Song Starter – Write a List Song

I love the theme song for The Big Bang Theory, written and performed by Bare Naked Ladies. It’s a “list song.” These songs are literally a list of images, ideas, facts, or related phrases. It has a catchy melody and is usually delivered at an energetic (but comfortable) pace.

List songs like this one have a long history in musical theater, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Disney animated feature films. You can still hear a form of the list song on Country hit radio. “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean is a good example and, if you’re a Country fan, I’m sure you can think of more.)

You’ll also hear this style in children’s songs, comedy/novelty songs, theme songs, and commercials. A great example of a list song in a commercial: Delta Faucet’s “Hands” ad. 

List songs often feature very clever, unexpected rhymes. In today’s mainstream song styles we  tend to downplay rhymes. But  this is one of those times in contemporary music when you CAN draw attention to your rhymes. (The other style that does this is Rap.) The trick is to keep the rhyming words relevant to your list theme and still be dazzling. Have fun with multi-syllable rhymes and unusual rhymes. You can use a rhyming dictionary or a website like Rhymezone.com, RhymeDesk.com, or B-Rhymes.com.

Do It Now!
Try writing a list song yourself. Pick a topic and write a song with a lyric that consists mostly of lists of things. Keep it fresh, give people something they want to listen to, and have fun! 🙂

Start with a theme or subject you want to write about. Then start making your lists. When you have six to eight lines put them together and create a simple melody for them. Because list songs are so wordy, you don’t want a complicated melody. Keep the chords simple, too. F, G, C, C should work just fine. Play with your melody and lyric until you come up with some you like.

by Robin Frederick

Robin's books at Amazon.comThis post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.

Reprints of this article by permission.

Author: Robin Frederick

Robin Frederick is the author of Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. She has written and produced more than 500 songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. She is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records and Executive Producer of 60 albums. Visit Robin's websites for more songwriting tips and inspiration: www.RobinFrederick.com and www.MySongCoach.com.