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How to Write a Song Analysis for English Class

Listening to your favorite music might be an enjoyable pastime, but analyzing a song lets you apply what you're learning in English class to a favorite composition. Figurative language, tone and theme are just a few literary devices you can practice identifying as you write about music. By analyzing these elements, you can gain an greater appreciation for the practical application of the tools of English to songwriting.

Select an original, meaningful song for your paper topic. Consider the emotional depth of the lyrics, the themes and issues it introduces and its creative use of language as you choose a song to write about. For example, "Imagine" by John Lennon, which speculates about what a world full of peace would look like, presents a strong message about countering the effects of violence and spiritual conflict in the world.

Listen to the song with the lyrics in front of you. As you play the song, underline or highlight important lines and phrases that contribute to its meaning, as well as any personal thoughts or responses that come to mind. These reactions can help you shape the analysis of your song when you begin to write.

Introduce your song in the essay by giving some historical background about it, including the songwriter, year and any events that that shaped its creation. For example, "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen showcases the resiliency of Americans after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Describing this context would be a good way to introduce readers to the song and its theme of survival.

Analyze the lyrics by examining figurative language, phrases that describe something by comparing it to something else. In "The Sound of Silence," for example, Simon and Garfunkel use personification, which gives emotional characteristics to an object, animal or idea. By addressing the song to the "darkness" of nighttime, they emphasize the song's themes of loneliness and isolation. You can also write about the use of rhyme, repetition and other sound devices. In "Bleeding Me" by Metallica, the speaker uses repeated lines such as "I'm digging my way" and "This thorn in my side" to show his struggle in breaking away from addiction.

Analyze the song's use of musical arrangements. Think about how the song's choice of a major or minor key, dominant instruments and texture relate to the lyrics and theme and create a specific mood. For example, the minor piano chords and driving drumbeats of Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" illustrate the speaker's desolation after the end of a bitter relationship.

Write a conclusion that emphasizes the main theme of the song. If you're writing about Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," for example, you might say that the song encourages people who have been bullied to recognize and celebrate their uniqueness rather than let people's words hurt them. Draw your paper together in a way that shows how the song's lyrical and musical elements illustrate this message.

Things You'll Need

  • Milton District High School: Lyric/Song Writing and Analysis

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.

The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

How do I Write a Song Analysis Essay?

How to Analyze a Poem in Middle School

How to Analyze a Poem in Middle School

A good song is like poetry put to music, making it more difficult to analyze than some people might think. A song is full of literary devices and figurative language, and the music develops tone and mood. When writing an essay about a song, you can't pay attention to the lyrics alone. The way the melody accompanies the lyrics can intensify or even change their emotional meaning, because music is a language on its own.

Listen and Brainstorm

Listen to the song a few times. Without thinking too much about stylistic specifics yet, write down how the song affects you. Decide how it makes you feel, and try to discern a central theme or message.

Read Closely and Analyze

Get a printout of the song lyrics so you can scrutinize them more closely. Scour the words for literary devices and consider how their use affects the meaning and feel of the song. For example, consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds, especially after a stressed vowel, can make a line of poetry sound harsher to the ear. A songwriter might use it in a song lyric to communicate frustration over a recent breakup or to create emphasis by making the sounds stand out more.

Consider the Music

Listen to the song again with your notes in front of you. Consider how the music aligns with the words. Cock your ears for crescendos, pauses, instruments fading in or out of the arrangement and tempo changes. Ask yourself how these details enrich the meaning of the lyrics and contribute to the effects of poetic devices. Music with a fast tempo might make listeners more aware of sound devices like consonance, whereas music with a slow tempo can give listeners more time to think about imagery and symbolism in the lyrics. Record your ideas.

Research the Historical Context

Research the historical, social and political context of the song. Music is often reflective of life experience, so knowledge of world events and prevailing attitudes might affect your interpretation. For example, some people think that Don McLean's "American Pie" is a commentary on changes to American culture at the time, and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" touches on environmental concerns at the beginning of the modern American environmental movement.

