5-Second Intro Rule
Learn how to use our 5-Second Intro Rule to instantly capture the attention of your listeners, so your songs don’t get skipped. But first... Tea!
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Which one of these song intros grabs your full attention? Listen to examples in video/podcast. Both intros are cool, but it’s definitely the second intro that captures our full attention! Why? Well, because it contains a totally surprising element: a reggae rhythm sung by a choir. What genre is that? Where’s this song going next? What other surprises are waiting for me if I keep listening? After only five seconds of music, our brains are already full of questions. And we’re an incredibly inquisitive species; we need answers to those questions, and the only way to get them is to keep listening.
Now, you may be wondering why it’s so important to catch people’s attention in the first five seconds of your song. Well, there’s about 40,000 new songs being uploaded to Spotify every day, and the result of this overwhelming and never-ending stream of new music, is that a quarter of all songs get skipped in their first five seconds. That is why it’s more important now than ever before to make your music stand out from the crowd. Seriously, this is literally the first era in human history where a piece of music has needed to grab the listener’s full attention in under five seconds. And while we could have endless discussions about the negative repercussions of this change, it is the way it is and we can’t change that, so our time is far better spent thinking creatively within this new limitation.
And by the way, if you’ve seen big artists releasing new singles that have long intros where nothing much happens, and you’re wondering why they don’t have to use the 5-Second Intro Rule. Well, it’s because those artists already have loyal fanbases who will happily listen through their long intros, because they trust them. It’s all about trust. If you’re an up-and-coming artist though, you don’t have that privilege yet, so you still need to earn your listener’s trust. Once you’ve done that though, and you’ve also built yourself a loyal fanbase, then you can throw the 5-Second Intro Rule out the window, too. But until then, this rule is your best friend!
Okay, so now you’re probably thinking to yourself: How on earth do I capture the listener’s full attention in under five seconds? Well, there is arguably no better way to do that, than to create your own original never-before-heard genre. And how on earth do you do that? Well stay tuned, as we’re about to reveal all.
STEP 1. PARENTS
The most important thing to remember when it comes to creating a new genre, is that all genres are born from parent genres. I guess now is as good a time as any to have a little chat about the birds and the bees. You see, when a genre loves another genre, they mingle and exchange features, which results in a baby genre being born. So, when it comes to creating a new genre, your first step is to select the parents.
As you know, we love all genres equally here at Hack Music Theory, so to help us choose our parents, we turned to Spotify. In December, Spotify gives you a summary of your year’s listening, and apparently Ray’s top genres were Reggae, Electronic, Djent, and... Choral. Hey, don’t judge! There’s no better way to start the day than a few slow nasal breaths, and a few Bach chorales. Seriously, try it. You’ll feel so much calmer throughout the day, and when you inevitably get stressed later, just take a few breaths and remember that peaceful feeling you got earlier from those beautiful Bach chorales. If you’re up for some morning counterpoint with your coffee (or tea), we recommend the album Bach 333: 4-Part Chorales (Vol. 1).
STEP 2. FEATURES
Right, so now that you’ve selected your parents (for us, they are: Reggae, Electronic, Djent, and Choral), step two is to choose what features from those parents you want to carry forwards into your offspring genre. And yes, your new baby genre can have more than two parents, this is the 21st century after all!
This step may require some research to uncover what truly makes the parent genres sound the way they do. But remember, musical features can be detached from the instruments they’re commonly played on. For example, we took the Reggae skank, which is that off-beat rhythm usually played on the guitar or keyboard, and we gave it to our choir (well, our choir plugin).
By detaching the Reggae skank from its usual instruments and moving it to a choir, we totally surprise our listeners, which instantly intrigues their brains and gets them asking all kinds of questions, and that ensures they will keep listening beyond our intro. And by the way, our example’s in A minor, so that’s just all the white notes from A to A.
Next, we added the most characteristic feature from Djent, which is a polymetric guitar riff. If you’re new to the term polymeter, it’s just the fancy way of saying that you’re playing in two or more time signatures simultaneously. In our example, that’s happening cos our guitar riff is playing in a cycle of 7|16 for four bars then 4|16 for one bar, while all the other instruments are playing in 4|4. To integrate this polymeter with the other instruments, we played our guitar pattern on the kick drum as well. This makes the whole section more punchy too!
