Mark Knopfler - Money For Nothing

The Long Song Intro: Does It Make Your Song Better?

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If you record the songs you write (and I certainly hope you do), here’s something interesting you might try: listen to only the first 10 seconds of every song you’ve written in the past few months. By doing so, you’re checking out what your audience gets to hear what you’ve chosen to do as an intro.

This is more a production issue than a songwriting one. But this can be an important exercise because especially these days, when it’s so easy for someone to click away from your song to hear something else, you don’t get much time to grab your audience’s attention. In the pop genres, it’s common for an intro to be short; certainly by the 15 second mark, if you’re still strumming away on an intro, you risk losing your audience.

Some songs warrant longer intros, especially if they’re instrumentally/compositionally interesting, like:

  • Call On Me” (Lee Loughnane, recorded by Chicago) – 39 seconds
  • Bloody Well Right” (Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, recorded by Supertramp) – 1’36”
  • Money For Nothing” (Mark Knopfler, Sting, recorded by Dire Straits) – 2’04” (album version)

So there’s nothing wrong with a long song intro, as long as it’s giving the audience something interesting to listen to. For songs that have really long intros — ones that really sound great — you may find the shorter radio-friendly version a little less than adequate, like the radio edit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (Pete Townshend)

But this exercise I’m suggesting — listening to just the first few seconds of your song — allows you to make a more objective judgement regarding just how interesting those few seconds really are. You’re a little better able to ask yourself, “Have I given my fans enough of something interesting where they’d say, ‘Wow, this really sounds like it’s worth listening to.'”

Sometimes a long intro, like the songs I’ve listed above, and others, become epic all on their own. And that’s a great thing. But sometimes a long intro is wasting time and risking the loss of audience.

Only you can tell if your long intro is really worth it, but you have to listen objectively in order to be able to tell.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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