I’m going to give you a few tips and techniques here on how to write catchy songs. The truth is, even if you write something catchy, people aren’t necessarily going to want to listen to it… But it helps to make your music accessible sometime.
Simple but true! If you repeat something over and over then it will eventually sink in. If you repeat something short and simple over and over again then it will grind its way mercilessly into peoples’ heads. Think ‘Who let the dogs out?’ originally written by Shaggy for lyrical catchiness or ‘Sex Machine’ by James Brown for instrumental catchiness.
2) Give it a build up
After one listen it’s likely that people are only going to recall one short section of your song. So it’s a great idea to give the memorable part of your song a special place and build into it. This is a subtle point but it could be something as simple as a pause, or the line before the chorus being a sort of introduction for what comes next. Or perhaps even the same line as is used in the purpose. Think Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ for a great buildup. What I’m trying to get at is the concept of ‘framing’ the catchiest part of your song so that people have a good cue to remember it with.
3) Make the first line the memorable one
Think ‘Very Superstitious…’ from Superstition by Stevie Wonder or even beter ‘Summertime’ by Gershwin. Not only is it catchy, but the most catchy line of all socks it to you in the first few seconds. If you’re getting all catchy and memorable 90 seconds in, probably everyone’s already back to their conversations and pints of beer…
4) Most important…
Basically, to be catchy, something has to be simple enough for people to remember, but different enough to be interesting so that they actually want to remember it. Repetition will help, building up to the catchy part will help or putting it right at the start of the song will also help… …but it’s gotta be innovative too!
One last tip. I’ve noticed that I tend to write catchier songs when I’m listening to a lot of pop music. Listen to something close to what you’re trying to write if you’re having difficulty. Don’t do it with the aim of copying; just absorb the vibe and get into the groove. Then simply wait for spontaneity to strike.
Catchiness is just one more technique – practise it and you’ll master it just like anything else!
Here’s an example from my practise blog of me putting the above into practice. I repeat the title lyric ‘Someone I Can Be Alone With’ about 30 times;-). Please let me know what you think either here or at http://phoeniximago.com where I post my music.