The Hit-Making Formula: A Comprehensive Music Theory Guide

In this article, you'll learn the concept of The Hit-Making Formula, a framework that can be used to create songs that makes your fans put 'em on repeat.


Music Producer, Artist, Songwriter, Entrepreneur

Why do you still like listening to the same songs from 20 years ago?

Why do we all have this one song that we listen to at least once or twice monthly?

Recently, I've started using this formula in my live shows using the same approach as when producing music.

And that's when I started noticing that every form of entertainment uses the same framework.

Whether you are producing a song, producing a concert, or directing a movie.

The goal is to:

❍ Work and impress a crowd,

❍ Entertain them

❍ Take them on an emotional journey

❍ Hold their attention

❍ And go out with a bang.

Not entertaining the crowd will make them leave…

Not taking them on a journey means they'll get bored and leave…

Not keeping their attention means you're not getting them interested in what you have to show.

And not going out with a bang means you gave them no reason to tell their friends. Through all the shows I've played, I've learned that people often base their opinion on the last thing they see or hear.

To make sure that all my live shows and songs include all of these components, I had to create a system.

Without a framework or checklist, there's no way to keep the same amount of consistent quality.

If you put systems in place, chances are you're less likely to screw up.

Think about a pilot. They have specific procedures in check that will keep them from making mistakes.

Even if they have already performed that same action a thousand times before, a checklist or system still needs to be followed to prevent them from making a misstep.

And that's how I came up with The Hit-Making Formula.

I use this music theory to teach producers and songwriters about music production.

The Hit-Making Formula Is Like A Roller Coaster

What in the world does a roller coaster have to do with making music?

Yes, it might sound crazy, but I accidentally stumbled upon the similarities.

I decided to write a music theory about it. Because facts are that it drastically changed the way I look at music production.

Roller coaster rides versus Music Production

Roller coaster rides trigger certain emotions. You hop on these rides and get a feeling of excitement.

Listening to music also triggers emotions. For some, that's sadness. For others, it's pure happiness. It all depends on how you interpret a song.

In general, that's what a roller coaster ride and music have in common.

Though, it goes a bit further.

Once you realize how roller coasters are built, you'll notice that they're similar to how music is produced.

Deconstructing the Roller Coaster

I sketched out a roller coaster ride in the image below and implemented the song structure of a random song.

Intro: This is where you get in the cart. The straight line shows that there isn't much happening yet.

Verse 1: This is where your song starts progressing. The roller coaster brings you to the pre-chorus, but it has yet to reach a climax. This is the part where your heart is pounding in your chest…

Pre-chorus: A short moment of being on the edge, holding your breath, and getting ready to go down to the first chorus.

Chorus 1: That free-fall will be the first time you'll reach a certain level of excitement. It's your first impression of a song, and you decide to keep listening as it sparks your interest.

Verse 2: The roller coaster slows down and slowly builds up towards the second pre-chorus. Just before you get there, the ride suddenly takes a different road, and the cart shakes up and down. In other words, something has to happen in the song to keep listeners engaged. Not too much, though. We're still in the second verse…

Pre-chorus: Again, a short moment of being on the edge and getting ready to hit Chorus 2.

Chorus 2: Again, that same feeling of excitement. But this time, we must ensure it differs from the first chorus to enhance that feeling. In this case, we've added an extra loop after the free-fall. See the image for context.

Bridge: The roller coaster cart pulls itself up from its lowest point again. It's time to build up toward the final chorus of the song.

Chorus 3: The final chorus, the craziest of them all. After the previous choruses, something new must happen to go out with a bang. Something that the ear has yet to hear.

Outro: After a wild ride, the cart finally comes to a stop. All passengers hop out, and automatically your mind says: "I wanna go again!". In other words, "I wanna put that song on repeat!".

3 Essential Parts of The Hit-Making Formula

There are many ways to use The Hit-Making Formula in your songs. In the example above, you notice how much a roller coaster ride resembles a song.

When you start using this theory in your own songs, there are three essential parts that you need to include.

Even if you decide to structure your "formula/roller coaster" differently, this will ensure that listeners get hooked on your song and want to play it again.

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1. No chorus sounds the same

Every song needs to build up excitement, and every chorus has to be bigger than the previous one.

No matter what type of song you're creating. Something needs to be added to keep things interesting.

And, of course, the final chorus must be the biggest of them all. You want to go out with a bang.

2. The importance of build-ups and breakdowns

Suppose you think about it in roller coaster terms. In that case, the technology to let roller coaster carts go up the hill faster may exist.

Theme parks must implement going up slowly because if not, it will remove a critical piece of the ride.

You get this adrenaline boost when the cart slowly goes up the hill.

In other words, the impact of the chorus is much more significant when your song slowly builds up.

There are always moments when the ride goes a bit slower. Usually, after you've experienced a certain level of excitement. For example, after the first chorus.

You can only reach that same level again if you start slow and build up.

The bumps in Build-up 2 in the picture also represent that new elements must be added in verses, not only in the different choruses.

3. The Power of the Pre-Chorus

The pre-chorus... That moment of being on the edge, holding your breath, and waiting to fall down.

This is a commonly used writing technique in music to bring in repeat factors. This is what makes a song easier to listen to.

When a pre-chorus is implemented in a song, it's a fundamental part of the chorus itself.

The concept is easy to understand.

A pre-chorus (besides the chorus) is another repeating factor in the song.

It gives people an extra part to sing along with, and listeners are used to hearing the chorus afterward.

The more logical the song structure, the easier to listen to it. Chances are, it will get stuck in people's heads.

Not every song has a pre-chorus. For example, hip-hop songs usually have 16-bar verses without a pre-chorus.

To show you that The Roller Coaster Music Theory also applies to rap songs is to consider that pre-chorus a beat stop.

Beat stop: When the music stops and the vocals continue.

It has the same effect, a moment of silence that will give the chorus more impact.

It is also a commonly used technique in songwriting.

Applying The Hit-Maker Formula

You will use this formula more often as soon as you recognize its accuracy.

And just like me, you'll discover that the same principle is used in movies and concerts.

It's an easy way to reference your music and make sure you include these fundamental elements in your songs.

This formula will ensure that you:

❍ Create music that people will listen longer to

❍ Take people on an emotional journey through your song

❍ Avoid adding parts that don’t contribute anything to the song

Want to know if your music holds the fundamental elements to potentially hit the charts?

Or do you think your music isn’t reaching its fullest potential, while you think it should?


Music Producer, Artist, Songwriter, Entrepreneur

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