You know, I love a good songwriting contest.

A songwriting contest brings out the best in songwriters because it gives us something to write for, a deadline to achieve some sort of end result.

You also get to see and hear some unearthed talent out there too.

I have been fortunate enough to be one of the judges for SCALA’s FOOM Songwriting Competition for a number of years now and I have made a list of the most common flaws in the songs I have listened to.

Please don’t take this list as the absolute truth. These points are only observations that I have made, followed by some suggestions on how to address these flaws. That is all.

Here are the five main flaws in no particular order:

1. Lots of cliches and platitudes in the song lyrics
It amazes me that, even though we are all unique, special and different individuals with different histories and experiences, we still tend to write a song about love for instance, using the same words and cliches.

We as songwriters need to quieten our minds and listen for the true essences of ourselves. Only then we can write a song from our own unique, and different perspectives.

Always try to write a song that comes from you and you alone.

2. Clumsy lyrical delivery
When the rhythm of the lyrics and melody are all jumbled up, the natural flow of the song disappears.

The reason why this happens is that the songwriter is trying to cram as many words and ideas into the song which automatically creates an aural barrier for the listener.

Remember, a song is at its most effective when you are dealing with one concept or idea at a time. If you find you have too many ideas in a song then pick one to run with and write another song (or two) with the leftovers.

3. Not enough attention paid to the song format
There have been many a time where I have been listening to a song and I have said to myself ‘there should be a bridge here’, or a chorus has been written that just doesn’t stand out enough.

It pays to have an idea of what a verse, chorus, pre-chorus and a bridge does and how you can use them.

4. The song go on for far too long
A lot of songs I hear in songwriting contests go on way too long. They’re the songs that have long introductions or, they have an anthemic phrase that is repeated over and over and over and over again.

There is nothing wrong with a lengthy song as long as the journey and the story is there for the listener to follow. If, say after three and a half minutes you are starting to repeat things and your idea runs out of steam then it’s likely that the song needs to end there.

Maybe you don’t need to reapeat the chorus ten times just because you like the way it sounds. Try putting on the ears of your listener from time to time as you’re writing your song.

5. Past, present and future tenses are all mixed up
Be careful that you dont mix up your tenses when you are telling the story in your songs. This sends a mixed and confusing message to the listener.

People want to be taken by the hand and led on a bit of a journey, unless you are the songwriting equivalent to Quentin Tarantino you should be aware of how the story of your song is going chronologically.

There you have it, a small list of things to consider.

Practice, practice and practice your craft, have fun with it, share it with others and when a songwriting contest comes around put your best foot forward and have a go.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting