyrics should be more than 10 words but put more emphasis on the first 10 words as they are very important. Later you would be composing melodies to these words that would become the “hook” of the song. Hook of the song is the most memorable part of the song, the part of the song that would become timeless and legendary in the listeners’ ear. For example, the song entitled “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from the Beatles; the most memorable part is the 9 notes/words/syllables section at the start of the chorus. Another example is the song “Yellow Submarine” from the Beatles; the most memorable part is the “We all live in yellow submarine” line which is also a 9 note song chorus hook.

d.) Write lyrics with an intention to touch the hearts of your listeners. This does not mean you entirely have a catalogue of love letter lyrics. But write lyrics with relevance to human emotions such as anger, fear, happiness, joy, infatuation and surprise. Also write lyrics describing and telling about human celebrations such as birthday, wedding, anniversary, etc. This song would easily become a hit song and part of the playlist for that specific celebration. For extremely serious song writing business, I would be willing to spend the whole day writing the complete lyrics for a single song.

Step2: Write a Great Stanza Melody

Actually you will be composing at least 3 different melodic arrangements (each melodic arrangement could have different chord sequences) for the entire song. These are the following:

a.) Melody chord arrangement for the song stanza (first, second, third stanza, etc.)
b.) Melody arrangement for the song chorus
c.) Melody arrangement for the song bridge.

For most commonly released hit songs, they have something in common. A high percentage of released hit songs originated from common chord sequences which are used in the stanza melody composition. Start strumming with your guitar in 4/4 time signature:

And then select any the following chord sequences below:

a.) G-D-Em-C
b.) C-Am-F-G
c.) D-A-G-A
e.) C-G-Am-F
f.) G- C-D-C
g.) Am-C-F-G
h.) A- E-F#m-D
I.) F-Dm-Bb-C
j.) G-Em-C-D

Did you notice that they sound familiar and nice? It is because 95% of hit songs released are written and rooted from the above chord sequences. Once you have decided with your favourite chord sequence, say you pick the last: G-Em-C-D for your song stanza. Start strumming 4/4 and compose your stanza melody by humming any tunes that could fit the lyrics you wrote. If it doesn’t fit, you have two options:

a.) Either rewrite the lyrics to fit the melody tune you have composed.
b.) Find other melody that should fit the lyrics (in this case you do not want to change the lyrics).

I would be willing to work two days just to write the great stanza melody. Once I finalized the melody I would be recording it on a cassette.

Step3: Write a POWERFUL and easy to REMEMBER Hook

The hook of the song (examples illustrated previously) is the most important part of the song and is the main reason why the song becomes a hit. This is your challenge:

Find the best melodic tunes/arrangement possible for the 10 catchy word phrases at the start of the chorus”.

Hit song hooks are creatively written where songwriters are willing to spend up to the entire week finding out which tune would be considered as catchy and as addictive as possible. It looks simple because you only need to compose musical notes for the first 10 words in your chorus which would become the hook of the song. Below are the tips:

a.) I suggest not to record your hook at the cassette recorder right after compose it. Give it some time for you to evaluate the tune. You can simply rehearse and sing along with it.

b.) Then in the next day, try to sing it again if you can still remember the tune. If you FORGOT the tune, chances are the tune is NOT good enough to become the hook of the song. Remember that this part would be the hardest to forget, something that sticks to the listeners brain for a very long time.

c.) If you finally been able to remember the tune of the hook the next day, do not still record it and give it at most one week to assess or evaluate. Then you are ready to do the final test.

d.) Find a child, something around 6 to 7 years old that could sing. Bring the child near to you and let the child listen to your song while you perform. Play the hook or chorus section several times and then ask the child to sing along with you. If the child can sing the chorus parts comfortably and easily; chances are the song hook tune is addictive and great. Do it the next day to check if the child can still remember and sing along with your song.

Finally on the last day, have the child sing alone the song hook in acapella (without your aid and without any musical instrumentation). You can also ask the child what he/she remembers from the song. This is the most difficult test in determining hit songs. If the child can sing it in acapella very well, bingo you have just written a hit song; great job and congratulations! If it appears catchy and memorable to a child, it is even better for teenagers and adults. Hook sections in song writing should not be complex, think of nursery rhymes and songs they are very simple and easy to remember.

Continue with the rest of the process such as the writing the bridge and finally record everything to the cassette. Make sure it is not more than 4 minutes overall if you are targeting songs to be played on a radio. They prefer shorter songs; preferably around 3 minutes to 4 minutes in length.

Content last updated on October 10, 2012

  • Dawn

    I really need this information you posted. I’ve been writing on and off for a while have really taken it seriously until just this year. Anyway tip 6 helped me the most thanks for the BLOG.

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Simon,
    Great to know you’ve learn a lot of things from this blog. Good luck in your songwriting and recording career!.

    Cheers.

  • Simon George

    I’m a musician from Nashville and have been playing guitar for 15 years.I’m trying to learn how to record my own and blogs with information like this help a lot. Great post, keep up the good work. Thanks.