A song’s introduction offers the listener a first impression of a band or artist’s musical efforts—essentially, it sets a precedent for the rest of the arrangement. Obviously, you want to get it right.
Before we dive into the five ways to start a song, let’s look at what makes a good intro.
Tips for how to start a song
Here are the essential mechanics of kicking off a song—a basic blueprint, if you will.
Don’t overthink it.
The song intro, like most other elements of a musical arrangement, can come in many forms (as we will explore soon). That said, don’t focus too much on starting your song from the beginning of the arrangement if you’re struggling for ideas. Instead, pick up your instrument, or if you’re a singer, clear your throat, and start improvising until you come up with something that sticks. From there you can start building backwards if you wish, using elements of your new part as inspiration for your song intro.
Look at the bigger picture.
Like all art forms, songwriting is a creative discipline; there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing parts and playing with ideas. But to create a song intro with real impact, you will need to think about the overall feel you’re looking to achieve, in addition to the message you're trying to convey. Sit down with a pen and paper, scribe down the general tone, feel, tempo, and goal of your potential song, then get writing. By doing so, you’ll give yourself direction from the outset; you’ll also be able to decide how epic, subtle, fluent or standalone your intro needs to be for maximum impact.
Frame your songs
Sometimes, an introduction will be the first thing you write, and sometimes it will be the outro—but more often than not you’ll form the meat of your tune first. So, if you’re messing around with an acorn of an idea, looking to transform it into a bonafide song arrangement, follow your creativity and let the narrative flow. Once you’ve formed a solid verse, bridge and chorus, for instance, go back to the start and write your intro and outro. You may well find that because you’re inspired, you’re in a steady flow and you have at least two minutes of music from which to build upon, crafting an epic song introduction or outro will feel natural.
Following these three tips will not only help you kick the songwriting process into gear, but each approach will also help you get the very best from your song introduction efforts.
5 song introduction techniques
These five different but equally effective song introduction techniques will give you plenty of inspiration.
1. The full circle
Example: “Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile