Arranging The Hit: What it takes to have a #1 song on the Country charts


Videos by American Songwriter

What does it take to have a #1 Country song these days? How does your song hold up to today’s hit songs? In addition to networking, writing with other songwriters along with perspiration and luck, many other factors come into play. Is there a formula?

Larry Beaird of Beaird Music Group in Nashville, set out to find the answer by analyzing every #1 hit from Billboard’s Hot Country song chart from 2014 and 2015. This chart includes a combination of streaming (Pandora, Spotify, iTunes) downloads (single and album sales) and radio airplay (FM, Sirius XM, satellite radio).

His research shows that songs become more commercial by including the song’s title as the very last phrase in the chorus. Following this rule will increase a writer’s chance that his song might be commercial enough to become a hit. This is important for 3 main reasons:

  1. Placing the title at the end of the chorus helps to establish a strong central idea for the song.
  1. Producers and publishers expect to hear the title at the end of the chorus.
  1. People who want to request or buy the song will know the title more easily.

Specifically, the research involved Larry Beaird methodically:

  1. Writing musical charts for every #1 song of 2014 and 2015 to examine what makes them work.
  2. Examining the melody for each song.
  3. Examining each song’s lyrical content for rhyme schemes, subject matter, and overall lyrical construction.
  4. Examining each song’s structure including number of verses, choruses, and whether or the song included a bridge, guitar solo or other musical component.
  5. Examining song timing, including total song length, length of a song’s introduction, time to first lyric, time to first chorus, length of song parts including verses, choruses, bridges, and solos. Any timing anomalies were noted.
  6. Pointing out key musical components that were NOT in the #1 songs.
  7. Examining the choruses of the current Top 25 Country songs (in addition to the #1 hits).
  8. Studying a half-decade of CMA Songs of the Year for similarities to current #1 hits.
  9. Identifying chord patterns of all the key parts of the songs.
  10. Identifying how many songs were co-written with other songwriters and how many songs were written with the artists.

The first research finding, and an expanded discussion of the best position for a songwriter to place the song’s title can be found here:

“It wasn’t enough to merely chart the #1 songs,” Beaird said. “I also found it necessary to study each song’s lyrical content, and I measured various time considerations including the amount of time it took a song to get to the chorus. I also looked at each #1 song’s form, including the number of verses and choruses and whether the song included a bridge, instrumental section, and so on. The research shows that the #1 hits have quite a lot in common.”

Larry’s findings confirm what he has always known and what he tries to communicate to songwriters who seek out his studio to record their music. He now has the data to fully support his recommendations: “I knew, instinctively and from my work performing on other artists’ hits, how important the title placement in the song was. It’s nice to have the evidence from this research so that I can say to a songwriter, ‘the data shows, conclusively, that placing the title at the end of a chorus is important when striving for that elusive #1 hit single.’ And the research shows that in 2014 and 2015 EVERY #1 song places the title in the last line of the chorus.

Butch Baker, Senior Vice President of HoriPro Entertainment Group remarked, “The decline in songwriting royalties, combined with the fact that many artists are now writing their own songs, makes the songwriting market extremely competitive for new writers. Larry’s research is important because today’s aspiring songwriters need every advantage possible to compete for cuts on records.”

J.T. Harding, Nashville hit songwriter for songs including Blake Shelton’s recent hit “Sangria” commented: “Larry’s meticulous research of hit songs, combined with his years of studio experience (that he shares in this video) is something I wish I’d had access to coming up through the ranks as a songwriter. Larry has insight that is valuable for songwriters at any stage of their career.”

This is the first in a series of videos from Larry Beaird who uses his decades of experience to help songwriters have a chance to create a hit. Additional research findings will be released monthly.

  • Larry Beaird is a veteran Nashville session musician known for his acoustic guitar performances on thousands of recording sessions including records for country artists such as Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, Trace Adkins, and Randy Travis, and pop/rock artists including America, Art Garfunkel and Roger McGuinn. Beaird Music Group, Inc. was formed in 1988, and has grown steadily through the years into today’s four-studio digital recording facility that produces music for songwriters and artists from all over the world.

– presented by Beaird Music Studios

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