What’s Holding Your Song Back?

Posted in The Weekly on June 12, 2018 by

There are times our songs come to us easily. They feel good as we’re writing them, people respond when we perform them and the demos practically jump out of the speakers. There are other times, however, when things just don’t seem to quite come together. To help you troubleshoot what may be holding your song back, I’ve put together a checklist to help you determine whether it needs a re-write, a new demo or possibly both.

Does it Need a Rewrite?

  • Is your song’s idea/hook strong and unique?

  • Does your opening line make your listeners want to know more?

  • Is your song’s message relatable?

  • Is the meaning clear and entertaining without being cliché or too obvious?

  • Are your lyrics conversational and natural sounding?

  • Are you emphasizing the proper syllables?

  • Is your rhyme scheme consistent in similar sections?

  • Is each part of your melody - not just the chorus - memorable?

  • Does your vocal melody have enough - but not too much - range?

  • Does your chorus melody differentiate itself enough from your verse?

  • Is your song fun to sing?

If you scored an honest “yes” on everything above, now ask yourself some questions about the way you’re presenting your song:

Does it Need a New Demo?

  • Is your intro intriguing enough and not overly long?

  • Is the recording quality good (e.g. no background noise)?

  • Do the musicians play in time, in tune and with proper dynamics?

  • Does the singer sell the song (i.e. is the vocal believable)?

  • Is every single word clear and understandable?

  • Does the singer have the appropriate voice for your song’s genre?

  • Is the genre of your demo appropriate for your pitch opportunities?

  • Do the instruments/production sound dated? (i.e. synth or guitar sounds from an earlier decade)?

  • Does your demo have a memorable signature lick?

  • Does it convey the strength of your lyric and melody?

  • Is the mix clear with an emphasis on the vocals?

  • Did you remember to get instrumental mixes for film/TV pitches? (Sometimes our songs are better suited for visual media than we may think!)

Helpful hint: Make a rough recording and ask your go-to listeners to tell you what they think the strongest and weakest parts of your song are (e.g. lyrics, melody, concept, recording quality) BEFORE you pay for a new demo or play it for any industry decision-makers…and don’t be afraid to re-write, re-do and improve anything that might be lacking. Remember - you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression so if your song isn’t tightly written and the demo doesn’t sell the song, you could be doing more harm than good by moving ahead too soon.

Good luck!


Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, music producer and educator with recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Through his studios, Cliff provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual, live access to Nashville’s best session musicians and demo singers for their songwriting demos. To find out more go to You can download Cliff’s FREE tip sheet “A Dozen Quick Fixes To Instantly Improve Your Songs” by going to

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