The secret recipe to writing a hit song unveiled with techniques writers of blockbuster songs by the likes of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

Is a number 1 hit song all luck, or is there a formula that can help a song to enrapture the world? Why not ask a doctor of music who has helped to write some of the biggest musical hits of recent times.

The man with the know-how is Dr. Asaf Peres. With a PhD in music composition and music theory. Music Business Worldwide have gathered some of his top tips following their interview with Peres last year. He breaks down techniques from top hitmakers like Max Martin to see what lies within a smash hit song.

Be subtle and consistent to create emotion

In analysing the techniques of Max Martin, Peres finds a motif technique. Looking at Katy Perry’s Number 1 hit ‘E.T.’ he notices that the verse and chorus use the same melody. However, Martin and the other writers on the song manage to make it feel different.

He notes that after the verse the pre-chorus changes things up, “distracting” the listener before bringing back the same melody but as the chorus. Other subtle changes, such as Katy Perry’s vocal delivery and the lyrical phrasing make it all feel different and evolved.

But why would you want to sneakily re-use the melody in the first place? Why not keep things fresh naturally, using a different sound for the chorus to the verse?

Peres says: “By using the pre-chorus and other contrasts to shield listeners from realising that the verse and chorus melodies are the same, it ensures that listeners maintain an ’emotional experience’, rather than an ‘intellectual experience'”

This means engaging a different response from your listener. Rather than challenging them with a fully evolving sound, which can be stimulating in its own right, you establish a sound that the audience familiarises themselves with. This creates a consistent feeling throughout the song and a recognisable motif, with which listeners can relate and repeat.

Getting that melody in listeners’ heads and having them humming the song out and about is the sign of a pop hit. That catchy and recognisable tune is a defining element within hit music. Peres says that this method allows the song “to target the subconscious mind of the listener”.

Recycling isn’t just great for the planet

In his ‘Melodic Math’ course, Peres breaks down the fundamentals of what makes a great pop song. Similar to the technique of re-introducing the same melody, re-using hooks creates familiarity which sticks in the listeners mind.

Introducing hooks early on in a song and then bringing it back in with the chorus will give the chorus more of an impact for the listener. They’ll already relate to it and will be more likely to get on board with it. Peres says these types of melodic and lyrical previews can found across hits spanning decades, from Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ to Katy Perry’s entire ‘Teenage Dream’ album.

The art of hooking techniques

Peres explores what he calls “hooking techniques”; song tactics that highlight certain parts of a song to appeal to the listener. Once again, these techniques have been used by Max Martin, the master of pop, to create iconic elements in songs that became hits.

One technique he calls ‘FuelCore’. It involves two different approaches which the melody will switch between. The Core is a slower segment that then is offset by the Fuel, a faster fragment of the song that builds up from from what the Core established. Peres notes that Taylor Swift’s massive song ‘Shake It Off‘ is a great example of the FuelCore technique. Notice how the vocals differ between the verse and chorus.

Another technique is the ‘Rocket & Feather’, a similar approach to rising and falling. The Rocket is the lead up which then gradually turns down with the Feather, as if floating back down to the ground after shooting up. Another Swift hit that Martin helped to write which Peres says examples the Rocket & Feather technique is ‘Blank Space‘.

Final thoughts on writing a hit song

Whilst these tips and the many more found in Peres’ course set you up to write a fantastic pop song, he emphasises that there is no single method to guarantee a hit song. Peres says: “Learning patterns of techniques that have worked for others in the past can only enhance someone’s song writing palette. But prescribing a template for writing hit songs – the idea that it ‘must be done this way’ – rarely ends well.”

Peres continues: “The greatest songwriters in history are great because they can drown out the noise of what a stereotypical hit song ‘should’ sound like and create something that sounds fresh. They tap into their own personal, emotional world and use that to create songs people can relate to and that feel authentic.”

You can apply to the Melodic Math course to find out more and learn about writing hit songs here.

So, you’ve written a hit? Now it’s time to release it on all streaming services and digital music stores to get heard around the world. Get paid and upload unlimited releases for free at