The Song Critique
and How to Perform Your Own

Of all the things that will help you improve as a songwriter, the song critique is perhaps one of the most valuable, yet often overlooked. We are all fiercely protective when it comes to our creations, but in order to become better at the songwriting process we must learn to accept constructive criticism.

There are many music industry professionals who offer a custom song critique for a fee, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity, especially if the song in question has been repeatedly rejected.

But if you are a prolific writer, it’s not financially feasible to obtain a professional song critique for every song you write. So it’s important to develop a self-critique system that will tell you if the song is strong or if certain parts demand a rewrite.

Performing a Self-Critique of Your Song

It’s not easy to distance yourself from your own material and be truly objective about it, but there are a few questions you can ask about the song that will help to determine whether or not it hits the mark.

  • Is the main theme of the song clear when listening to the chorus?

    If you can answer this question quickly and concisely, you’re good. If your song needs much more than a chorus to get the main message across you probably have some rewriting to do.

    Look closely at where you sing the title in the chorus. Is it the first line, or is it buried somewhere in the middle? The more prominent your title, the quicker your listeners will grasp your song's meaning.

  • Is there enough contrast between the verse and chorus?

    The song must build toward the chorus, which provides the big payoff, and when the chorus arrives it should be obvious that this is indeed the chorus. I’ve heard too many songs in which I wasn’t sure.

    You can achieve this by giving it a different feel altogether from the verse. If your verse has a choppy, rhythmic feel, sing the chorus with long, drawn-out notes. Or vice-versa.

    The listener expects to be compensated for investing their time in listening to your song. Give them what they came for! Give them the big payoff!

  • Is your intro too long?

    Pay attention to this one. Make your intro short and sweet. If it’s too long your song may not even be listened to. A good rule of thumb is to get to the vocal in 15 seconds or less. An even better idea is to start the song with the first verse.

    Listen to your intros. Do they take you quickly to the verse, or do they lumber along, threatening to become an entity in their own right?

  • Can you easily sing along with the chorus after only one hearing?

    The main reason so many hit songs become hits is that they are so memorable. If you take a listen to any of the songs currently being played on Top 40 radio, in most cases you will find that you can sing along (words and melody) by the second chorus.

    When you are writing your chorus, keep it simple. Give it a repetitious and easily remembered melody, include the title in your lyric, and wrap the entire song idea into it.

    If you can’t be objective about this one, ask a friend to listen and give you a song critique. Can your friend sing along after hearing the chorus one time? If so, you’re good to go!

  • Does your song stay on topic?

    This is a common problem for many songwriters. It’s easy to go off on a tangent and end up with more than one main topic.

    To prevent this, write your title/main message first and always refer to it during the songwriting process.

    Ensure that every line of your verses, pre-choruses and bridge lead back to the main idea of the song. If there’s a line that gets off track, rework it or take it out. If it’s an especially cool line save it for another song.

If you’ve been writing songs for a while you know the rewrite is an important part of the process anyway. These song critique guidelines will help you to pinpoint typical weak areas so you know which parts are most in need of attention.

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