Your Song to the MASC
We understand that to a songwriter, winning Awards is a way to make your songs stand out. Our main reason for presenting MASC is to provide some songwriters with those credentials, and to help others become better songwriters. So here are some tips for submitting your song to MASC.
5 Basic Song Elements that the MASC Judges are asked to Score
Pretend you're one of the Judges, step away from your song, and look closely
at the 5 basic elements, unless it is an instrumental with only 4 of these elements.
1. Melody / Harmony
Are the melody and harmonies fresh, creative, listenable?
Hook – Is there a catchy memorable title and lyrical and/or melodic phrase?
Originality – Is it fresh, free of clichés, creative, cohesive, understandable?
Poetics – Do you creatively use rhyme / metaphor / simile / alliteration imagery?
Prosody – Does the mood of the melody match lyrics; lyrics flow naturally; unforced?
Dynamics – Does it build / develop nicely; “goes somewhere?"
Resolution – Does it resolve musically / lyrically?
Rhythm – Does the rhythm complement the lyrics and melody of the song?
4. Structure / Contrast Is there a structurally distinguishable contrast between introduction, verse, chorus, bridge, ending?
5. Overall Effect Does it evoke thought / feeling / repeated listening / longevity?
The more objective you can be about your song, the more likely that you'll
see where two words make a weak rhyme, which then weakens the whole meaning
of the verse. Or you consider it a Pop song, but then you realize that it lacks
a clear, compelling “hook.” Polishing these rough spots will make
your song a stronger entry.
Maximize the Impact
If your song is not an instrumental, perhaps you should reconsider having 16
measures of a solo strumming guitar before a single word is sung.
MASC doesn't judge the recording production, arrangement, or performance of
the song. Those 16 bars of an increasingly loud C chord are considered part
of the arrangement - how you perform the song - not an integral part of the
The judges will still give your song a fair listen, but they can get bored
if it takes forever to get to the opening lyric. See if you can trim that long
intro, and enter this 2nd version instead. If your song is awarded Gold or Silver,
you can always provide your first version for the compilation CD (as long as
it fits the overall time length).
As an example of the difference between an arrangement of a song and the song
itself, listen to "I Just Want to Make Love to You" as performed by: The Rolling Stones, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THq7CpAQLVY
Etta James, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJiL5siOqqw
How to Pick a Category, if you don't know which one
Some categories can be hard to define. Adult Contemporary, Folk Acoustic,
Folk Rock/Americana/Roots Rock, R&B/Hip Hop/Urban - are ones that can include a wide variety of songs. What do you do if you honestly don't know which category is the best fit for your song?
Only you can make the final decision, but here are some thoughts that might
1. Who else writes songs with a similar feel? That can include subject matter,
rhythm, structure, etc. In what category are their songs classified? As examples, here are some artists whose main body of work falls within these categories.
Folk Rock/Americana/Roots Rock:
Mumford & Sons
2. What do your friends think? Ask them separately, and see if their responses
match. If you think that you've written a wonderful Adult Contemporary song,
and everyone else thinks it's a wonderful Country song, then you might want
3. What kind of radio or web-streaming shows have played your song, or can
you see playing your song? Check out their play-lists.
4. What kind of clubs and venues would book you to play that song?
Still can't decide? Maybe it is both a Pop and a Folk Acoustic song, or a Children’s and a Vocal Jazz/Blues song, and would do well in either category. You might consider submitting it to both.
Format your Lyric Sheet Correctly
If you can, avoid sending in a handwritten lyric sheet. The MASC staff will
do their best to decipher your handwriting, when they put together the Judge's
package, but it's always easier to read typed words.
Use the standard format for lyric sheets. Please don't type all the sentences
together in one big paragraph. Break your singing lines (which don't have to
be an entire sentence), so that the rhythm of the lyrics, and the words that
rhyme with each other, can be easily seen.
You can label each section if you want, but please use standard terms. Don't
say "pre-hook" and "hook," when you mean "pre-chorus" and "chorus."
Don’t include chords on your lyric sheet. The chords that you chose to
play are an arrangement decision, not an integral part of the song.
Here's an example of a correctly formatted lyric sheet to a traditional folk
song. Note that it's not necessary to label Verse 1, Verse 2, etc. It's also
not necessary to write out every repeat of the chorus, if the words are exactly
the same. But if they have different words, then do include the full version(s)
of each chorus.
Red River Valley
From this valley, they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile.
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our path for a while.
Chorus: Come and sit by my side if you love me.
Do not hasten to bid me adieu.
But remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true.
Won't you think of the valley you're leaving
Oh how lonely, how sad it will be?
Oh think of the fond heart you're breaking
And the grief you are causing to me
As you go to your home by the ocean
May you never forget those sweet hours
That we spent in the Red River Valley
And the love we exchanged mid the flowers
By comparison, here it is as one big paragraph.
Red River Valley From this valley, they say you are going We will miss your
bright eyes and sweet smile. For they say you are taking the sunshine That has
brightened our path for a while. Chorus: Come and sit by my side if you love
me. Do not hasten to bid me adieu. But remember the Red River Valley And the
cowboy who loved you so true. Won't you think of the valley you're leaving Oh
how lonely, how sad it will be? Oh think of the fond heart you're breaking And
the grief you are causing to me. Chorus: As you go to your home by the ocean
May you never forget those sweet hours That we spent in the Red River Valley
And the love we exchanged mid the flowers. Chorus:
Which one is easier to read, and to understand both the meaning and the imagery?
Thanks for Entering MASC!
Writing a song can be easy. Re-writing a song is harder. Re-working it into a great song is even harder, but it's what every songwriter dreams about. We want your dreams to come true. Please use the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest as just one of a number of tools to become better at the art and craft of songwriting.