Why Songwriters Repeat Themselves

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog


Came across an article in the Daily Mail UK this morning. These 3 bullet points pretty much sum it up:

  • Researchers claim the secret to a smash hit single is repeating the lyrics
  • They found songs that repeat phrases are more likely to be successful
  • Hit singles repeated words up to a fifth more than music lower in the charts

This is something that comes up pretty often in my coaching songwriters and for lots of writers it’s a problem. The first thing I offer is that we’re writing songs to relate to others and that means we hopefully have a listener. Quickest way to get a listener to remember your song? Repetition. 

Sure I know you could argue and find endless examples of great songs that don’t adhere to this idea but…this study is talking about “smash hit singles” and I did say “the quickest way”.

The info and the idea

I’m sure not the first one to point out that most of the information in your song is going to be in the verses and the big idea is going to be your chorus. The listener will hopefully go along for the ride with you in the verses, you can load up on detail, color and storyline but, when you hit the chorus that listener wants a break. Give it to ‘em. Let them know exactly what the idea is. Work that title and repeat when necessary. Get it in their head and then you can give them more in the next verses and bridge, just don’t wear them out.

This is old news to many of you but you would be surprised at the number of writers I work with who resist the thought of pleasing someone else, the listener. Sometimes the problem comes from writing alone. You get bored and continue to introduce new things to make the process more interesting for yourself. I do it too but the listener is not going to work as hard as you to “get it “.

Love it or hate it, we’re in a sound bite world

We want it and we want it now and for all of us the rules continue to change. You hear fewer bridges, fewer 2nd verses, more post choruses and everything sounds like a hook, might hear 3 different ones in a hit single at the moment.

This stuff we’re all creating is made to be consumed and I mean that in a good way. A 3 min pop song that can go from the writer’s imagination, through their craft, complete with the tools that make it directly into a listener’s head is a beautiful thing. If repetition is a proven tool I’m using it.

One of my old publishers, Miles Copeland, gave an interview awhile back where he blamed this chorus driven phenomenon on the introduction of a channel changing button on the steering wheel. “ now the guy in his car doesn’t even have to take his hand off the wheel to choose a different song”. That’s your modern listener so it stands to reason you want to hook him quick and often.

One fine example of everything we ‘re talking about here is the Beatles “She Loves You”. The storyline is in the verse, a conversation between two friends. Sets up the big idea and the end of the chorus looks like this:

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah yeah


Repetition …and you know that can’t be bad :-)!

For the complete article in the Daily Mail UK here’s a link.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

April 25, 2015

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.