How to Create an Outline of a Song

Many musicians create outlines of songs when learning to perform them live. This is especially useful for musicians that do not play to sheet music (Few bands play to sheet music anymore. Some that still do are Jazz and Orchestra Groups).


A common method is the "paper and pencil". All you need is a writing instrument and a recording of the song you are going to perform.

Steps

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    Press play on your audio device (iPod, computer, radio, etc)
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    Listen to what portion of the song is playing.
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    Write down the part (E.G. 'Verse') and the number of times it repeats (E.G. '2x')
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    Listen for the next portion of the song.
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    Write down the part and the number of times it repeats (just as before).
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    Continue this until the song completes. Once finished you will have an outline of the song that will resemble this:
    • Verse 2x
    • Chorus 2x
    • Verse 2x
    • Bridge 2x
    • Guitar Solo 2x
    • Chorus 4x

You and your band mates can use this outline during practice to make sure you are playing the song correctly.

Tips

  • While creating the outline, make any notes that may be significant. Such as changes in the dynamics (volume) or changes in the vocal parts.
  • Writing the outline on a large white-board helps because it allows everyone in your band to see it.
  • The number of measures in a part can be important (especially for drummers).

Warnings

  • A song outline is only for learning the structure of a song (when the parts happen and how many times). You will still need to learn what your instrument plays specifically during each part. For instance the guitar may play chords C-G-F-G during the verse and then G-F-C-F during the chorus.

Article Info

Categories: Songs and Song Writing