If you want to write songs that are commercially viable, or at least in the realm of mainstream popular songs, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to write. One way to write some pretty sweet songs is to really study songs that are already hits. Take what works for them, and incorporate those traits into your own songs.
First of all, using Hit Songs as a guide is not stealing or copyright infringement. There are qualities of songs that are not covered by copyright. Those things are Title, Chord Progressions and song structure. You are NOT allowed to copy lyrics and melody.
So how can you use a Hit Song to write your next hit? Follow these simple, yet powerful tips.
Step 1: What is the structure? — Is the song Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, etc. Listen to the hit song and write down each separate section. How many measures are there in each section?
You can use this structure as a blue print for your song.
Step 2: What is the Rhyme Scheme? — Write down the lyrics, or find them online. What kind of Rhyme Scheme does the song have? The most common way to show scheme is applying a letter to each rhyme sound. An example would be ABAB, or AABB, or XAXA. “X” means the line does not rhyme. Also put a “T” for each line that includes the Title. Pay attention. Does the rhyme scheme change in each section?
Try to use the rhyme scheme for your song.
Step 3: Use the Chord Progression. — You cannot copyright a chord progression…So if you are stuck and looking for a way to write your next song, start with the chords from the song you are analyzing. What chords are used in each section? Where do the chords change…Every measure? Inside the measure? Every Two measures? Do the chords change in each section? How do they change? What does it sound like if you transpose the key? Now you can change a few chords, change the rhythm, or leave them as is….BUT be sure when you write the melody you do not copy the original song.
Step 4: Analyze the melodic contour. — What does the melodic pitch look like in each section? Does the chorus start higher than the verse? Does the bridge go even higher? Do the melodic lines go up or go down….do they do both? Pay attention to what the melodies are doing. Do not copy the melody, but you can try out the same contour and how the ranges move.
By analyzing each of these categories in hit songs, you will soon learn what makes these songs tick…AND the best part is that your songs will get better and better!
Here is an example of what your song plan may look like, feel free to use this for a song, if you wish. This can be a guide for you as you analyze your favorite hit songs.
Verse: 8 bars = chords: ||G |em7 |C |D || x 2
melody contour has lines that mostly go down
CHORUS: 8 bars = chords: ||Am7 Bm7 |Cmaj7 ||x4
Melody goes up
2nd Verse same as 1st
Bridge: 8 bars = chords: ||D |Bm7 |am7 |D || x2
Melody goes up higher yet
Have fun analyzing and writing!! Let me know if this helps you at all.