Secrets to a Great Single Part One: Choosing the Right Song

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I was sitting in a dark room with my eyes closed, listening intently to the music that was pumping through my headphones. I was carefully analyzing each song that played, noting the melody, tempo, and feel of the song.

About half way through the album, I opened my eyes, ripped the headphones off, and exited the room brimming with frustration.

I was trying to choose the first single off my first album.

Admittedly, the dark room was my closet. And the analyzing that was happening was mostly me trying not to be too picky about what I wanted to change on my newly-completed CD. But the frustration was almost too real.

How was I supposed to know which song was single-worthy? I loved them all!

Choosing which song deserves to be a single can be a daunting task for any artist. Picking the right song-whether from an album or to record as a stand alone single-is vital for musicians in today’s world of short attention spans. Luckily,you don’t need to feel all the frustration that I went through. Here’s a list of criteria for singles, and four tips to make the process of choosing a single a little easier.

A Single Is…

  • Catchy. Your single needs to be instantly singable. You want people to be humming it hours after they listen.
  • Relateable. Your single needs to resonate with lots of different people. Everyone has their own story. Your single needs to find its way into a chapter or two of  your listeners’ stories. That’s why love songs and breakup songs are so popular. Almost everyone has those shared experiences at some point or another. Your single doesn’t have to be a love song, but it does need to resonate with people.
  • Visual. Most singles have a music video to accompany them. While this is not strictly necessary, it is important to consider what a video to your single would look like. Good songwriting usually includes visual elements. If you can’t come up with any visual imagery for your song, you might need to re-visit your lyrics or pick another song as your single.
  • Promotable. If you can’t come up with any ways to promote your single, then it shouldn’t be a single. If it doesn’t lend itself well to video, if you can’t come up with some cool ideas for graphics, if you can’t think of ways to write interesting tweets about it, it’s probably not single-worthy.

Now that you know the criteria for your single, here are three tips on actually choosing the song.

1 – Follow Your Gut

As the creator and artist, you are intimately familiar with your music–all of it, not just the songs you’ve chosen to record. You know your art, and you can usually tell when you’ve written something that stands out. Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut feeling on which song is a home run.

2 – Don’t Follow Your Gut

This doesn’t make sense. I know.

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