Creating a strong introduction to your original song is not only going to be the first thing people hear when they tune in, but you’ll be setting the tone, rhythm, key, and overall feel of the song during those first few seconds.
There’s no wrong way to write an intro, but analyzing popular and indie music and songwriting can help you identify some common types of intro’s seen in music, and how you can formulaically apply these to your own music.
Do I Start Writing A Song With The Intro?
There are very few “wrong answers” in songwriting, but as the intro will generally be reflecting the hook, chorus, chord progression, or other elements of the full song, you typically would find yourself writing the intro after the structure and chord progression of the song is written.
That’s not to say that you can’t start writing with the intro – but it will be helping build your song toward’s the chorus, so it’s not a stretch to say it will share many of the same musical qualities.
What Are Different Types Of Introductions For Songwriting?
This article is mainly focused on non-electronic music (sorry EDMers) so we’ll mainly be focusing on the introductions present in folk, rock, indie, funk, and pop in order to put together our list of common intros.
Begin First Verse Immediately
Record companies are constantly harping about how little attention listeners have in the modern age, so a common introduction is just to start directly with the first verse. Depending on how your verses begin, you may want to include a more “silent” rhythm introduction (say a nodding of a head as a count in), a drummer keeping time with rimshots, or even just a standard “1, 2, 3, 4” type of count in.
Begin Chorus/Hook Immediately
“Don’t bore us – get to the chorus” is an aptly titled greatest hits album released by the Roxette’s in the mid ’90s, and encapsulates this type of introduction completely. Using any of the rhythm introductions above just launch directly into your chorus. Depending on the speed and rhythm of the song this is a good way to keep a song high-energy without needing to ‘waste time’ building up to your hook.
Verse or Chorus Chord Progression Introduction
This is another very common way to start songs and involves playing the chord progression of your song one or more times through and then starting the vocals. This helps establish the keys, rhythms, and in some cases melodies the song will contain and can help a listener start to get accustomed to the song they’ll be hearing.
You can also use this time to help slowly bring in musicians – say starting with a guitar for the first time around the progression, bass second, drums third, piano fourth, or any combination.
Depending on the song’s structure you have a few options for using a “no-vocals” chord progression to start:
- End of or Full Chorus Introduction: Oftentimes you’ll find that the chorus itself (or even just the second half of it, or ending chords) makes an excellent introduction to a song. In many popular folk tunes, the “end of the chorus” is used as it naturally provides a good start to the verse as choruses generally precede a verse. This also gives listeners a “taste” of the chorus or hook right away.
- Verse Introduction: Just a simple 1x, 2x, 3x, (or more depending on your tastes), around the verse’s progression helps create a natural way to build in energy as a song begins
- Single Chord Introduction: Sometimes there isn’t a need (or the time available) to work your way through an entire verse or chorus of a song. You can easily just strum, fingerpick, and play the main root note (or other notes) of the song to help establish the key and then launch into the chorus or verse.
Instrumental Verse / Chorus
A bit of a step above just playing the chord progression of the verse or chorus is to focus on adding in instrumental melodies on top of just the chord progression.
This melody can be a hint to a later vocal melody (verse or chorus) or even used to help allude to an instrumental solo or other instrumental sequence played later in the song. This approach helps get people quickly into the song without getting straight into the vocals.
Separately Written or Composed Introductions
An introduction doesn’t have to mirror the verse or the chorus every time. While it is a common strategy there’s plenty of music that just contains a completely separately composed introduction.
While this would generally be using the same chords present in the original key of the song, don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of the following types of “non-traditional” introductions are used very widely:
- Modulating down or up to the song’s main key
- Writing an intro in a major or minor key opposite of the song’s main key
- Using different dynamics in the intro – such as starting with louder more high-energy sounds and then dropping that down to a softer style
We hope to continue to expand the resources we can provide songwriters, and while the introduction remains an important part there’s plenty more to go! When songs are completed, Planetary Group is available to help musicians share their work with the rest of the world. To hear more about the full array of public relations services that Los Angeles music promotion agency Planetary Group can offer to musicians, call (323) 952-5050 today.