Examine the Album

Study the song within the context of the entire album. Ask yourself whether the album has a theme and how the song you've chosen to analyze contributes to its overall feel. Look at the order of the tunes, and decide if the artist chose a deliberate progression of songs to convey a message. Incorporate your ideas into your analysis, using specific evidence to support your assertions.

Organize Your Notes

Examine the observations you've gathered, and look for a common thread that ties them together. Link your detailed observations to your general impression of the song. Your conclusion about the song will be the thesis for your essay. Choose which specific examples you'll use to support your argument. Be mindful of how long your analysis is expected to be, and choose the number of specific examples you can thoroughly discuss within those parameters.

Write Your First Draft

Draft your paper, and don't forget to use regular conventions of essay writing such as punctuation, spelling and grammar. Also remember to consider any special instructions from your teacher. State your thesis and briefly outline your main arguments in the introduction. Devote the body of your essay to expanding your supporting points. Restate your argument and summarize what your paper discussed in the conclusion. Edit your paper for spelling, grammar and clarity. Have someone else read your essay and provide constructive criticism before writing a final draft.

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A professional writer since 2006, Colleen Reinhart has held positions in technical writing and marketing. She also writes lifestyle, health and business articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Business degree from the University of Waterloo, and a Master's degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Toronto.

how to write a song analysis essay

Tips on Writing a Music Analysis Essay

music analysis essay

If you’re not an expert on music but get assigned a music analysis essay, you may start to worry about how you’re going to pull it off. Your lack of knowledge on the subject matter or inexperience in writing similar topics are not exactly helpful. However, you don’t actually have to be an expert on the subject matter in order to write a quality essay. The truth is, you just need the right guidance.

Just like with any other topics, music analysis essays require a thorough preparation and a guided writing process. You need to create a plan on how you’re going to write your essays and what essential steps you’ll need to cover. And this article will help you do just that.

Take a look at these tips that will help you if you’re planning on writing a quality music analysis essay.

Get to Know the Piece

You can’t start the analysis of a piece of music until you’ve familiarized yourself with it completely. You need to get to know the piece and develop a connection to it. But, how can you do that?

The answer is simple: listen .

Listen to the piece of music you’re analyzing, and possibly even brainstorm while doing so. Write about anything you notice:

  • How it makes you feel
  • Changes in rhythm
  • Instruments you recognize
  • Different parts of the piece

Remember, it’s not enough to just play it in the background while doing something else. You need to give it your full attention and repeat the listening until you’ve got the piece down.

Once you’re sure you’ve familiarized yourself with the piece completely, you’re ready to take the next step.

Give Technical Information

Every analysis needs to start with the essential technical details.

Find and write down information about:

  • The composer
  • The period in music history the piece was created in

These facts are important for setting the ground for the rest of the analysis but shouldn’t be the central part of the essay. One paragraph containing the most important technical details is more than enough.

Do the Research

Now, it’s time for you to do some more serious research.

When writing essays, whether about music or any other topic, you need to be able to get to the valuable information. In other words, you need to know which sources of information are reliable and authoritative and which are not.

Start with Google Scholar . Use it to find scholarly literature such as publications, articles, dissertations, books, and journals containing valuable information on a given subject matter. You can find most of it in a PDF format, download it and find the information you’re looking for.

In addition, use other digital libraries you can get access to, to find even more academic journals, handbooks and valuable sources of information. You can find numerous resources at your local library or in your nearest college or university library.

Remember, when using any of these sources, you need to pay attention to:

  • Citation:  If you’re using someone else’s exact words, make a citation to avoid being accused of plagiarism.
  • Referencing:  Make a list of all the sources you’ve used to put the essay together, and include it as a bibliography at the end of the essay.

Write the Outline

Once you’ve got all the information together, it’s time to write the first outline.

Use both the information you’ve written down during the listening as well as those found during research. Make sure to adjust your tone and style of writing to fit the purpose. Academic writing requires following the right kind of a writing form and using academic vocabulary.

