Seven Seconds to Impress is All You Get

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

Anyone who runs a website knows that if you don’t give the visitor something close to what they’re looking for within the first five to seven seconds, they’re going to be clicking away from your site and looking elsewhere.  And that sense of impatience extends to the world of songwriting. If you don’t give the listener something within the first few seconds that says “listen to me,” you’ve lost an opportunity.

This five-to-seven second timeframe is of crucial importance when you consider the intro to your song. If that intro has you strumming away rather mindlessly on one or two chords, you may be missing an opportunity to connect with your listener in a more meaningful way.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s such an important issue that it bears repeating from time to time. Here are four tips for making sure that you start your song with something that will keep your audience from switching to something else:

  1. Give the listener more than mindless strumming as an intro. Ask yourself, “Is there something more creative I can be doing? Remember, part of what makes a song good is what’s going on right now, but the other part is the belief on the part of the listener that the song is going to get even better. If your intro bores you, it will bore your listener. Consider launching directly into verse 1 with no intro as a solution.
  2. Your lyric needs to immediately connect by describing personal emotions and experiences. Whatever the point of your song is, get to the point quickly. Those lyrics need to be the kind that will cause listeners to say, “Yeah, that’s happened to me before..”, or “I could imagine that!”
  3. Energy needs to build, and if you wait too long to get energy going in your song, listeners get bored. If you find that your song lacks energy and you don’t know what to do about it, try a faster tempo, a higher key, or even a louder approach. That technique will also work for songs for which the energy level is a constant value.
  4. Get a distinctive hook or other type of melodic or harmonic cell that gets inside the brain of the listener right away. If your chorus has something distinctive that gets people’s toes tapping or keeps them otherwise hooked (and it should!), try using it as your intro.

Remember that the time you have to make an impression is short. And the problem is even more important if you’re a new songwriter breaking into the business. You’ve got something to prove to a potential audience, and trust me, they aren’t going to wait around for a long time for you to prove it.

If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your song, you need to step back and look at why the hit songs from the past 5 decades worked. Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books can show you, section by section, how to make your songs winners. Click here to read more.

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