The Self-Critique: 20 Questions to Ask About Every Song You Write
One challenge that songwriters face is knowing whether or not their songs have hit potential. While other people can offer their feedback and opinions about your songs, as a songwriter, you shouldn’t rely only on other’s opinions. You should be your own biggest critic. Before you work ferociously to pitch your songs, you should spend time doing a self-analysis of each song you have.
As you review your songs objectively, put yourself in the shoes of a major artist or a record label who is listening to your song and deciding if it is good enough to cut on their next album. Giving yourself this perspective will help you ask the right tough questions and decide whether or not your song is ready for market or what types of changes it needs to become ready.
Ask yourself these questions, which will help you decide whether or not your song as a whole or its individual elements are up to par with songs currently making it in the market.
- Is my song unique? Does it sound too much like other songs that have been done before?
- Is my concept relatable to a large audience? Is it too narrow in scope to gain mass appeal?
- Is the “hook” of my song memorable? Is it catchy?
- What audience does my song appeal to? Younger or older people? Men, women, or both? People going through certain things?
- What artists would be interested in my song? Who would be the best fit stylistically to take on my song?
- Is my song too long for radio?
- Is my song the type that would perform well in a large audience, concert setting? Would it play at parties or on radio?
- Is the structure of my song effective? Is it long enough to tell a story but short enough to avoid dragging on?
- Is my demo rock solid? Will it impress those listening to it in pitch sessions?
- Is my song cliché? Does it rely on outdated or overused analogies or metaphors?
- Are my rhymes cheesy? Do I use half-rhymes or only full rhymes? Does my word choice paint a picture and fit with the melodic scheme?
- Is my song conversational in tone or does it sound too preachy or artificial?
- Do my verses and chorus flow melodically or do they feel like two separate halves?
- Is the melody on my verses effective? Does it build up to the chorus?
- Does my chorus melody rock the house? Is it undeniably powerful?
- Does the bridge of my song summarize the core meaning of the song and have a unique, stand-alone melody from the rest of the song?
- Do the lyrics and melody of my song fit together or do they seem disjointed?
- Is my demo distracting or is it a strength? Does it adequately portray my song’s market potential to artists and record labels?
- Do I have unique instrumental elements that complement the core melody and lyrics? Am I using the right instruments?
- Could I hear this song on radio? Is it the kind of song that is “current” or is it too forward-leaning or outdated?
These questions force you to be brutally honest with yourself about your songs. Of course, every songwriter feels their material is hit-worthy and outstanding, but in reality only a small percent of songs are ready for market and radio! After taking your song through this gauntlet of questions, you’ll gain an honest understanding of whether or not your song needs to be scrapped, overhauled, tweaked, or polished before you spend time and money pitching it. You’ll be glad you spent the time doing this honest, albeit heart-wrenching, analysis.