Here are the 6 things you need to know to make a great pop song:
Ok, so I am not a famous musician nor do i aspire to be. I am not a super-producer. I do not have plaques on the walls of my studio or even a studio for that matter. What I do have is years of experience in music and a great passion for it. What does this mean??? Not much really, I am just like you. I wanna hear good music. People have different tastes in music you say??? True. The thing that I think separates me from others is that I can explain why I think a song is good or not. Most people are quick to shoot out a “THIS RULES!” or “THIS SUCKS”, but few can actually explain why.
So I know that I can explain why music is good or not, but I can’t focus on all music at once, I have to choose a style. Being as it’s the most popular style (hence the name), I will break pop music down for you. Again, you may not agree with my observations about pop music but here we go anyway:
1. Good hook. It is important to not fall into a formula when writing a hook. Many songwriters think that a legato vocal line is best for a hook because it sounds big. This is not always the case. you must add a certain cadence in order to set it apart from other hooks. Also, work with the voice you are given. If you are writing for an Usher Type, Legato is great. Working with someone with a smaller range like Nelly you would have to write a more staccato and rhythmic vocal line.
2. Don’t neglect the Verses!!! Verses are easy to lose focus on once a good hook is in place. Many people fall in the bad habit of writing a verse that moves stepwise up and down a scale. They stay with in a three note range and never change the rhythm, C-D-E-D-D-C type stuff. Try writing a verse that skips a few notes in the scale and use other intervals rather than 2nds. Also, try and use arpeggios when you can, but be mindful not to overdo it or you’re song will verse like a fancy ringtone rather than a good verse that has you anticipating a hook. Pre-hooks are good for this because you can end them on the 7th of a scale to leave them anticipating the resolve. A pre-hook is the part of the song that goes in between the verse and the hook. There doesn’t even have to be lyrics in this one, it could simply consist of a groove with a melody or actual doo-wop type oohs and ahhs.
3. Everybody loves a melody. Having a catchy melody that is peppered throughout the song is vital. Think of Huge pop songs such as “Girls Just wanna have fun” , “Funkytown” or “Walk like an Egyptian”. These songs had infectious melodies that would take a chainsaw to get out of our heads.
4. Ooh’s and Ahh’s are great. Scat style notes without words are great material for Pop music. think Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” or Glenn Fray’s “The heat is on”. “Ohh-oo-O-oOH, Ohh-oo-O-Ohh Caught up in the action-I’ve been looking out for you.”
5. Try and have a signature “stamp”. All of the great performers have a signature “Stamp” in their music. For example, Ice Cube has “YAY YAYYY!” Young Geezy has “YEAAAAAHHHHHH…” and of course Michael Jackson has an arsenal of them including but not limited to “HEE- HEE, SHAMONE, WOOO HOOO!!!” and so on. Having a signature stamp will set you apart from others and make it so people can identify your music immediately.
6. Great Music. I just listed this one in case there is someone out there that doesn’t know that without a good beat, you most likely wont get far.
Listed above are a few of the qualities I search for in pop music. Granted, I am just another critic, but I can explain why I like what I like and chances are, many others like these things too, they just never thought of why. How do I know??? Cause I am not special…I am just like you.
– Leo Ferrer, Jr.