Hit songs usually have several things in common. There may not be a formula per se, and creativity is encouraged to make sure all hits don't sound the same. But all hit songs share the following qualities that I will list below.
If you're looking to create a hit song, make sure you check off the items on this list. Without it, you may be lowering your chances of getting a song that can go viral.
Many hit songs share a similar song structure. Firstly, hit songs are short and do go on for more than 4 minutes.
If you want to create a hit, keep it around 3 minutes and 30 seconds to get the sweet spot. Songs that are over 4 minutes aren't considered radio edits and will not get much love from the radio stations.
The structure of a hit song is often close to the following: Intro -> Verse -> Prehook -> Hook -> Verse -> Prehook -> Hook -> Bridge -> Chorus -> Outro.
Related Post: Check out this songwriting template if you need help with song structure.
Some slower songs opt to skip the bridge in order to keep the song short enough to be a radio edit. Other hits don't have a prehook after the first and second verse.
Some hit songs don't have an intro and/or outro. If you do want to keep an intro and outro, make sure they are short and very catchy sections.
If you want a hit, you have to learn how to write hit song lyrics. Hit lyrics are often content that many people can relate to in their own life experiences.
A lot of hits are about love, and it's one of the most desired and talked about topics in the world, so why not? Obscure lyrics are cool to put into songs, but they don't always work for hits.
For lyrics to be catchy, they also tend to be pretty repetitive. Many people hate hit songs because they get stuck in people's heads, but that's their magic!
It may feel weird to add very repetitive and basic lyrics to your song if you're used to a deeper approach to writing, but don't overthink it, and keep it fun!
Your lyrics have to be basic yet unique, with a good rhyming scheme if you want to write a hit.
Most hit songs follow the rhyme scheme of either AABB or ABAB. A lot of songs get away with using similar-sounding words instead of using perfect rhymes.
Like creating catchy lyrics, you will need to develop some catchy melodic phrases for your verses and your hook. Of course, your hook should be the most catchy section of your song.
The trick to creating catchy melodies is that you will need to come up with unique melodies that haven't already been used.
If you're looking for how to write a hit rap song only, you can skip this part, incorporate some sing-rap phrases into your song or even have a catchy sung hook.
Related Post: What Makes A Good Song?
You may notice that many hit songs are recycled from past hits. This is easy to do if you're signed to a big label and have an appropriate budget.
You need to get approval and pay the original content owners to incorporate that borrowed melody into your hit song. As an independent artist, you might as well stick to unique ideas only.
Most hit songs surprisingly share the same chord progressions. The most popular chord progression that hits across hundreds of genres share is the progression of 1-4-5-1.
If you want to take motivation from other hits while still creating unique melodic ideas, a great way to do this is to simply copy the chord progressions and not copy the melody lines.
There are several sites available with the help of google if you are unsure about figuring out the chord progressions in your favorite songs.
Google the name of the song plus the term "chords" and you will find several sites with the correct chord chart as long as the song is a big enough hit.
Hit songs often have the same tempos. If you're looking to make a hit song in the house genre, a tempo or BPM (beats per minute) of 128 or 120 is the way to go. If you want to make a slower hit in the pop or R&B genres, go for a tempo of around 80.
A report from Soundfly analyzed every song that cracked the Billboard Top 5 in 2018 and determined the most popular tempo for a massive hit in 2017 was 79 to 80 b.p.m. In 2018, it was 78 to 79.
When you start a song with the intent to make it about someone else, your first step is to figure out what you want the song to say to the listener.
Is this going to be a song about that person's accomplishments? Are you writing a song about someone you're in love with? Is this a diss track that is going to poke fun at the person?
Find out what you want the overall message of the song to be. This will help make the rest of the steps quite easy if you do this first. At the very least, write a top 3 about what the song will be about if you're not sure.
For example, you might want to be highlighting a person's good traits, but you aren't sure if you want to make it about their actions that show they love you, the talents that they have in life, or the things that you imagine they will do in the future.
Related Post: How To Write A Song From The Heart
After you have a general idea of what you want the song to say, you can begin finding as much information as possible that will highlight your song's message. The more knowledge you gain, the better options you will have for your song lyrics.
You might want to directly ask the person a few things about themselves in an interview-style conversation. You could also go on a deep dive into their social media profiles.
Another idea is to ask friends and family of theirs to give some details about that person's life. You might need to take multiple approaches when it comes to getting information on them.
Related Post: How To Write A Diss Track About Someone
Once you have a good amount of information on that person, you will then be able to have a better idea about what your song's intention will be. Choose from your top few intention choices and begin to create the song's mood and style.
Your mood might be a slow, romantic vibe. Or you could be going for a reflective, mid-tempo bittersweet song about someone who passed away.
Once you have the general mood your want your song to capture, you can then find a good tempo range.
Study songs in a similar mood to the one you're going for if you need some references and inspiration on the tempo you would like for your song.
You can also begin to play with different keys to see what key feels the best for your song's mood.
Once you have the intention, content, and song mood, you will want to figure out the lyrics' perspective. Will the song be in the 1st person (I/we)? 3rd person (They)? Second person (You)?
If your song will be in the 3rd person or 2nd person, who will be the person that is speaking? Will it be a stranger? Will it be you? Or will it be another loved one?
Perspective has a critical role in a song that is written about someone in particular, even if the song you're writing is about yourself.
Subverting the listener's expectation with an unexpected song perspective is a great way to make a song that gets stuck in someone's mind and stands out from more typical songs.
Once you have all of the previous ideas in place, you will be able to start condensing all the content you found about the person into real song lyrics.
Take your time with this part, as it will take a lot of creativity to get through. You can test out ideas with trial and error, possibly getting feedback from the person that you are writing about.
Don't be too hung up on the facts when it comes to your songwriting.
Getting the person's information is just about having the person fleshed out, but you can add fictional details to your lyrics' actual story if appropriate. It all depends on your song's intent and the song's perspective.
Related Post: Songwriting Tips For Beginners Looking To Get Better
After you have your lyrics, you can then begin creating your melodies based on those lyrics and the mood of your song.
Your melody ideas may lead you to make minor changes to the lyrics, but as long as the intent is still clear and nothing important is lost, this is perfectly fine to do.
Make sure that the melody of the song flows well with the message you are communicating. Your vocal and instrumental melodies should include appropriate emotional inflections to best get your point across in the song.
You want to have melodic lines that encapsulate all the hard work and energy you took the time to put in in the previous steps.
Related Post: Which Do You Create First, The Music Or The Lyrics?
If you need inspiration, this is another moment where it's a good idea to search songs with similar messages and see how they created melodies that fit the song's intent.
Find out which section(s) of your song you want to have an emotional peak and the parts of the song where you want emotional lows. Reflect those moments with melodic phrases that dynamically follow your song's storytelling.
Now that you know some common elements that most hit songs share, you have a higher chance of making a hit song of your own! Do keep in mind that you don't have to have everything mentioned above to make a hit.
You can, for example, create a hit EDM song that has a BPM of 150 instead of in the 120s if you're daring enough to take that risk.
Hit songs aren't the only types of songs that are worth making. Don't get too tied up in extremes, making a song that will be a hit or not worth it at all.
If you are looking for tips on how to make a good song in general, check out my post on how to write a song from the heart.
Not every song needs to be a hit! The more you think about it, hit songs are just dumbed-down examples of what makes music great.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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