When you put on a good song, it’s hard to resist dancing around the room or belting out the lyrics. Music impacts us physically and emotionally, and the field of neuroscience is investigating the complex ways it affects our brains. It turns out, music is the key to better health and cognitive function at every age, and musical training from a young age helps prevent debilitating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in old age.
There’s no definitive definition of a “good” song, but research suggests that great songs share certain characteristics. They’re memorable, with lyrics that are recognizable and relevant. They have an infectious groove, and they often evoke a positive emotion, such as happiness, sadness or anger. Good production values are important too – a muddy mix or shaky vocals can spoil an otherwise great song.
Music has been a major part of every culture, both past and present, and it’s an art form that’s amazingly universal in its impact. Music touches our bodies and souls, but it’s also an important communication tool that helps to bridge cultural divides.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 bce) considered music to be a reflection of the physical universe. He believed that music expresses the six emotions of sorrow, satisfaction, joy, anger, piety and love. He also said that a person who understands music is qualified to govern.
Musical training improves spatial reasoning, which is a critical skill in professions such as engineering, architecture and math. It is often a requirement for some science careers, and the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was an accomplished violinist. Unfortunately, many schools are cutting their music programs. This is a big mistake.
People who study musical instruments like piano, flute or guitar are more likely to have higher IQs and perform better in school. They are also less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other dementias in old age.
A good song should be well-crafted, with a clear message and a compelling melody. It should use a variety of elements of music: dynamics, form, harmony, melodies, rhythm and texture/timbre. A quality piece should be free of extraneous notes, sounds or effects that do not contribute to the communication of the musical ideas.
When it comes to writing a good song, there is some magic and mystery involved. Some of the best songs were once scrapped and never published, but kept being worked on until they were just right. So keep writing, and don’t give up! If you do this, you’ll eventually have a hit song on your hands. Keep listening, too. The more you listen, the more you’ll know when a song is truly great. It’s that special something that everyone can sense, even if it’s just in their bones. It’s a combination of magic and mystery and structure and technique that makes a song great. And once you know it, you’ll want to listen again and again.