Songwriting Mistakes: Here is a list of common songwriting mistakes that should be avoided in order to craft better songs. Learning how to write a song requires knowledge and practice. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do.
1. Verse Information Too Similar
The verse of a song is the place for the songwriter to get specific about the message the song is communicating. A common mistake new songwriters make is basically saying the same thing in each verse. In writing a love song, for example, if you talk about the time you met and how you felt back then, don’t repeat that message with new words in verse 2.
It would work better to bring in a new perspective such as how you see the future being with your loved one, or how they currently make you feel. Listen to “story” songs. Each verse advances the narrative in some way. They aren’t saying the same thing each time.
Evaluate your latest songs and see if your verses are too similar in regards to the details they are providing. If they are, re-write them. You can read my full article on verses, HERE.
2. Incorrect Use of Tense
Another songwriting mistake is mixing tenses within the song. Now, there absolutely are times where a verse is describing the past and another verse is referencing the future. That’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m saying keep your tense consistent within a section of a song.
For example, if you say, “I looked for you, then suddenly I can hear your voice”. See how the tense, or timeframe, is incorrect there? “Looked” is past tense, so “can” doesn’t work. “Could hear your voice” would be the proper tense to pair up with “looked”.
This is an oversimplified example but one to get you thinking about what you’re writing down. It’s these seemingly small (but not really small) songwriting mistakes that can keep your song from being the best it can be.
3. Not Making Edits
Too many new songwriters are so intent on getting a song written that they overlook the editing process. Let’s face it, a song is not an easy thing to craft. Once we think we’ve completed it, there is a satisfaction from having accomplished our goal.
It’s important not to automatically settle for the first draft, however. Review each line and make sure that every word needs to be there. Maybe there’s a better choice that would provide the benefit of alliteration (read my article on alliteration), for example.
How’s the rhyme scheme working? (read my article on rhyme schemes) New songwriters, as well as seasoned, should let the song sit for a while. Come back to it after a few days or even a week and look and listen with fresh eyes and ears. You will be better off, in the long run, establishing a habit of editing your work until you are completely satisfied that the song is relaying the message exactly as you intended it to.
4. Improper Use of Pronouns
Not using the proper pronouns in the song is a songwriting mistake that not only new songwriters fall victim to, but experienced ones do too if not careful.
“The boys love their dogs because they were easy going”
Who is easy going? The boys or the dogs?
Look out for mistakes like this when writing your songs.
5. Melody Line: Verse vs Chorus
It’s important to remember that just as the lyric function of a verse is different than that of the chorus, the melody of each of these sections should be distinct as well. If you have short melodic phrases that repeat in the verses, try holding out notes longer and soaring higher in the chorus.
This contrast will set apart each section. Try not to have the same chord progression in both the verses and the chorus. Introducing a new chord progression in the chorus (if you already have one for the verses) will help to set the chorus apart and provide a more interesting contrast and hold the listener’s attention.
6. Having Too Long of an Intro
A fatal mistake that a songwriter can make, especially when submitting a demo to a publisher, is having too long of an intro to the song. A publisher is not going to sit patiently by waiting for the singer to start singing.
They have many songs to listen to and only so much time in a day to do it. Keep your song intro short and get to the actual song as soon as possible. Try and keep it under 10 seconds and make that intro interesting during that time!
7. Not Having a Great Hook
A song needs to be crafted around a great hook. If you’re not familiar with what a hook of a song is read my article HERE. The hook is what makes people recall a song right away when they hear it. Here’s an example of what I mean.
When I mention the Beatle’s song, “Let it Be”. What is your first reaction? Isn’t it singing the chorus in your head? That short chorus repeats the title five times within it. That is a great, memorable hook/title. Be sure to focus on the hook of your song and find ways to make it something people will recall easily.
8. Unusual Song Length
New songwriters can sometimes overlook this part of the creation process. If it’s written for commercial purposes, the song length can make or break its chances. Keep it between 3 and 4 minutes.
If you don’t care about writing commercially then don’t worry about song length. You should strive to keep the listener’s attention however, no matter how long the song plays.
9. Inconsistent Rhyme Scheme
I’ve written a comprehensive article on types of rhymes and rhyme schemes, HERE. Basically, a rhyme scheme refers to which lines in the sections of your song rhyme with each other.
In a four-line verse for example if you have lines 1 and 2 rhyme with each other and lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other keep that same pattern for each verse throughout the song. It will help keep the listener locked in and familiar with what’s coming next even if they don’t realize why.
10. Not Writing Down Song Ideas
This is a common mistake that I’m even guilty of from time to time. If inspiration comes to you in the form of a song idea, song title or hook, or even a short melody idea, write it down or record it immediately!
I promise you will forget what you came up with if you fail to heed this advice. It is very frustrating having that great idea come to you and then vanishing later because you can’t remember exactly what it was. Please write it down no matter how insignificant it may seem.
You can come back later and decide if it’s worth pursuing or not. At least it will be there for you to decide. If you need tips on coming up with song ideas you can read my article, HERE.
11. Not Writing Consistently
To get better at songwriting the most important thing to do is….. write, write, and write! The old saying, “practice makes perfect” has merit. When I hear a songwriter lament that he or she is just not progressing fast enough I often find out that it’s because they are not writing consistently.
To improve at anything it requires putting forth consistent effort. If someone wants to learn a foreign language and does not study or speak in that language on a consistent basis it’s not going to happen fast, or ever.
To know how to write a song, songwriters need to actually start writing songs. It’s as simple as that. Decide how bad you want it and increase your level of practice to your level of desire.
12. Not Finishing Songs
There’s nothing wrong with abandoning a song that has been started. Not every song idea finds it’s way to completion. The problem arises when a songwriter never finishes a song before they move on to the next idea.
At some point, they need to focus in like a laser and get a song completed. It may not be perfect, in fact, I’ve had better ideas for lines come to me for songs that I’ve written and recorded years ago. We can always find that one tweak that could have improved the song.
Don’t let that keep you from doing your best at the time. Finish and move on. The feeling of satisfaction that comes from actually completing a song to the best of your current ability is valuable. You get a few of those behind you and you start feeling like an actual songwriter!
Congratulations on reading this far. That tells me you’re serious about improving your songwriting skills. I hope this article helps to speed up your progress! Write on.