Checklist: 6 Pillars of Good Songwriting

So much of songwriting is problem-solving. As you write, you need to get in the habit of knocking on your tune from every angle to make sure it’s as sturdy as possible. Here are a few things you can check to make sure your song is as good as it can be.

1. Concept: Is the song’s concept clear and singular? Is it summed up in a compelling way in the song’s chorus or tagline? Is it fresh? Memorable? Does it ring true?

2. Lyrics: Do all the lyrics ladder up to the song’s concept? Do they feel honest? Build tension? Tell a story, or create a mood? Are they sufficiently surprising, or are there cliches that can be eliminated? Are there opportunities to show, rather than tell?

3. Melody: Does the melody sing well with the lyrics? Does it roll off the tongue naturally? Is it sufficiently varied enough between the verse/chorus/bridge to keep the listener engaged? Is it hooky enough to be remembered after a single listen?

4. Chords/Key: Do the chords support the melody as well as they could? Are there any riffs or rhythmic accents we could make it more musical? Is everything harmonically congruent, or are there moments where it feels like we’re *leaving the song*? Is it being sung in a key that flatters the singer’s voice?

5. Style: Does the style of the music reflect the content of the lyrics? Are there ways the execution of the song (voicings, vocal range, tempo, genre) could better suit message the song is trying to put across?

6. Concision: Are we getting the job done with as few parts / chords / words as possible? Are we keeping the listener on the hook as the song moves along? Are there any places where the *less is more* rule of thumb could be applied?

So there you have it. These are 6 pillars that have served me well and I hope they’ll do the same for you. Oh, and don’t forget–you’re an artist. So don’t be dogmatic. Remember that you can violate any one or all six of these pillars and still write a great song. Happy writing!