How to Write a Hit Pop Single: 10 Tips for Becoming a Rising Pop Star

Many rising pop stars started from zero and reached the top in a matter of few years. If you’d like to follow their example, here are some tips to help you getting started

By Chris RoditisMusicngear Lead Editor

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Writing, recording and producing a Pop hit was never so easy. In fact, many rising pop stars started from zero and reached the top in a matter of few years. If you’d like to follow their example, here are some tips to help you getting started:

1. Start With A Vocal Hook

Vocal hooks are short memorable sentences or phrases that will be repeated again and again all over the song choruses and will get stuck in your listener’s heads. Ideally, you’d like to give that sentence a special melodic or rhythmic structure as well; something that will stand out of the song. You can sing it in falsetto, or add some vocal effects (we’ll talk about those a bit later). Just make sure that it doesn’t contrast too much with the rest of the song. Examples of vocal hooks:

“So call me, maybe!” - Carly Rae Jepsen
“Don't you want me?” - The Human League
“I hate when you do that” – Made-up

2. Create One or Two Instrumental Hooks

An instrumental hook is also known as “riff”. If you’re a guitar or piano player, you probably know what it is. Riffs are short musical sentences that include two or more notes. Also, riffs often follow unusual rhythm patterns. Sometimes instrumental riffs follow the vocal hook melodic line.

3. Create The Riff On An Instrument

Article photo - How to Write a Hit Pop Single: 10 Tips for Becoming a Rising Pop StarIf you struggle to create a good riff, try to make it on an instrument you’re unfamiliar with. For instance, if you’re a piano player, take a guitar, a flute, a trumpet, etc. Besides having fun and learning something new, you might easily come out with something rather unique.

4. How to Write Good Lyrics

How important are lyrics? Lyrics will be loved by your listeners only if they make sense with your vocal hook. Most of pop hits were born from one single phrase. The rest: melody, riffs and lyrics are meant to fill the space between the vocal hooks. Don’t forget that vocal and instrumental hooks are the essence of any modern pop hit. 

5. Communicating Your Story

You might also have a story in mind, something you want to communicate in the lyrics. If poetry is not your mother tongue, then you might find it difficult to make rhymes. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, there are many websites and tools (both free and paid) to help you to find the right words. 

6. Don’t be Too Personal

Don’t expect people to comprehend your inner world. Instead, look for something people usually relate to and stick to it. Find a simple story that somehow reflects your feelings. Make sure it’s a story people would easily understand. Resume the story in 3-4 short sentences and use one sentence per verse. Then, fill the other lines up with something that would make sense and rhyme.

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7. The Song Structure

Devin Townsend is an example to follow when it comes to experimentations with exotic song structures, key shifts and polyrhythm. Wait, do you ever know who Devin Townsend is? Exactly, you’ve got the point. If you want to create a pop hit, you’ll need to follow a well-defined, “classic” song structure. Few exceptions aside, experimental bands never become popular. Here’s the classic and working song structure you should use:

Intro (Melodic or vocal hook)

  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Interlude
  • Chorus

If you’re aiming for a more Electronic sound, then you might include an ecstasy build-up between each verse and its respective chorus. It’s also recommended to base your chord progression on the classic cycle of fourths/fifths. Again, try to not over-complicate your melody. The cycle of fifths is being used in 80% of modern Pop songs, and it looks like common people don’t get tired of it.

8. Orchestration - Keep the Tune Easy

Some pop hits feature only guitar and vocals. In fact, any pop song hit is made on a way that it can be easily played on a guitar and sang by one single vocalist. If the song’s overcomplicated, it will never become a hit. If you feel like your song could use some orchestration, consider adding any of those:

Bass and percussion

Those two always come together and they can be either acoustic or synthesized. It’s always a good idea to avoid combining acoustic bass with synthesized drums or vice versa. Some pop hits manage to successfully combine them, but you really need to know what you’re doing if you want to succeed with that.


Modern keyboards allow you to record multiple tracks and layer them, achieving rather complicated, orchestra-like sounds. Fact is - you don’t need any of those for a pop hit. Keep it simple. If you want to add piano, don’t add synths, and so on. Don’t forget that many pop hits were originally played by one single person. Here are some “classic” instrumental combinations that will never let you down:

  • Guitar
  • Piano
  • Guitar and piano
  • Guitar, piano, cello/contrabass and violins
  • Guitar, bass and percussion
  • Guitar, bass, percussion and piano
  • Guitar, bass, percussion and a synth or two

Article photo - How to Write a Hit Pop Single: 10 Tips for Becoming a Rising Pop Star

9. Production Quality Matters

Either you want to publish your song on Social Media and YouTube or send it to a recording label as a demo, you’ll need to record it first. Although a good producer might not care too much about the quality of the demo, it’s still a better idea to send them something fairly well-made. On the other hand, if you want to post your song on YouTube and Facebook hoping that it will become viral, then production should be one of your main concerns. Here are some things to keep in mind when producing your song:


There’s paid auto-tune software and there’s also free one. Neither of those two proved to be good. Obviously, they do work, but it’s always a better idea to use a specially designed hardware. Also, try to avoid heavy auto-tune settings.

Vocal Effects

Many vocal processing stations have a set of in-built vocal effects to choose from. Modern pop hits often feature digitally manipulated vocals. Just try to avoid using cheap effects that will make your song sound like it was made in the 70’s. Use only decent gear.

10. Let the Song Sink In

It’s no mystery that it takes months to create a hit. Obviously, musicians don’t work on their songs 24/7. It just takes weeks for the song to “grow up” and acquire a polished, “mature” sounding. Don’t rush. Take breaks, listen to other popular songs, ask your friends to listen your recording with you. Ask for their opinion. Make sure to try new things, create alternative versions. You’ll be surprised how polished your song will be after two or three months of occasional work.

That’s it! Creating a pop hit isn’t a complicated task. The secret is to keep it simple and catchy. Make sure to listen to lots of both modern and old pop music. Also, use good gear. Modern pop music might be minimalistic, but it’s known for being recorded and produced well.

About Chris Roditis

Chris Roditis has been an active musician since 1995 in various bands and projects across a variety of genres ranging from acoustic, electronic to nu metal, british rock and trip hop. He has extensive experience as a mixing engineer and producer and has built recording studios for most of the projects he has been involved with. His passion for music steered his entrepreneurial skills into founding MusicNGear in 2012.

Contact Chris Roditis at

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