What’s in a name? If you’re looking for songwriting tips as you pen your next tune, check out this advice from Perth Amboy, NJ teacher Jeff S...
There is not one “right” or preferred way to write a song. It’s a very individual choice. Some songwriters start out with a patch of melody or a line or two of lyric as their creative catalyst. Others will initiate the songwriting muse with a unique and instantly-captivating song title or writing from their emotions. And in this ever-crowded, highly-competitive song placement marketplace, why wouldn’t you want to carve out an immediate attention-getting premise by coming up with a standout song title?
Having a compelling title and unique lyrical approach can instantly pique interest and generate listens, especially if your musical dreams extend to getting listened by decision-makers in the music industry. But even so if you just want your song and music video to stand out from the crowd on YouTube or other Internet sites where music can be posted. After all, isn’t generating listens and “likes” the initial goal of a yet-to-be discovered songwriter?
As a general guideline and one of the best songwriting tips, it is probably best to stay away from hackneyed song titles like ”I Love You” or “I Need You”. On the other end of the spectrum, it is also a wise idea to avoid leeching onto titles that are intrinsically and irrevocably linked with the artist who had a hit with them;. Such songs (and titles!) like Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, Tom Petty’s “Freefallin’ ” Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”, and Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” are just a few that fall under this iconic (and therefore untouchable) category. They are so woven into the pop cultural fabric that it would be fool’s gold to try to re-excavate them.
It’s also imprudent and unoriginal to glob onto more modern (yet also seminal) song titles like Amy Winehouse’s ”Rehab”, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” or Beyonce’s, “If I Were A Boy”.
So how you know when a song title is truly original and unique? Well, first I would trust your gut feeling about that. But there is an amazing (and free!) resource that you can use as a litmus test for your song title’s originality. Just go to iTunes and type your song title into the iTunes search engine and see how many other songs pop up with that same title. If it’s fewer than 10, then you probably have a very original title. But if 100 or more song titles come up with your title, then I’d give serious thought into putting your creative time, studio time, and hard-earned money into a demo or a master recording.
Besides iTunes, there are some other fantastic sources you can utilize to get a fix on the creative uniqueness of your song titles. The major performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) all have super extensive databases. ASCAP has the ACE Title Search. On the BMI site, look for the word search at the top of their home page. SESAC has a repertory search at the bottom of their home page. No matter what title you come up with, have fun and try to find a previously unexplored approach to your title and craft it into something that is truly you! This is the best songwriting tip to keep in mind. Remember — it’s never a bad idea to be as original as you can. Happy and successful title-finding and songwriting!
Jeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here!
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