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How to write a pop song: general approaches and typical questions

Without a shadow of doubt, music is extremely important for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, faith, profession, age or gender. It occupies all spheres of our life and neoteric communicative technologies, which have presented us various portable musical devices, make it literally ubiquitous. We enjoy different pop songs everywhere: working and relaxing, watching movies and playing games, cooking and sitting in a traffic jam. Our life space is filled with melodies; we literally swim in the great music ocean. For a lion’s share of us, music is just a splendid way to receive necessary relaxation and enjoy something beautiful and inspiring. However, a considerably great number of talented and ambitious people consider that they cannot only listen to melodies written by someone else, but may create hits with their own hands. Surely, due to the extreme complexity of the modern songwriting industry, the first stages of the songwriting process may confuse many beginners who wish to test their skills and achieve success and popularity. It requires so many various music and poetic skills that even the most talented amateurs often feel themselves totally overwhelmed. Of course, a simple question: ‘how to write a pop song that can gain popularity among many listeners?’ brings to life thousands of new much more complicated questions. Shall I begin with the music or the lyrics? Shall I concentrate on the main musical theme or on the arrangement? Shall I try to create all components of the potential musical masterpiece myself or cooperate with other songwriters? After all, what musical style should I choose in order to become successful? All these questions pursue the beginners, significantly complicating their lives. Therefore, with an eye to polishing one’s songwriting skills, develop a certain level of musical mastery and eschew the most typical mistakes before presenting one’s results to the listeners, it is quite wise to create an individual writing plan, dividing the whole writing process into a few less complicated stages. Obviously, even the most distinguished and experienced masters of songwriting may experience some troubles when creating new melodies and rhymes. However, their large professional experience allows them to easily separate important stages of work from those that cause only troubles. On the contrary, inexperienced writers quite often become obsessed with some insignificant questions, forgetting about the fundamental issues, such as the structure or the chorus. In truth, each songwriter gives personal and original answer to the question: ‘how to write a pop song, avoiding writer’s block?’ using his or her own musical talent and selecting the most suitable strategy for each specific task. Nevertheless, a concise and correct working plan can be quite useful for those who only begin their career as a songwriter. After all, each pop song is a splendidly organized mix of correctly matched components. By studying these components, one can obtain essential information about songwriting. Hence, let us examine the main components of successful and popular hits in order to develop a correct songwriting strategy.

How to write a pop song: the main elements of a perfectly composed pop song

To create a pop song that can conquer both minds and hearts of listeners one should use time-tested methods of songwriting, modifying them in accordance with his or her personal goals and musical tastes. Firstly, one should create a specific outline, which includes all initial writer’s ideas and concepts that may be used in the work. Some songwriters think that the main secret in their work is to obtain an inspiration. Thus, they wait for the muse’s mercy for years, wasting time and losing their resoluteness to write a real masterpiece. Surely, this opinion is an absolute nonsense. A disciplined and ambitious songwriter does not wait for an uncontemplated flash of inspiration, but creates all necessary conditions for long and persistent work. And, an outline that regulates and specifies all questionable points is a key to success. Secondly, one has to study all materials that are connected with the chosen theme. Of course, before writing a pop song, one has to study the main approaches to the theme, both modern and classic. In addition, in order to develop and polish one’s musical taste, it is recommended to examine the characteristic peculiarities of the main pop hits of the last few years or even decades. By performing this time-consuming, but doubtlessly pleasurable operation, one can learn not only the main principles of modern songwriting, but also understand the main audience’s demands. In fact, those songwriters who are familiar with the demands of the potential listeners have a considerable advantage over those authors who create their songs being unfamiliar with contemporary tendencies in the music industry. Thirdly, after becoming familiar with the source material, one has to compare his or her initial concepts with those that are popular in the contemporary situation on the music market. In truth, many beginners in this sphere consider that to write a piece of material that will be adored by all listeners they have to create something that is in all means original. In truth, this opinion cannot be considered completely wrong. All popular pop songs that have been popular for a considerably long time or even have become classic hits contain a fair number of original motives. However, an attempt to attract the attention of the audience with 100% original concepts usually ends unsuccessfully because the originality of the pop song does not guarantee its quality and, consequently, popularity among the international community of professional and amateur music critiques. In truth, people prefer recognizable melodies and motives; therefore, one should make every effort to compose a pop song that successfully and elegantly mixes original and time-tested components, creating a new hit.

Surely, all these advice just cannot remove all doubts and questions, which disquiet inexperienced songwriters. The only way to overcome these problems is to classify them and divide into relevantly small groups that can be easily solved. In fact, one of the most effective methods of songwriting is to compose each single component of the potential hit in strict accordance with all others and then combine them together. Of course, it is not the only way to answer the question: ‘how to write a pop song, eschewing typical mistakes?’, but it is useful for those songwriters that experience considerable troubles with the first stages of work. Thus, those authors have to begin with the structure of the pop song, examining all its characteristics with an eye to make it in all means perfect and adored by all ordinary listeners as well as by professional critiques. In fact, the structure of a pop song is the holy grail of writing a potential masterpiece. In all genres of music a correctly composed, memorable, rhythmic and simultaneously melodious structure makes the song understandable and never-to-be-forgotten, maximizing enjoyment for all listeners. Therefore, the correct structure of the song supplies authors with inspirational ideas and original concepts. Create it and all other crucial points will become automatically clarified. Thereby, let us examine the most essential elements of a potential musical hit in order to clarify all crucial points that answer the question ‘how to write a pop song?’. The main components of all pop songs are intro, verse, chorus, middle eight and outro:

  • Intro. Some writers consider that it is the most important part of the song because it announces the main music theme of a pop song and sets the scene for what is to come. Thus, a perfect intro must contain some specific ‘hooks’ that attract listeners’ attention, catchy musical phrases or motives. In addition, an intro may introduce the vocal material or even the refrain of the whole song. It should be rhythmic and memorable.
  • Verse. Usually, the verse contains new words, comparing with the main material, but the same music motives. Of course, it is not a dogma and many writers compose their verses in new original manners. Obviously, the main goal of the verse is to describe the story of the song to the listeners.
  • Chorus. In contradistinction to the verse, the words of the chorus as well as the melody remain the same each time it is repeated. It concentrates listeners’ attention on the main themes of the song, creating emotional and intellectual tension.
  • Middle Eight or Bridge. This section of a pop song includes new material. Usually, pop songs include this part right after the second appearance of the chorus.
  • Outro. An outro ends a pop song, creating the most memorable impressions. Therefore, one should pay equal attention to this segment of pop song, comparing with all others. An outro may contain material from the first sections or present new concepts, emphasizing the main motive of a song. In some cases, songwriters modify this part or even do not include it in the song, so the melody fades out while the chorus repeats.
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