In the pop music world, your song may be great, but if your instrumentation, rhythmic treatment, and other basic components are from a generation ago, you’re probably missing that all-important audience you’re looking for.
For pop songs, the target is the 14 – 24-year-old age bracket. If your songs use the sounds from a generation ago or more (i.e., an over-use of hammond organ, fuzz-wah pedal guitar, slap bass, 80s-style synth, etc.), that crucial age-group will turn away from your song faster than you can say “leisure suit.”
The remedy is somewhat simple, and vital to your future as a writer of pop songs: Get listening to new pop songs, familiarize yourself with the sounds, and only stray judiciously from the mainstream.
The sound you’re looking for differs from one genre to the next, but in general you’ll find that today’s sound has a certaintransparency – even songs that are more raucous in nature. So if your drums are loud, deep and filled with reverb, play it for your Dad and I’ll bet he’ll love it. But if you want today’s sound, you’re generally looking for a lighter sound with a high snap in the snare. (Listen to Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling” or Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” for drum sound examples).
If your guitar is “strummy” and aggressive, you’ll need to be careful that it’s mixed into the rest of the instrumentation with care. You might want to listen to “Second Chance” by Shinedown to get an idea of heavy guitar used well.
In my mind, good music is good layering of the musical elements. Give the listener more than just a melody with chords underneath. Fit interesting but subtle lines in between verse and chorus lines. But don’t let one thing upstage another. There’s nothing worse than a singer wailing away on a chorus while the guitar is also wailing away on a solo. It confuses the listener, and makes it difficult to know what you’re supposed to be listening to. Listen to Daughtry’s “No Surprise” (particularly the chorus) for a great example of expert layering of musical elements.
In short, you need to be constantly listening to what’s new and hot out there if you want to appeal to the 14-24-year-old target audience. If you’re ready to record, find a good producer who understands today’s music, and is well-connected to today’s scene. In every way that counts, a great song is only great if it sounds great, and the best songs in the world will be irrelevant if they come packaged in yesterday’s sounds.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows you how to write great songs. It’s just one of a suite of 6 songwriting e-books written by Gary Ewer. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..