Folk Singer - Songwriter

Copying Your Own Songwriting Success

There’s nothing quite like the warm feeling you get when your audience loves your latest song. And naturally, you want to be able to copy your success; who wouldn’t?

Replicating your own success is important in the sense that in songwriting, consistency is everything. The industry isn’t much interested in songwriters who write one good song, but then can’t seem to come up with anything great after that. Or if they have to wait for years.

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To keep your success from being random, you take a look at what you’ve written that audiences like, and then try to do something similar again. But the danger is that your songs develop a kind of sameness about them, to the extent that with each new song you’ve written, your fan base feels that they’ve heard it all before.

Then they get bored, feeling that you may have nothing new to offer, and your fan base fizzles.

How to Copy Success

The key to copying your own success is to look deeper into the various elements of your great songs and to figure out what songwriting principle you got right. So it’s not so much about copying the melody you wrote, let’s say, as much as it is about figuring out what it is about the melody that connects so well with your audience.

This is where a bit of objective listening will help. When you know that a song you’ve written is really a hit with your fans, do the following:

  1. Listen to a recording of the song as if it’s someone else’s. Try to put aside the fact that you wrote it, and think of it as simply a song that you’ve heard somewhere online or on the radio. (This kind of listening is a skill that all songwriters need to develop.)
  2. Put into words what you like about the song. You can do this any number of ways: writing a short essay, speaking your thoughts into your smartphone memo app, etc. Be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “Well, I really love the lyrics…” Try to identify why you love the words. Is it the kind of words you used? The phrasing? The topic?
  3. Move from song element to song element. Talk about the way the various elements interact and relate to each other.
  4. Identify the songwriting principle that you got right. This is crucial. In other words, in order to learn from a great melody, you need to know why, on a deeper level, the melody you wrote makes such a good impact on your audience.

Every time you get something right, there is a principle that you got right. So you don’t want to copy that great melody — you want to copy the principle involved.

A principle is simply a guideline. A principle advises us, doesn’t make demands of us. So when you have a great song, you need to look deeply into the structure of your song and discover what you got right.

In my eBooks, I identify eleven different principles that I think are important to the success of any good song. The way a melody from the 1950s sounds won’t be much like the way a melody from 2019 sounds, but the underlying principle is likely the same.

So if you want to repeat your songwriting success (and you do!), it’s all about identifying underlying principles. If you don’t know what they are, that’s where you start.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” explains 11 important principles of songwriting, and does so in language that’s easy to understand, and easy to apply to your own songs. Get a FREE copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process” when you purchase the bundle!

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One Comment

  1. Principles, yes! You were kind enough a couple years ago to listen to a very young solo piano piece I’d written, just learning to play. You pointed out the left hand was all arpeggios throughout and to mix that up.

    In the last two years, I took your advice to heart, and have listened to countless professional pieces that I like, listened to what they’re doing in the left hand and then played it. Not only was that good ear training, it helped with skill building on the weak left hand. But the songwriting leapt several levels as I begin my own pieces with a left hand melody and build a right hand melody on top of that. For me, accompaniment on the left hand to an existing melody in the right always defaulted roots&fifths or arpeggios. No good.

    You helped SO MUCH with that one piece of criticism. So the songs are completely different from each other that I’m working on, but the principle is the same: start with the left hand or least pay close attention to variation. THANK YOU!

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