Those First Seven Seconds

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

I have a theory that people judge your song within the first 7 seconds. By that time, a listener has decided if they like or dislike what you’re doing.

That shouldn’t really surprise us. It’s a product of the age we live in. Television producers know it, too. If they haven’t at least tweaked your interest in those first few crucial seconds, their show will simply become part of the noise that gets filtered out by the consumer.

Seven seconds isn’t long, so what do you do to make sure that a potential listener isn’t tuning you out in favour of something else? It may help to examine the ways that bad songwriters put their songs in perils. Here are some basic pitfalls to avoid, and to make those first seven seconds really count:

   1. Avoid mindless strumming on one or two chords as your basic intro. There’s nothing more boring, in my mind, than a singer starting a song by strumming away for 30 seconds on two chords, trying to establish a mood. The only mood your displaying with that kind of intro is, “I’m bored, and I’m about to sing to you to prove it.”

      The solution: If you can’t come up with something more interesting, I advise experimenting with launching directly into the song with no intro at all.

   2. Your song needs to relate to your own personal experiences and emotions. But if you start with lyrics that basically say, “I’m feeling so down…” without giving any kind of context, you’ll lose your audience faster than you can say “Do you want fries with that?”

      The solution: People will listen to your story if it’s real, and if it connects. Those first words of your song need to give some sort of context for the basic emotion of your song.

   3. Every song has an inherent energy level. But if you wait too long to get that energy going, you can lose your audience.

      The solution: Consider the part of your song with the highest energy level: probably the chorus or bridge. Try to bring that level of energy into your introduction. Then back it off to start verse 1. That shot of energy at the beginning might by what’s needed to snag the interest of your listeners.

   4. Some songs are great, but just have a problem getting going.

      The solution: Create a hook for your song, and place it front and center, right at the beginning as an intro.


There are lots of ways that a boring song can be saved, and sometimes it doesn’t take very much at all. You need to develop a way to listen to your own songs objectively. Ask yourself, “Why am I bored, and exactly where did I begin feeling bored with this song.” If you can narrow it down to a precise moment, you have a fighting chance to save it.

If you want to read about how to solve your songwriting woes, get Gary’s suite of 5 songwriting e-books at a “bundle discount” price. Click here to learn more..

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