10 Foolproof Ways to Critique Your Own Songs

10_foolproof_ways-310pxx176y, Songwriting

How to analyze your lyrics and melody to craft a stronger song.

By Cliff Goldmacher, on Songwriter 101:

Early on in my songwriting career, I considered it a minor miracle that I could create a song in the first place. However, once I got a little more used to performing that particular magic trick, it became necessary to start to refine my process a bit further. In other words, it was no longer enough just to have created a song. Now I had to go back and tweak, edit, fix, and otherwise polish my songs until I was confident I’d exhausted every option to improve them. Here, I’ve put together a list of 10 things for you to examine when critiquing your songs in order to make them both lyrically and melodically stronger.

The Lyric

1. Do you have a strong opening line?

The opening line of your song is the first and best chance to engage your listener in the story you’re about to tell. Strong opening lines explain the where, what, and who of your story and will eventually lead to the “why” the story is being told. Make sure your opening line is designed to start your listener down the road to getting involved in the story you’re telling.

2. Are you using concrete imagery?

One of the best ways to put a listener immediately into the middle of your song’s story is to use strong imagery. I’ve also heard this imagery called “furniture.” These images are the details in a lyric that give your listener things to remember and connect with. Generally speaking, imagery is reserved for the verses where the meat of your story is being told. Choruses are designed to state the main point or theme of your song. Another way to think about imagery is to “show ‘em, not tell ‘em.” What that means is that it’s less effective to say, for example, she was a seductive woman but she was bad news than it is to describe her as “a black heart in a green dress.”

3. Are your lyrics singable?

By the way, it’s not enough to tell a good story with your lyric. It’s equally important to make sure that the words you use are easy to sing and phrase naturally. I’ve also heard this put as making sure your lyric is “conversational.” Lyrics that are awkward or emphasize the wrong syllables pull a listener’s ear in a bad way. There’s a reason the word “baby” is in almost every song ever written … those long “a” and “e” sounds are great and easy to sing. Another way to put this is that you won’t find the word “Nicaragua” popping up in a lot of hit songs.

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