wikiHow to Write a Concept Album

Concept albums have been around a while. They started in the late sixties / early seventies, and got left behind like a lot of stuff from the period. But suddenly they're all the rage again! How do you get your band a piece of the action?


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    Listen to lots of existing concept albums. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", "The Wall", and The Who's "Tommy" are musts for understanding the genre. You might also try listening to or watching some Broadway musicals - they're always working music around a story.
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    Try to become a good songwriter for songs generally. If you already write poetry or can play an instrument, you're already halfway there!
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    Try to identify your concept. What is important to you? Do you have a message you want to project to change society? Or have you got a vision of the future (or the past or present for that matter) that you want to turn into a story? Or do you just have a story to tell, plain and simple?
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    Once you've got some kind of storyline in your head, try to separate it into various themes or moods for different parts / scenes and WRITE THEM DOWN. That is very important - if you don't start writing SOMETHING down at this point, you'll never get anywhere. You don't have to have any songs in your head at this point - just moods and themes.
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    Try to decide on specific styles, sets of chords or repeating sequences of notes or chords (technically called "leitmotifs") or sound effects to represent different things. "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds" is an excellent example of doing this.
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    Start writing lyrics and music around this framework you've built up.


  • Your concept album may have exceptions to the story in a couple songs, as long as you do not go overboard. An example of this is in the My Chemical Romance album, "The Black Parade". This album, which mainly tells the story of a man coping with his death from cancer, has exceptions to the theme in songs such as "Teenagers", which more describes one's fear of adolescence.
  • Bj√∂rk has looked into albums where a very basic, general theme has been explored. She describes 'Vespertine' as her more introvert album, and 'Medulla' as her extrovert album.
  • If writing a story based concept album, it is usually easier to start with writing the lyrics first. This way, it will be much easier for you to fit your music to the story as you can fit it to the lyrics instead of being unsure as to how much music will be required to tell certain parts of the story before adding the lyrics.
  • You might try a pyramid structure like "Dark Side of the Moon" where the beginning sounds very much like the end but the middle contrasts sharply.
  • You may wish to start off with a selection of words which will run throughout the piece. Think of general examples, then look at their synonyms, and then go into what other words relate to them. See if you can make your story like this: write down some words which you feel have a lot of different connotations, and see where they connect.
  • Kate Bush's "The Ninth Wave" explores character relationships over one single event: look at having different voices represent different emotions, and using varied instrumentals, though you may wish to just stick with a select few so as to bring it together a bit more.
  • You might try watching your favorite films and making up songs based on them. Some people go so far as to try to synchronize albums with films. Just be careful you're not directly copying the film's plot or characters.


  • You might start out trying to write a concept album but get so distracted by all the great songs you're writing that you forget what the concept was halfway through like the Beatles did with "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
  • It's a good idea to make sure your concept album includes at least some good songs that still make (musical) sense even out of context with the rest of the work.
  • If you can't think of a concept, then you probably don't really want to write a concept album anyway. Just write a regular album! You can always come back to the idea of doing a concept album when you're more experienced.
  • When you record, make sure to keep your separated master tracks around! You never know what new technologies might come along that could enable you and/or the world to continue to profit from them.

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Categories: Songs and Song Writing