Things Every Songwriter Should Know
  ...from the Pros Who've Done it.

How Do You Know When You’ve Written a Great Song? 4 Steps to Help You Decide

Written by Barry DeVorzon – Follow us on Twitter

Not every song you write will be chart-topping material. That’s the business. Get used to the fact that every song you write won’t contain the emotional values needed to qualify it as a great song. A good song can be well done, well written, and musically well constructed, but that does not always mean that it’s great. Following the suggestions listed below will help you pick the winners.

1. Accept the fact that a song rarely starts out perfect.

When the heat of inspiration cools and you take your first look at a newly finished song, you have to accept the fact that the muse rarely leaves us with perfect. With that in mind, be forgiving and try and react to the essence of the song.

If the melody or the words, or the combination of the two touch you emotionally, then you have to assume that it will also touch others, and that’s what you’re looking for. Don’t let the sense of accomplishment that comes when you’ve created a new song get in the way of honestly reacting to it emotionally. This is a mistake that most amateurs make.

2. Great songs make people feel something.

Great songs have a quality that touches the emotions. There is no formula to accomplish this, it’s either there or it isn’t. If it isn’t there, it can never be a great song. A song can evoke any number of emotional responses -what’s important is that the listener feels something. If it makes you want to get up and dance or think of a lost love, or makes you feel anything, these are the responses you’re looking for.

3. How do those around you react to your song?

The first test of course is does it make you feel something? Next, test it with those close to you. Start with your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or friends. I favor the wife or husband’s reaction over the others. It’s been my experience that they are usually the only ones who will really tell you the truth and the truth is what you’re looking for.

4. Be willing to do whatever it takes to make it better.

Once you’ve established that the song has the necessary ingredients to be great, it’s time to take it to the next level. If that means finding a more eloquent way of expressing yourself, finding a better chord, or adapting or modifying the melody, then do it. It can be painful and frustrating at times, but well worth it. Polish that beauty until it shines and you’re in the race.

There are no guarantees in this business.

Songwriting is like art–its beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The job of the songwriter is to be objective enough to make the song as perfect as possible, but in the end, how people emotionally respond to the song is all that matters. Everyone has an opinion about what makes a song great, but I believe it comes down to something that simple.

Simple…but not always easy to do.

Once you have a great song, the next step is recording a demo. Unfortunately, going into the studio with a great song does not necessarily mean you’ll come out with one. Next week we have another great story for you and the following week we will cover recording techniques.

How do you determine when you’ve written a great song? What qualities and reactions do you look for? Share in the comments below. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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