How To Make Your SONG Stand The Test Of TIME (Part 1)

July 13, 2016

Have you ever wondered why some songs are major hits while others fail to appeal to anyone, why some songs survive generations while others fade in oblivion within a few days of their release? In short have you ever wondered what makes any artistic expression tick whether it’s a song, painting or movie?

Art is all about telling stories. How good you tell your story is how good your art is. Any good story that you where told when you were young that was so good and you able to relate to your entire life is the story that you will remember your entire life. We are all born with the ability to tell stories. From the simple “ma ma” that comes out as the baby’s first words to complex weekend stories that we share with our friends on Mondays.

Have you noticed just how happy and entertained parents are just listening to the first words of their baby, just a simple “ma ma” is far much more entertaining than listening to a new hit single from any well know artist. The reason for this is simple, the words that are coming out of their baby’s mouth is directly relatable to them.  Conversations work in the same way. Conversations only lasts as long as all parts participating in that conversation are able to personally relate to what is being discussed. Once I stop relating to whatever is being discussed, then my concentration level drops and I stop listening to what is being said. Imagine you are a lover of soccer but not a keen follower of Politics, if the conversation around is on soccer, your concentration level will be high and your contribution will also be high. But once someone switches to politics which you hardly have any interest or any knowledge on, you will find yourself feeling left out, bored and before long, you might find yourself on phone looking at something that interests you (I mean soccer, not that other thing you look at on your phone).

Interest is highly connected to emotions. The more our emotions are in play, the more interested we are in something. When we are listening to a story, what makes that story appeal to us is how much of our emotions are in play. Listening to a story is just us telling ourselves that same story and the more emotional the story makes us, the more we shout the importance of that story to our inner-self. That’s why most people sit through a very scary horror movie trying to partially cover their eyes but still watching the all thing. Since fear is an emotion and in this case highly in play as we are watching that scary movie, our inner-self is convinced that whatever we are watching is highly important to us.

“We intend to remember that horror movie we watched once that scared us the most than a school topic that we have read a thousand times.”

Music works in the same way. When we sing, play our drums, guitar, piano or flute, we are telling a story. The purpose of storytelling is just to evoke emotions. A story is not only communicated by words alone. Remember, words are just sounds like any other sound. Someone telling you that it is going to rain and hearing the sound of thunder will communicate the same message. Just a beat of a drum can evoke more emotions than a thousand words. In the old days, drums were used to tell people about war, death of chief or a celebration.

As a musician, since you will tell your story through music, when writing your song first ask yourself the 4 Ws; WHO, WHY, WHERE AND WHAT.

WHO am i telling this story?

–          Each story should have an audience. When you are writing your song, try to ask yourself the people you are targeting with your song. Is it pre-schoolers, teen ages, young adults or the senior citizens? Knowing the kind of audience you are writing for will assist with the composition and language that you can use. A song with a senior citizens theme but using the current teen slags will lose both audience groups that it was suppose to relate to. Teens will understand the slags but not the theme and Senior Citizens will understand the theme but not the slag.

–          The wider your target audience, the wider your market. Since singing is a business, so knowing your target audience means knowing your market. For example, if your target market is pre-schoolers, obviously your music should also be appealing to parents since its parents that will buy your music for their children.

–          First Love or love at first time is themes that usually appeal to teens.  But if you can structure the same themes differently, your song can also appeal to young adults.  Remember people are the same from the time they are born until they die; it is situations that change around them. A song that says you are my sweet 16 won’t appeal to a lady in her 30s, but a song that says, “even after all these years, you still look as beautiful as the first time I saw you,” may have a totally different effect.


Articles by: BENNIE CHIBWE – a Zambian writer, Philosopher, Visual Artists and Motivational speaker. He is notably known for his work as Zambian Seasoned Visual director and animator.