To make the whole essay even better, don’t forget to use as many technical terms as possible. You can find glossaries of musical terms to help you understand the topic better and write it using the appropriate vocabulary.

Once you write the outline, you’ve got most of the work done. Now all you need to do is polish the outline, adding more details or removing unnecessary information until you’re satisfied with the essay.

Ensure Accuracy

Apart from the fact that you need to use information which is 100% verified and your resources need to be credible, you also need to ensure your writing is impeccable.

Before handing in the essay, you need to remove any mistakes and errors you may have made during the writing phase.

Be sure to pay attention to everything from mistakes in spelling to sentence structure. It’s important for you to make your essay completely mistake-free since even the slightest mistake could make you seem sloppy and unprofessional.

The last step you need to take before handing your essay in is just as important as all the previous ones. You need to do the revision .

When you finish writing and polishing your essay, it’s best to leave it to sit for a day or two. Don’t read it for at least 24 hours. It will help you step away from the writing process and spot any mistakes or weak points once you come back to it.

When the time’s right, come back to it and read it once again. You could even read it out loud to a friend or a family member, to have a second opinion.  If you’re satisfied with what you read, your essay is good to go.

Final Thoughts

Writing a music analysis essay can be a piece of cake when you know how to handle it properly. Use the right resources and follow the writing process steps. Make sure to double check everything and revise until you’re happy with the result. We hope you will find these tips helpful when writing your next music analysis essay.

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Bridgette Hernandez

Bridgette Hernandez is a Master in Anthropology who is interested in writing and planning to publish her own book in the near future. The texts she writes are always informative, based on a qualitative research but nevertheless pleasant to read.

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Home / Essay Samples / Music / Music Genre / Song Analysis

Song Analysis Essay Examples

A song analysis essay examples is a form of literary analysis that delves into the meaning, symbolism, and artistic elements of a song’s lyrics and composition. The purpose of such an essay is to explore the deeper layers of a song’s message, uncover its thematic implications, and provide insights into the emotions and ideas it conveys. Through careful examination, song analysis essays provide readers with a richer appreciation for the artistry of music and its ability to evoke powerful emotions.

Exploration of Lyrics and Themes

One of the primary goals of a song analysis essay is to explore the lyrics and themes of the song in-depth. This involves dissecting the words, metaphors, and narrative elements used by the songwriter to convey a specific message or tell a story. Essays of this nature aim to uncover the underlying emotions and ideas behind the song’s words.

Song analysis essays also focus on the musical elements of the composition, including melody, rhythm, harmony, and instrumentation. These essays explore how these elements contribute to the mood and atmosphere of the song, enhancing the overall impact of the message being conveyed.

Many songs incorporate symbolism to convey deeper meanings. Song analysis essays aim to interpret and decode the symbolic language used by the songwriter. This can involve analyzing recurring motifs, imagery, and metaphors to understand their significance and how they contribute to the song’s overall meaning.

Tips for Writing a Song Analysis Essay

Choose a Song: Select a song that resonates with you and has layers of meaning to explore. Thesis Statement: Begin with a clear thesis that outlines the main themes and elements you will analyze. Lyric Analysis: Examine the lyrics closely, paying attention to word choices, figurative language, and narrative structure. Musical Analysis: Discuss the musical elements and how they contribute to the emotional impact of the song. Context: Consider the historical, cultural, and personal context that might influence the song’s meaning. Supporting Evidence: Use quotes from the song’s lyrics and reference musical elements as evidence for your analysis. Interpretation: Offer your own interpretation of the song’s meaning, supported by your analysis. Conclusion: Summarize your findings and discuss the broader implications of the song’s themes.

A song analysis essay serves as a way to appreciate the artistry and depth of songs beyond their surface level. By analyzing lyrics, themes, and musical elements, these essays provide insights into the emotions, ideas, and experiences that music can convey, making the listening experience more meaningful and thought-provoking.

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