What Makes a Good Song – Part I
Here we share some vital tips about how to write a good song and provide you a few dynamic examples. Please note that the information below offers general guidelines which may not apply to every type of music but, in general, if the ideals below are followed, will help you to produce more exciting, more marketable music.
At AudioSparx, it is critical for you to properly and fully configure your tracks (Tempo, Instruments, Moods, Styles, Pricing, etc.) so that our clients can find them on a HyperSearch. We’ve reiterated the importance of DYNAMITE descriptions and adding Keywords. If you improve your compositions, you’ll be more successful all around and meet your fans’ and our clients’ expectations!
Some of you are writing music that starts slow, meanders and just trails off. Or perhaps your songs are good but your sequencing and sound texture quality sounds poor. Many such tracks could be improved by being chopped in half and beefed up into a more desirable and logical piece of music. Don’t abandon your good ideas and exciting melodies, but please try to rethink afresh what musical elements or instruments or sonic effects you could add to turn each track into something unique and desirable, whether it’s a romantic melody, Children’s music, Heavy Metal, Classical or Horror. Techniques that exist for improvement in one genre apply equally to other genres.
If you're using cheap and outdated keyboards, please make an investment into some new keyboard technology so your instruments sound realistic and dynamic, and not cheap and amateurish. If you've uploaded many tracks using poor technology, consider deleting them or replacing them as soon as possible, so that you don't detract from your great works by presenting them alongside mediocre works. If you're using a sequencer, make sure to not over-quantize your MIDI tracks, which can make them sound mechanical and lacking in sensitivity and finesse.
Today we will give you examples of what we consider some great music, and in the next communiqué we will go into more detail about tempo, structure, lyrics and more.
Examples of a Few Great Music Tracks
Because you are all such a talented group, it was hard to decide which music to highlight here. We think if you take a listen to these, you will glean some ideas about how to write better music so clients will want to buy your music. We read somewhere that the best songs are those that dwell deep inside your heart. Some of these may be angry or horror-filled ideas, or they may be best-kept secrets and perhaps painful – or else they may be so joyful that it’s hard to sleep at night. These are the songs we think our clients will recognize for their honesty and want to include in their productions.
Ballistic by Chuck Henry – Gangster Hip Hop. This song is almost screaming at you in the first 20 seconds. Then it gets even more exciting! An ambient sensibility with good beats; it combines heavy percussion offset with delicate overlays of instrumentation, and has a surprise musical element near the end. A buyer keeps listening because the song is clever and you have no idea where it will take you. You have written a GREAT song if you can make a client stay with you all the way to the end – because that’s what will help get your music sold.
River in Flood, by Massimiliano Francechin -- Hot Electro-House. Exciting and unpredictable action in the first 20 seconds, introducing new instruments, ramping up the excitement.
Quixotic Fool by Max DiCarlo – Classical / Full Orchestra. Max doesn’t make you wait, a key element that our clients generally want in their films or projects. During first two seconds, you can tell that this song is written so large, so dynamically, that you know it will shine in an epic movie with a gigantic world-wide audience! Action! Drama! Romance! A stunning track that has all the required elements for a hit song.
Ouzo by Jeremy Sherman – World Music / Greek. Who knew you create so much excitement in only 30 seconds? A fanfare opening that rachets up and then gives you an imperceptible Bring-Down-the-Curtain closing. Stunning! It is harder than you think to write a full-scale track in 30 seconds, but everyone should set a goal to master that feat. After creating a number of 30 second hits, try to build up to 60-second tracks of pure excitement, and so forth.
KT Cinematic by Keith Thomas – Dramatic / Romance. This is simply one of the most beautiful and mysterious tracks on our site. With 15 Grammy nominations, world-class producer Keith Thomas has garnered 40 #1 Hit Singles and album sales of 30 million copies, yet his name is rarely on the marquis. Wish we had more of Keith’s music.
Tension at the Orchestra by Francisco Miceli -- Dramatic / Edgy. An excellent, mysterious orchestral piece, a beautiful tension-builder with a dynamic ending! Francisco Miceli is new to our site from Brazil with some stunning and original compositions.
How to Write a Good Song – Part 2
Consistency Is Rewarded: Congratulations to those of you who took a critical review of your music tracks at AudioSparx and deleted all lackluster music that was detracting from your GREAT tracks! Our clients love to find an artist whose music has a consistency in style, production quality and originality. If your music has these traits a client will return often to license your tracks for their projects. Please continue cleaning up your tracks during August before we move into the excitement of the Fall season. This advice is aimed especially to artists who have been at AudioSparx for several years who have many tracks on line. Because your recent music is far superior to earlier efforts, we urge you to delete from your artist page any inferior tracks for reconsideration or more exciting rewrites. Many of our Hot New Artists at AudioSparx are bringing a solid, consistent high-quality library of music and sound effects our clients are taking note of – and buying!
