Songwriting is half craft and half art. It's part emotional and part technical. And like playing the piano or other musical instruments, you must learn the techniques first before you can play by heart.
Songs are made up of common elements although some may have one that another does not.
Melody - This is the song's tune. It's what you play or sing. Great melodies are catchy and easy to remember and a potential hit song should have both of these.
Rhythm and Beat - What makes the audience feel the song is its beat, also known as the song's tempo. It can either be fast or slow. The beat that the musical instruments follow is called a song’s rhythm.
Chords or Chord Progression - This is what accompanies the melody of the whole song and is also typically part of its rhythm. The order the chords are played is called the chord progression.
Style and Genre – The rhythm and the beat of a song defines its genre. It can be pop, rock, country, or R&B. When the song is constructed with the instruments and words, the style may then vary. Style branches out from the song’s genre like alternative, punk rock, blues, and others.
Hook – Remember that part of that song that you can’t get out of your head? That’s called the song’s hook. Great songwriting calls for good hooks. There are even songs that are built on repeating that hook over and over. The title of the song can also be its hook.
Lyrics – Simply put, the lyrics are the words that you speak out in a song. These words describe the story of the song, it’s theme and its title. Typically, lyrics will be structured in rhymes and patterns to make the song easier to listen to.
Concept or Story – All great songs have stories to tell. This is also referred to as the song’s concept or theme. The title, typically, conveys the essence of the theme which is then expounded by the lyrics while the song unfolds.
Sections of the Song – Most songs are divided into sections that are named intro, stanza or verse, chorus, the bridge, and others. Typically, the verses or stanzas, and chorus are the meat of the whole song and they describe the theme or concept of the whole song. The other parts like intro, lead breaks, bridge will act as supporters to these main components. The sections are also structured in measures or bars. They usually have a length of four beats but they can be long or shorter. Good songwriting calls for proper bar structuring.
Arrangement – Arrangement of the sections of the song refers to the order in which they are placed, liked intro-verse-verse-chorus-verse. The arrangement of the instruments, on the other hand, refers to how the vocals, instruments, and other parts are organized in a song.
Length – The length of the song varies according to the style, genre, or the preference of the song writer or arranger. The typical song length is about three and a half to four minutes long. It can be longer or it can be shorter depending on how it has been arranged during recording.
In your analysis of songs written by successful songwriters, you will find that some of them contain some, all, or more of the elements mentioned in this article. But still they will follow certain rules and formulas to keep within the mainstream music. As a songwriter, feel free in breaking some rules and at times creating new ones in your songwriting. Who knows, you might come up with a great hit while doing experiments with these common song elements?