When it comes to your song intro, you only have a precious few seconds to make an immediate and lasting impression on your listeners. In an era of significantly shorter attention spans and increasingly distracted listeners, you, as songwriters, have an even greater responsibility to grab your audience as quickly as possible. The first and best place to do this is in your song’s intro. This can be done partly in your songwriting and partly in the production of the song demo. The following tips by producer and songwriter Cliff Goldmacher will, hopefully, help to get your listeners into your song right away.
- Keep your intro short and to the point
It’s a common mistake to make your song’s intro longer than it needs to be. I get it. As writers, we love the idea of setting the scene and creating a mood before we get to the verse but, unfortunately, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. It’s our job to make every note count and the best way to do this is to use only as much runway as is absolutely essential to set the scene.
- Use a catchy instrumental hook/riff
A catchy intro riff is the perfect way to not only grab your listener’s attention, but make your song memorable so that it can be recognized almost instantly when it begins to play. The “hookier” you can make your songs, the better… and an intro riff is exactly the right way to go about it. A common device is to replay that intro riff at various points throughout the song like after each chorus and in the outro as well. The trick here is to make sure that while the riff is catchy, it’s not too repetitive either. One way to avoid this is by modifying the intro riff by a note or two when it comes back around so that it’s recognizable while not overdoing it. Another way to avoid needless repetition is to leave out the riff in the body of your verses and choruses.
- Use dynamics
The hallmark of a polished and professional song demo is not only the great recording quality and performances of the musicians and vocalists, but the dynamics. In other words, the way a song expands and contracts with volume and intensity does wonders when it comes to getting – and keeping – a listener’s attention. Often, coming out of the gate with a big, splashy intro is a great way to catch your listener’s ear, but it’s also the subsequent dip of volume into the verse that serves to highlight just how dramatic/memorable the intro actually was. Keep in mind that when it comes time to play in the verses and even the choruses, it’s time to let the melody of the song (i.e. what the singer is singing) take precedence and the lead instruments should take a back seat.