Headphones and Synth

What Makes a Song Boring?

It’s hard to talk about songs as being “good” or “bad”, since those terms refer so much to the taste and experience of the listener. What’s good for one listener might sound pretty bad to someone else. And that’s to be expected in the world of songwriting, or, frankly, anything in the creative arts.

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But quite often, what’s boring to one listener will often wind up being boring to most. We expect to feel emotions and some level of excitement when we hear a song, and if we don’t experience that, we’ll typically label that kind of song as “boring.”

It’s important as a songwriter to know why a listener might find your song boring, because unless you know what makes music boring, you’re liable to continue to write songs that fail to generate interest or excitement.

Here are some of the most common reasons someone listening to your song might find it boring:

  1. The melodies you use are too similar to each other. Let’s say you’ve chosen to write in the verse-chorus format. If your verse melody sits in the same basic range as your chorus, and use roughly the same notes, that’s probably just too much similarity. Audiences like to hear a noticeable difference when comparing the various melodies throughout a song.
  2. The chords are too unadventurous. This may be a problem, but there are songs that do nicely by repeating the same two or three chords (like “A Horse With No Name”, written by Dewey Bunnell of the band America in 1971. It mostly uses two chords throughout.) You’ll have problems with this kind of repetitious progression if the melodies are also too similar.
  3. The topic of the song just doesn’t resonate with your audience. If you’re writing about something that doesn’t make much of an impact, you’ll lose your audience before you even get to verse 2. A good rule of thumb: If it’s not the kind of thing that would come up in a conversation with a friend, it’s likely not going to work well as a topic for a song in the pop genres.
  4. There doesn’t appear to be a noticeable climactic moment. Most songs have some moment — often in the chorus — that excites listeners, and makes the point of the song obvious. Without a climactic moment, either in the melodic shape or the lyric, there may just be too much sameness, and your song will fail to create an emotional response.

There are other things you’ll want to think about as you write and then record your song, like instrumentation, tempo, key, and so on. In general, songs that move up and down in musical energy are the kinds that generate good interest from an audience.

Sameness is the enemy of good songwriting. If you’re able to make sure that your song has some noticeable highs and lows throughout its 3-to-4 minute length, that’s the kind of contrast that will keep your listeners from feeling bored.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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