How to Write a Ska Song

In the 80s and 90s, ska became one of the biggest and most underrated genres of music in America. From the classic Desmond Dekker to the metal styles of Streetlight Manifesto, ska found a way to combine itself with other genres to perfect that two tone sound. Classic ska, two tone ska, ska-punk and ska-core are the main genres that you will learn to write about in the sections following.


  1. 1
    Learn about the history of ska. Go on the Internet and learn about where ska came from, it shouldn't be too hard. There are a lot of different stories, but somewhere along the way, Jamaicans picked up jazz radio broadcasts from New Orleans. They liked the music and when they fused it with calypso and Caribbean mento, ska was born. (And consequently reggae came after that, but that's a whole different story)
  2. 2
    Learn about the big ska names, both old and new- Did you know Bob Marley was ska? He started out his career in a ska band called Bob Marley and The Wailers, before they gradually switched to the slower, more relaxed version of ska which was reggae.
    • Ska is characterized into three waves. The first wave were the original Jamaican bands in the 1950s. The second wave is the wave that came into America...Big name bands like The Specials, The Toasters and Madness were pioneers of 2nd Wave ska, which started in England, but gradually came over to the U.S.
    • The genre was called Two Tone Ska because at that point in time, most ska bands were signed to Two Tone record label. In America, when ska seemed to have died, the Third Wave was born. This wave consists of the most widely known ska bands, for their appearances in movies and commercials and what not. With Third Wave ska came Ska Punk, which combined two tone with punk. Associated with ska punk is ska core...(Now some people may argue that they're the same but in my opinion, ska core is a little heavier.)
    • Some great ska punk and ska core bands are: Reel Big Fish, Operation Ivy, Sublime, Saving Ferris, Mustard Plug, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Big D and the Kids Table, Skankin Pickle, Catch 22, Streetlight Manifesto, and the pioneers and inventors of the ska core genre, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
  3. 3
    Learn What Makes Ska..Ska- Ska is characterized by: The strumming rhythm of the guitar, the walking bassline and horns. This is something that is totally constant no matter what sub genre of ska you may be working with. Here I will provide four links about ska guitar, ska bass, ska horns, and ska drums (Which isn't as important as the other three)
  4. 4
    Put it all together, learn some songs first, learn some good bands and write your music. Now you want to write lyrics...Ska lyrics can be whatever you want, but they generally differ between what kind of ska you like...If your ska core, it wouldn't make sense to write a love song.
    • If your two tone like the toasters, you wouldn't write about fighting or being a skinhead. So apply lyrics to your specific style. Also, ska isn't always so serious. A lot of it is fun!! So just keep that in mind.
    • Have a rhythm that you can "skank" to. If you don't have a "skankable" song, its not ska.
  5. 5
    Give it a name. By now you've noticed ska band names aren't always so serious...Big D and the Kids Table, The Pietasters, The Toasters, Reel Big Fish...You get it. So just make it fun. Ska is the funnest and most laid back music genre there is, whether or not its two tone or ska core.


  • Only be a ska skinhead if you mean it. You don't want to get your head kicked in for being an idiot.
  • Last, but not least, LEARN HOW TO SKANK!
  • Make sure to dress like a rude boy! Top hats, black skinny ties, checkered ties, plaid suits, three piece suits, checkered top hats are great too! You can go with some nice Chuck Taylors and scally caps work, too.
  • Don't be fake! Don't like ska just because not many other people like it, that's just stupid.


  • NEVER MOSH AT A SKA SHOW! (Unless it's a certain band, like Streetlight Manifesto, or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones...I can't remember if people mosh at the bosstones, its been so long....But never mosh at Reel Big Fish or anything like that...Never!

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Categories: Songs and Song Writing