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.
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 the magic of them! 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.
Similar to creating catchy lyrics, you will need to come up with 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.
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 since you need to get approval and pay the original content owners in order 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.
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.
This blog was written by singer, songwriter and producer Yona Marie. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page.