Right, next up is our Electronic parent. And nothing says Electronic music better than a synth, so we added a super dancey line on a massive stereo synth. Then at the end of our section, we threw that synth melody up an octave and added a few variations, to keep it evolving.
STEP 3. SURPRISE!
In order to truly create a new genre, you need at least one feature to completely and utterly stand out in the most unexpected way. You see, some genre features fit in so well to other genres that they don’t actually sound new or unusual. For example, our Djent guitar riff sounds right at home in our new genre, so while that feature is certainly adding to the flavour, it’s not really creating a new genre. For a genre to be categorized as new, it needs to be different from all the genres that already exist, and that requires your new genre to have at least one totally surprising and unusual feature. And the best way to do that, is to look at which parent genres are the most opposite, or at least, the most different.
In our example, Djent and Choral look like opposites at first glance, cos Djent is a subgenre of Metal, which is all about ultra-heavy guitars, and Choral is all about beautiful voices. However, on closer inspection, it turns out that choir plugins are not that uncommon in Djent, as they’re sometimes used in the background of tracks to add atmosphere and fill them out sonically. Also, some Djent bands even have a bit of Classical influence, which is another reason why the Djent and Choral combination doesn’t sound unusual. But, when we go below the surface and into the essence of our parent genres, we realise that Choral and Reggae are actually the most opposing genres. The reason for that, is because Choral tends to be legato, which means the music is flowing and has lots of long notes without breaks between them, while Reggae is super syncopated and has lots of short notes with breaks between. And that is why we’ve got a choir singing the Reggae skank, cos that off-beat rhythm containing all those short notes with breaks, is completely and utterly opposite to how a choir would normally sing.
And just a quick caveat about selecting your parents. They need to be different genres, and not just different subgenres. For example, if you’re into Electronic music, don’t choose tropical house, glitch hop and dubstep as your parents. As cool as that will sound, the result will still be 100% Electronic, which is not a new genre. And there’s already countless subgenres in each genre, so while creating another new subgenre is great, it definitely won’t capture most people’s attention. On the other hand, if you select the parent genres: Electronic, Celtic, and Polka, now that is a new genre, which will definitely grab attention! And beyond that, it will also get people talking and sharing the music, which is how an artist grows their fanbase.
STEP 4. BPM
After combining your selected features to create your new genre, experiment with the BPM. You wanna use a tempo that could work in your parent genres, unless a shocking BPM is part of your new genre surprise! We went with 82 BPM for ours.
STEP 5. THE 5-SECOND RULE
Now, this is the vital step! If you don’t do this, you’ve wasted all your hard work creating a new genre. We call this step the 5-Second Rule, because as you know, a quarter of all songs get skipped in their first five seconds. So, as much as we love the idea of saving the best for last, when it comes to getting people to listen to your music, it is absolutely essential that you instantly reveal your genre surprise. And don’t just reveal it, throw it right into the spotlight of your opening bar. In other words, strip back your intro to just those features from opposing genres that will totally surprise your listeners. In our example, as we mentioned earlier, the most surprising feature is a choir singing that Reggae skank, so we stripped everything back to just choir and drums. The reason for the drums being there is to get people moving, cos if you can also get those feet tapping in the first five seconds, you’ve got an even better chance of people listening to your whole song.
And on that note, if you’re just using drum loops or basic patterns at the moment, we highly recommend you start making attention-grabbing beats instead. If you need help doing that, you can use our Hack Drum Beats PDF. Also, if you need help writing better melodies, chord progressions, bass lines, and everything else, then use our Songwriting & Producing PDF, cos all the essential music making hacks are in there, including our game-changing “Melody Checklist”.
STEP 6. NAME
New genres need new names. This is not only super fun and creative, but naming your new genre also gives fans a tangible and memorable way to tell their friends about your music. With our parents being Reggae, Djent, Electronic, and Choral, we decided to name our offspring: Djentronic Reggchor. And yeah, there’s very little chance of this new genre catching on, but that’s great, cos it means our genre will remain unique and continue grabbing listeners’ attention. Thanks for being here in the Hack Music Theory community, we really appreciate you, and remember to download your Free PDF.
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