Songwriting Checklist

Use this songwriting checklist to write better songs.Before submitting or performing your masterpieces, give the songs a quick run through this uncomplicated checklist for maximum song impact:

1. Song Title

(a). Does the title stand out as interesting and original on its own?

Develop a memorable song title. You’re less likely to grab the listener’s attention with a common song title that’s been used and sung to death.

Take a common song title and use your imagination to put a fresh spin on it. i.e., instead of “I’m In Love” use something like “I’m Done”!

(b). Does the title reflect what your song is about?

The whole concept of writing a song is to write about something of interest, so let your title reflect that something that will interest you as well as your listeners.

(c). Does the title repeat itself throughout the hook of the song?

Repeating the title in the hook is one of those elements that  makes songs stick in listener’s minds upon their first listen.  However, in the spirit of creating something original and straying from the norm, you can create a song with just as much impact by exercising freedom here and not even using the title at all in the song, as long as your title evokes the general idea of the song, and as long as you have other certain elements in your song such as unique phrasing, awesome melody, surprise chords,
tempo changes, a time signature change consistently right  before a certain section, etc.
Dare to be original and different!

2. Song Form

(a). Does the song form you have chosen feel natural?

One of these song forms is usually a good choice:

Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus (ABAB)
Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus (ABABCB)
Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Verse-PreChorus-Chorus (ABCABC)
Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Verse-PreChorus-Chorus (ABCABCDC)
Verse-Verse-Bridge-Verse (AABA)

However, If your song is missing that “extra ingredient”, why not try experimenting with a different song form or better yet, using these common forms, start twisting them around a bit.

For example in an (ABAB) format, go into an instrumental break after the second verse instead of the normal chorus and hit the 2nd chorus with even greater impact. Freak everybody out!

Or take an (AABA) song and add a section after the “B” either instrumentally or a contrasting vocal/melody part totally different from any other section of the song.

The point is, experimenting with a song that’s missing that special something by shuffling a song form could be what the song needs.

3. Hook/Chorus

(a). Does the hook/chorus stand out as being the most powerful, exciting, and/or interesting part of the song?

The hook has to make the biggest impact on the listener regardless of whether the melody is sung using higher or lower notes than the verses.

Try this as an alternative to the common chorus using higher notes: Use lower notes in the whole chorus for a cooler effect, or start out with lower notes in the chorus and break into a higher note section than the verse towards the end of the chorus.


4. Verses/Pre-choruses

(a). Does the first line of your song make an immediate impact, making the listener want to hear more?

(b). Is the last line of each verse or prechorus strong enough to help the chorus make the biggest impact?


5. Bridge

(a). Does the bridge add a whole new dimension to the song by varying the melody, rhythm, and harmony?


6. Point Of View

(a). You have already picked a point of view for your song, usually "first person 
narrative". Many songs have been improved dramatically by changing the point of view 
because of added freshness. Make sure you are using the best point of viewfor your 
song by changing pronouns to fit the other two points of view:
                                             Subjective   Objective    Possessive 
First person narrative: 
                Singular                         I             me           my/mine
                  Plural                         we            us           our/ours
Second person:
                Singular                        you            you          your/yours 
                  Plural                        you            you          you/yours
Third person narrative: 
                Singular                   he/she/it      him/her/it       his/hers/its
                  Plural                      they           them             their


First Person Narrative – the singer is involved in the story he or she is telling. Second and third person narrative pronouns are also commonly used while writing in this point of view.

Second person – the singer is talking to another person. First and third person pronouns can also be used when writing in this point of view.

Third person narrative – the singer tells a story with the goal of trying to get the listener to relate and feel the emotion or meaning of the story.


7. Rewrite

Have you rewritten and polished your song, so that aside from the first 6 checklist entries, the song:

(a.) Makes sense even though you’ve used metaphors and logically progresses from beginning to end unless it’s a song that starts out in the future and regresses to reflect on the past?

(b). Answers who, what, when, where, and why before it
gets to the 2nd verse?

(c). Has a consistent rhyme scheme?

(d). Uses consistent verb tenses and words used
in the song are sung like they are pronounced without being
forced in order to fit in a line of the song?

(e). Is clear because it contains one single idea?

(f). Doesn’t contain unnecessary words such as “a lot”,
very, etc.?

(g). Chord structure, melody, rhythm, and overall feel
of the song matches the lyrics?

There are many other small areas of concern for improvement when writing a song that are too numerous to be covered here.  The checklist above is very thorough without going overboard but SA will cover many more pro tips and techniques in future
issues so they become “second-nature” and “automatic” to those who are not familiar with the concepts.

Leave a Reply