In researching what makes a good song, we found an article written on Facebook dated May 6, 2009, by Eric Beall. We have used his advice and added some of our own, trying to give a few examples of great songs by your colleagues that meet the mark. You all deserve to shine and to have your music taken seriously, so we urge you to consider the advice below as you go forward with your songwriting compositions and productions.
1. Use Good Catchy Titles That Match the Music: Try to come up with something short, catchy – and original. The title should also fit the music. As stated before here, don’t name a Country & Western tune “Springtime in Paris.” One of the cleverest titles we have seen lately is a fun song by Pittsburg artist, Joel Steudler (now a permanently Featured Artist), titled “Detectives and Donuts.” Joel writes exciting full-throttle orchestral Dramatic music, but amazingly “…Donuts” is hands-down the most popular track on his Play History Report. It’s the best example we know for a fun and catchy title for fun and catchy music.
Conversely, if you have written an epic orchestral piece, you had better give it a BIG STUNNING TITLE – after all, you want to win an Oscar for this number. Some Oscars were handed out over the years to such expressive titles as: Over the Rainbow, 1939; Moon River, 1961; Lara’s Theme, 1965; Shaft, 1971; The Way We Were, 1973; Beauty and the Beast, 1991. And the big, memorable winner in 2005, “It’s Hard Out Here Being a Pimp.” Please take a serious look at your titles. If you have a dynamite, sexy instrumental entitled “Going Home” you may experience a sales uptick by simply renaming it to fit the sexiness of the content, like maybe “Lolita Goes Home” or “High Noon Lovers.” And a sad song entitled “Sadness,” a title used over and over to the point of being a cliché, could become “Lush Remorse.” If you do any one thing advised here today, please rename those great saleable tracks that have ZERO sales with something more creative, original and descriptive of the music you have written. Then take a look as time goes by and see what happens in your Play History Reports or possible sales of this track. (Don’t forget the importance of listing appropriate Moods, Styles and Keywords so your tracks will be found when a client uses the HyperSearch feature!)
2. Song Structure Can Be Varied But There Are a Few Basic Principles: Every song has a beginning, middle (climax) and end. Try to make each part unique, yet inter-related. Use the best parts more than once, don’t take too long to get to the best parts, and have at least one section that comes as a bit of a surprise. “Crime Lab” is a great example of a well-structured song that satisfies every principal recommendation for writing a good song! Composed by Hot New Artist, Bryan Fusilier, who hails from New Orleans, his title so aptly describes this bed of music that a client knows what’s up before taking a listen. The music starts with a bang at the two-second mark, has unusual and quirky sounds, stabs of music that build tension through repetitiveness, and has a cool, perfect ending.
3. The Arrangement Should Enhance the Song: On almost any classic record of any style, there is some sort of instrumental hook built into the arrangement of the song—the bass line in “Billie Jean,” the string lines of “Yesterday” or the guitar riff of “Johnny B. Goode.” If you CANNOT find the instrumental hook in your song, then the song is not done and it probably won’t sell very well. Our LA composer Rob Johnson has created a super song, "Koolsville," with a super-catchy hook.
4. Use the Correct Tempo So Your Song Does Not Drag: You never really understand the importance of getting the tempo right until you play your song in front of someone. Suddenly, everything seems to be in slow motion. The best advice is to push the tempo up to the breaking point and then pull back just slightly from that. Featured Artist from the UK, Paul Curtis, in his lively “Industrial Renegade,” pushes the tempo up a notch to help elevate the excitement. This is one track with a great title and a super ending.
5. Go For Emotional, Intellectual or Physical Impact: The impact of music is emotional, intellectual and it can be physical. Crank up a little Nine Inch Nails on your stereo. Drums and bass should be a physical force that literally pushes the music along. Don’t be timid. Try to blow the listener out of his chair – he will need that track for endurance road tests, extreme sports, CSI murder scenes, and for intense video games, too. Recent Hot New Artist from Italy, Tatiana Sporzon, gives us a loud, rocking, over-the-top example of kicking up both the heat and the tempo to match her musical message with her track "Final Fly Mast." It also has a dynamite closing.
6. Lyrics Should Be Appropriate, Singable and Cliché free: Lyrics matter, so try to express something from the bottom of your heart. We know rhymes are a necessary evil, from rain to pain, and love from above, etc., but keep it lo-phat sick with a twist and turn from the ordinary into the extraordinary ... ya feel me? To help those of you writing lyrics, you can VASTLY improve your lyric writing capability by using Web-based rhyming dictionaries. Here's a few of the better ones: RhymeZone, Rhyming Dictionary, DillFrog Rhymer. Also here's a few other dictionaries that may come in handy: Slang Dictionary, Dictionary of Symbolism, Difficult Words Dictionary, Synonym Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus. Also, please paste your Lyrics into the “Extended” section Lyrics field so hurried buyers who like the melody can quickly read the lyrics without straining to hear them over the instruments, grab the track for a production, pay and go ASAP. This song gives you an example of a quirky title that makes a client just curious enough to listen (“Uh Oh”), with a dynamic chorus and delightful, funny lyrics that easily justify the title. This was written by Hot New Tennessee Artist, Mark Canty.
