How to Sell Your Song: 3 Production Tricks
So you’ve written a song that has that special something? While a great song is timeless at its core, we live in a musical culture that requires us to place our amazing writing into a package that is appealing to the current trends. The ultimate question is – How to sell a song?
Your writing will speak for itself, but modern production tricks can really grab the ear of publishers, A&R record execs and managers. As you record your hit song, consider the following song production tips to make it ear-catching and radio-friendly. It will make your song relevant to current trends and communicate that you are ready to participate in the industry.
Here are our Song Production Tips that can help your song stand out:
- Add a Unique Sounding Instrument
- Add an “Oh!” or “Hey!” as an interjection or hook
- Add a drum drop-out
It’s time to explain a bit more each one of these elements and what’s the best way to incorporate them into your songs.
Song production tip #1 – Add a unique sounding instrument
Isn’t it refreshing to hear a new, unique sound in a well-written song? It makes you say “oh wow, what is this?”
Try adding a sound or instrument less familiar to the western musical vernacular.
Nowadays, a popular sound is the kalimba, also known as mbira or thumb piano.
Usually, if you have any guitar part that involves picking, you’ll love how that same part will sound on kalimba.
The mbira (pronounced m-BEER-ra) originated in Africa. It is made of a wooden board and metal tines tuned to different pitches dependent on the tine’s length. A common instrument in African folk music, its global popularity grew in the 1980s thanks to the musician Thomas Mapfumo.
This unique sound pairs especially well with a reggaeton beat! Check out Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You to hear this hit-making combo:
Other artists that use kalimba are Betty Who, Hayley Kioko, and even Earth Wind and Fire!
If you’re on a budget, don’t go out and buy a kalimba and try to learn to play it.
All you need is a midi keyboard and a sample library like the one that comes with Garageband Logic X.
There may be a selection different samples that have that cool plucking sound of a kalimba. Play with each one, you may be interested in this sound more with some effects.
Try these effects:
- Rhythmic record scratching/skipping
As you choose your sounds and effects, make sure you’re keeping the story of your song at the forefront of your decision making. Let the sounds support the story.
Make sure you’re not making a random production choice just for the sake of selling. You’ll be trusted more by the industry folks who get behind you.
Pro-tip: Check out our blog How to Produce Pop Songs Inspired by Global Beats and Melodies for more ideas!
Song production tip #2 – Add an “oh!” or “hey!” as an interjection or hook
A really simple way to help your song get in the ears of industry folk is to add or compose a non-lyrical hook, instead of lyrics, singing “Oh,” “Hey,” “Oooh,” or “Ah”.
This has become extremely well-used in today’s pop music culture. It seems like you’re somehow disqualified without an Oh-Hook.
If this hurts your soul a little, you’re not alone.
Think of it not as a necessary evil, but as a Darwinian imperative. In the business of songwriting, it’s survival of the fittest. The Oh-Hook is the survival tactic that the most successful songs have developed.
Let’s take a look at Katy Perry’s hit Roar.
This song is a well-crafted pop song who’s story is told clearly through the verse, pre-chorus and chorus. But the “Roa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oar” section is added after the chorus, creating a hook that will never leave your head.
This tool is so simple! Here are some other tunes to use as a reference.
- Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
- You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift
- Some Nights by Fun
- Home by morgxn
There are countless examples. Just turn on a pop radio station and do your research!
Song production tip #3 – Add a drum drop-out
This tool was born in house/dance music and has made its way to the mainstream.
The power of a first chorus is amplified when the drums drop out! Then, when the hook comes (maybe an Oh-Hook!), the beat kicks back in after a build.
Morgxn’s song home is a perfect example:
Do you feel how powerful this tool is? Some would say doing this on the first chorus is enough, though sometimes producers chose to use this technique on the second chorus as well.
This is one of those production choices that actually falls more under the category of arrangement/orchestration. We’re working with dynamics: tension and release. We’re building a rising, falling, looping track for the listener to ride like it was the best roller coaster ever! We’re looking for that maximum satisfaction when the drums kick back in.
So, how to sell a song?
These tools are going to help your amazing song find its widest audience. They are simple, intuitive, and easily researched.
Always make choices that support the story of the song, and never overshadow it. They can be used in any genre and style, from folk to hip hop. Stay true to yourself as you dip your toe into these industry-friendly production choices.
Best of luck, Kate.