So, first there’s the song. Generally speaking when we sit down to write a song it has more to do with the groove, melody and the lyric than it does with which categories and/or boxes into which your new song will eventually fit. It has also been my experience that most songs don’t necessarily announce their genre while you’re writing them. However, when it comes time to make a professional demo, you will have to make some decisions about which genre – or genres – your song will represent. To that end, I’ve put together list of things to consider when it’s time to think about your song’s genre.Song Demo

1. Does your lyric or melody place your song in specific genre?

Not to be overly obvious here but if your lyric talks about trucks and honky tonks, there’s a decent chance the song is going to be a country one. That being said there are more subtle signs in your lyric or melody that help determine your song’s genre. Lyrically speaking, if your song is more about the sound of the words than a literal story, then it will most likely lean pop as country music tends to be a more story-centric genre. Melodically, there are certain approaches to range and phrasing that will shade a song towards one genre or another. All this to say, pay attention to what your basic melody and lyric are telling you and, often, the genre will announce itself.

2. Do you have a particular artist in mind?

Another important element to consider when you’re choosing a genre for your song demo is whether you have a particular artist in mind. If the pitch is for a pop artist (or artists), then adding a pedal steel or fiddle (even if they sound really cool) might not be the right choice. Making sure your demo sits comfortably in the genre of the artist you’ll be pitching to is always a good policy.

3. Will your choice of vocalist affect the genre?

Song Demo

Photo by Gavin Whitner (click photo for link)

The most critical determinant of genre will be the sound of your demo singer’s voice. The voice in a demo is the focal point and goes a long way towards determining your song’s genre. No matter how great your studio vocalist is, the demo simply won’t ring true if they’re not singing in the genre that’s natural for them. In other words, even a gifted pop singer faking a country accent never really works. There’s a bigger point here about songwriters singing their own demos. You may be a superb singer but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be singing your own demos if your voice isn’t right for the genre.

4. Would this song work in multiple genres?

There are certain songs – particularly ballads in my experience – that can work across multiple genres. While a song that “crosses over” is rare, it can be a beautiful thing for the songwriters and their bank accounts. If you have a song that you feel will work across multiple genres, then there are few ways to improve your chances of putting together a demo that can be pitched to multiple artists across different genres. First, I’d highly recommend a scaled-down demo approach meaning a single instrument and a vocalist. It’s too easy when doing a full band demo to add the personality of a particular genre whereas a simple piano and a vocalist who sings with a more neutral accent and approach will give you a demo that works in a variety of settings.


There will always be times when you set out to write a song in a particular genre and there’s no question as to how your song’s demo should be treated. However, in those instances where you’re unsure, asking yourself the above questions might just make your pre-production decisions a little bit easier and your final demo that much more effective.

Good Luck!

Learn how to prepare for your song demos.

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6 responses to “Four Questions When Choosing A Genre For Your Song Demo”

  1. Chuck Decker says:

    I do not know if you will be answering questions, but I have one. Speaking of the songwriter singing their own songs, is there such a thing as a demo anymore where artists will listen to the actual SONG with intent to re-record it or does your demo actually be more like a master?

    • Yes Chuck. Artists listen to the song itself all the time BUT your demo still has to be professionally recorded and performed (even if it’s just a guitar and vocal) because that’s what they’re used to hearing. A poorly recorded or performed demo – even if the song is great – won’t cut it unfortunately. Hope that helps!

  2. Tom Rose says:

    Thanks, Cliff. Good tips, as always. Especially like “the genre will often announce itself.” Beautiful – and a good reminder to keep our egos in check when picking a singer. Or an instrumentalist for that matter.

  3. Ron Varze says:

    Great Points…I know from experience that any of the country songs I have written wouldn’t stand a chance with me singing. Also the differences you’ve pointed out between pop lyrics and country lyrics is so true. Really important stuff! Thanks Cliff

  4. As an exercise in learning prosody, the melding or marriage of Lyric and Melody, try different genres. Does it work better at faster or slower tempo? Slow it down to a blues and see if you can make it work. Speed it up. Rock it. Bluegrass? Country? Jaunty, walking, running, skipping tempos. Can you make it work? If you can, great. If you can’t, you probably still learned something in trying.

  5. Mark Sweeney says:

    Thanks Cliff,
    Hope you are well!

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