4 Ways Your Songs Are Confusing Your Listeners

You might have the best idea in the world, but you can still screw it up if you confuse the listener.  If you don’t write your song clearly, you’ve just wasted your best song idea.  Let me help you avoid that.


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Last week, I covered WHY it’s devastating to confuse your listener, and I revealed the #1 cause of confusion: the curse of knowledge.  (CLICK HERE to read that post.)  Now let’s dive into some of the ways that the curse of knowledge can show up in your lyrics and confuse (and lose) your listener.

1. Too Many Characters

If the listener has to keep up with the singer, the singer’s new love, old love, mom and baby sister, they’re going to get confused.  I don’t care how carefully you craft the lyric, the more characters you put in your song, the more chance you have that the listener will get confused about who’s doing what.


Trim the fat.  Cut out any character that isn’t absolutely essential.  Focus your story more.  Maybe combine multiple characters into one or two to simplify things.

2. Overlapping Pronouns

If you’re singing ABOUT your new love and ABOUT your ex-love, they’ll both end up being referred to by the same pronoun: “he” or “she.”  The listener may get confused about which “he” or “she” certain lines are talking about.  And just like in real life, it’s awkward when people confuse your ex-love with your current love.  Yikes!


Sing TO your new love and ABOUT your ex-love.  Or vice versa.  That way you will have one “you” and one “he/she.”  And that’s much more clear.

3. Too Much Story

It’s a song, not a novel.  The listener only has so much attention to pay your song.  Remember, most listeners are listening while they’re doing something else- driving, eating, folding laundry, walking the dog, etc.  If your song has too much story, you might be asking too much of your listener.


Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Find the smallest “unit of story” (the action within the story) which will get the point across.  Maybe you’re trying to cram two songs into one.  Break them up and just write two songs.

4. Unclear time jumps

Sometimes you might want to do a time jump in your song.  Maybe a character is a teenager in verse one then a twenty-something year old in verse two.  If the time jump isn’t immediately clear, your listener will probably be confused.  “Wait… you had a girlfriend in verse one, and now you’re talking about your wife.  What?”


Avoid the time jump altogether if possible.  If you decide to do the jump, just make sure you make it very, very clear at the front end of the jump.  Simplify and clarify.

Remember, when you confuse the listener, you lose the listener.  So it’s important that you get these things right and get your song tight.

If you feel that your songs ARE tight, and you’re ready to take a shot- to play your song for a pro, I have  a cool opportunity coming up for you.

I’m hosting Songwriting Pro’s Play For A Publisher event in September.  Our guest will be Dan Hodges, who publishes hits such as “Good Directions” for Billy Currington and “Dibs” for Kelsea Ballerini.

CLICK HERE to learn more and submit your song.

Dan Hodges will be joining us for our next Play For A Publisher event in September!  He’s a successful publisher and owner of Dan Hodges Music in Nashville, Tennessee.  Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited.  CLICK HERE to check out all the details and submit YOUR song for Dan!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,


Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far. SWP 4

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