How to Know If Your Song Is “Good”

Go on almost any songwriting forum these days, or check out the Songwriting Reddit, and you’ll see that a large percentage of the interactions are people giving a link to their latest song, with a plea for the rest of us to “check it out” and tell them what we think of it.

Having others listen and offer opinions on your songs can be a good idea, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here. I’m more interested in the large number of people who ask the question “What do you think of my song?”

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That probably means that a lot of people aren’t really sure if their song is good or not. And it probably speaks to a lot of other issues that plague songwriters, the most common being a lack of confidence in what they’re doing.

We all love to be loved, but surely (hopefully!) we’re all realistic enough to know:

  1. not everyone will like our songs; and
  2. having people hate our music may not be an indicator that it’s bad; and
  3. having people love our music may not be an indicator that it’s good, or can’t be improved.

So if not everyone will like our songs, and if it’s true that a song can be good while people might hate it, how are we to know if we’ve written a good song?

The Definition of Good

It all depends on how you define “good.” Most songs, to be good, need to make the listener feel that they’ve been on an interesting musical journey. But that can be hugely vague, and a not-very-practical way of determining if a song is good.

But if you’re looking for ways to assess your own songs, here are some tips to consider once you’ve made a good recording of it:

  1. Isolate the chorus/hook, and listen many times to that one element. Does it have an interesting melodic shape and rhythm, and have you accompanied it with a tonally strong progression? (A tonally strong progression is one that clearly indicates the key. Think “Billie Jean,” and you’ll get the idea.
  2. Isolate the point where the verse (or pre-chorus) meets the chorus. Is there a smooth connection? Does the end of the verse “beg for” the chorus?
  3. Consider the general range of the verse and compare it to the range of the chorus. Is there a clear moving-upward of the melodic range? (Hint: there should be.)
  4. Consider the chords in each section of your song. The verse and bridge chords may wander a bit, and that can be effective. But the chorus progression should be shorter, tonally stronger and sit in a clear, unambiguous groove.
  5. Look at your verse lyrics, and compare their effect to the way the chorus words work. Do you notice a heightening of emotions in the chorus? That’s an important part of what makes a song’s chorus so effective.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with asking others if they like your song. I only ever worry about that question on from posters on Reddit and other forums, because I can practically feel their dismay if they don’t get the response they’re looking for.

And it worries me when I think that you may be trying to change what and how you write based merely on a middle of the night opinion from someone who may simply not get what you’re doing.

Before you post a “please listen to my song” plea, I have a suggestion: YOU listen to your song. You do that objectively, and you determine what you like and don’t like. And if you truly like what you’ve done and can defend it, you should worry less about what others think.

It’s always relevant and useful to get advice from experienced writers, because they have a better chance of understanding what you’re trying to do, and can usually communicate their thoughts with respect.

But opinions are, at the end of the day, only opinions. You have a right to write songs that others won’t fully understand. The most important person in the process is you.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”. Learn how to take your chords beyond simple I-IV-V progressions. With pages of examples ready for you to use in your own songs.

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  1. I want to know if my chorus is any good but I don’t know how to check if specifically my chorus is good. How would i do that

  2. I compose as a hobby, but I’m thinking of publishing an album. I have no idea if my songs convey emotion or not. I think they kind of do, but because I wrote the song, I feel like my opinion might be warped. I have never let anyone listen to my songs because I know I’ll get the “It’s really good!” even if it’s not. I can’t really play any instruments – a little piano and maracas but that’s it. I could bribe my siblings into playing for me though.

    I only put the chorus twice into some of my songs, leaving them at about 2 minutes long. Is that enough?

    • Hi Summer:

      Two minute songs are quite short, but they’re not unheard of. Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie” is only 2 minutes long, and the Beatles’ “From Me To You” is only 1’56”. I think it’s more a question of: does it sound too short to you? If it is, you might look for ways to either add an additional verse, an instrumental solo, or perhaps a bridge section. That might involve getting other musicians involved in your production process. But 2 minute songs aren’t by definition too short, in my opinion. More songs suffer from being too long than being too short.


  3. Many want a pat on the back , and there is plenty of that – I Like This I can hear George Strait doing it , is a typical amature comment

    They never point out the salient points and the songs are in general dated and
    badly written . often demoed by non singers

  4. Hi Gary! Love your article. I agree with what you say. I`m not a musician but I like to compose for hobby, just a way to express myself. An it is true that when I listen to some of my own music I can notice if a song makes me feel some emotion or not. If it does, I assume is good, If it doesn`t I still post it because maybe someone else might like it. In my opinion, even professionals and famous artists can write terrible songs that become popular anyways, nowdays, marketing is more powerful than talent alone, otherwise, how can you explain the popularity of regetton? Horrible! is not even music.

  5. The only way to know if your song is “objectively good” is by being able to measure it by what techniques it uses to capture the emotional attention of your audience. This can’t be done with software, nor analytical opinions of friends, family, listeners, or marketing. There is a book called “SongMatrix” coming out in May 2017 that will teach us how to measure and revise our songs so that they achieve our desired results:

  6. I think a lot of people asking for others to like their songs just want to get people to listen to it. Unless you have a gazillion friends, or are a performing musician, it’s difficult to get any one to listen to it, let alone like it. This has been OUR problem.

  7. Pingback: How to Know If Your Song Is “Good” - The Hit Songwriting Formula | The Hit Songwriting Formula

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