7. Be Sure Genre Selection Fits Your Music: Because Dramatic and Action genres are great sellers here, musicians often mislabel tracks that should be under genres like Pop, Hip Hop or some other genre. If you have doubts, listen to tracks on line like yours to be sure you have both the Genre and Sub-Genre correct. Clients hate to be spammed and may blacklist use of your music for their productions if they are seeking “African” music and a Children’s Lullaby comes up in their search. Accidental selections occur, so double-check each track to be sure you have made a correct selection. We have communicated lately with several artists here who categorized dance music as “Dramatic/Corporate” or Meditation/Yoga music as “Video Games.” We understand the difficulty in making a genre or style decision. Hence, if you're unsure, please review the content on the site to familiarize yourself with what's already there before deciding on genres. Dramatic and Action genres generally cover music that has been created primarily for use in Film, TV, Games, News, etc. and would not generally fall into other genres. Here is an example of a great Dramatic / Action track in case you have any doubts about whether a song of yours might belong in this category. This is the dynamic and tension-building cue that won the "Editor's Choice Award" recently: Assassination by Stoyan Ganev, a featured composer from Bulgaria.
8. Does the Song Have the Potential for Mass Appeal? Is It the Right Size? Too many songwriters create lovely little songs: a melancholy little lyric, with a tiny, subtle hook buried at the end of each little chorus, with a lot of little chords and a melody in a little six or seven note range. Pop hits tend to be BIG, GRANDIOSE ANTHEMS to be played in BIG ARENAS FOR BIG CROWDS – or in EPIC ACTION MOVIES. That’s why they’re big hits. In addition, please do not take a great two-minute composition and drag it on for an extra four minutes! Check your compositions to be sure you present the essential music concepts and not put our clients to sleep! We love UK Composer Greg Patmore's Secret Service, Note its dynamic opening, building excitement and it has an appropriate closing. The title is spot-on to let the client know this cue is perfect for Action Thrillers, Espionage and James Bond themes.
9. Does Your Song End Appropriately or Just Meekly Fade Out? We often hear a song that we think is dynamite and exciting; it builds dramatically and has a high level of all the right stuff to be a winner for our clients’ productions, then it just fizzles out at the end. What happened to the excitement, ouch, this is horrible! Reconsider a new ending to make a good song better. Here’s a track we like, which is fun throughout and then ends on an appropriate and fun note that you say “YES!” It’s by featured UK Artist, Chris Barry. The title is “New Bond”. Also note his great Description and below are his Keywords, which means anyone looking for music for a variety of projects would quickly discover this track: James Bond, Spy, crime, detectives, cops, criminal, CSI, investigation, romance, island travel, cruises, Madrid nightclub, mystery, spying, chases, bull fights. Another track, by Joseph Adamich, that shows a great ending is "A New Beginning."
10. Are Your Mixes Loud and Distorted? The quickest way to kill a sale today and for all the years ahead is to upload a version so pumped up in the mix that it distorts and sounds excessively loud and annoying in relation to the other tracks on the site. Do this and you will absolutely KILL your credibility as a serious music artist. Clients will blacklist your tracks! Here's a visible example of what NOT to do ... the white lines at the top and bottom of each track are the "red zones" at which anything above starts to distort. This artist's track runs consistently into the red zone, and he actually deliberately mixed it this way!
Bad Mix Example
We see young Rap and Hip Hop artists do this all the time. STOP! Turning your mixes up this loud distorts them and makes them quite unappealing even at low volumes, because the distortion that occurs is audible and annoying and renders your tracks instantly unusable for production purposes. Check your mixes, then replace any over-pumped tracks with replacements by using the track replace option (up-arrow icon) at the top of the track edit screens.
Here's what a decent mix should look like. Lots of head room with only occasional dips into the red zone. Even then you have to be careful those dips do not introduce distortion.
Good Mix Example
11. Configure Loop Tracks Properly Unless a track is intended to be a loopable track, during your production work be certain the ending is appropriate and doesn’t just cut off abruptly. Even if the track is designed to be a loop, try to make it sound good whether it loops or not, so it can work in both looped and non-looped situations. Clients need music production-ready the moment they buy it, so please double-check each track for its appropriateness in these areas. To replace any bad track, edit the present track and click the replace (up-arrow) icon which allows you to replace the audio file for any track with a better version, without having to delete and re-configure the track from scratch. Also, make sure to go to the "grouping" option on the track edit system and configure the "edit type" to be "loop", so clients searching specifically for loopable music will easily find your loop tracks in their search results.
12. Finally, Why Not Add Some Sound Effects to Create Something Truly Original? Here is a song by UK artist Anthony Clarkson called “Prehistoric Landscape.” You can buy and download some of your colleagues’ great sound effects or loops from our site to zoop up your Halloween or other Dramatic tracks. Listen to Anthony’s super out-sized orchestral piece with thunder, rain and more.